Friday Hut Road, at Binna Burra, may not be the worst road in Byron Shire but it is a textbook study in contrasts.
A new bridge was completed there with federal funding in November last year but there was no money available to fix the road on either side, apart from the direct approaches.
This will doubtless see the new road start to erode as the potholed paving around it continues to crumble.
It was a photo opportunity NSW Labor couldn’t resist to announce plans to pour almost a billion dollars into rural and regional roads over the next five years if it is elected in March.
The funding would include $100 million to fix North Coast roads from Grafton to the border, with $15.95 million earmarked for Byron Shire Council.
Under the plan, the money for remaking entire roads, rather than fixing potholes, would be granted directly to councils based on the kilometres of road they reported to be in ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ condition.
On that basis, Lismore and Byron LGAs come out among the worst in the state.
Shadow roads minister Jodi Mackay said a Labor state government would also take over responsibility for many major local roads, including Ewingsdale Road, from councils.
‘Yesterday, we announced $900 million of new money, not currently in the budget, which will support rural and regional roads,’ she told Echonetdaily.
The commitment comes on top of the existing $543m ‘Fixing Country Roads’ program and would bring the total investment to more than $1.4 billion.
‘The message we’ve been getting from councils is that they need more help with their road infrastructure backlog, that it’s become impossible for them to keep up.
‘The NRMA have estimated that the roads in “very poor” and “poor” condition come to about $900 million. This [funding] will cover off that in every rural and regional area in NSW.
‘The NRMA believes that if you can fix the backlog then the maintenance becomes manageable.
‘It’s also really important that we look at the classifications of local, regional and state roads – and these two [Saffin and Pugh] have been very strong on this, which hasn’t occurred over the last few years because of cost shifting.
‘If we can fix up roads like this – look at the shoulder and the potholes – you go a long way to improving road safety as well,’ she said.
Labor’s Lismore candidate Janelle Saffin said the announcement was ‘great news’ for councils and regional residents.
‘I’ve always said that if we can help councils get back on a level playing field then they can manage to come up.’
Ballina candidate Asren Pugh said it would be ‘unsurprising to anyone who has been to Byron Shire that [roads are] the number one issue that’s raised with me’.
‘Only a Labor government is committed to actually delivering on the number one issue of locals.
‘We’ve had decades of National Party representation and they have done absolutely nothing to address this,’ he said.