As potholes continue to spawn across the Shire like not-so-magic mushrooms, Byron Council and the State Government are in discussions over $25m in desperately needed infrastructure funding.
The ‘Tourism impact funding’ was promised by the Coalition in the lead up to the March state election, with the then candidate for the seat of Ballina Ben Franklin describing it as a ‘game changer’.
At least 80 per cent of the total funding must be spent on roads, while the remainder can be spent on either roads or other basic infrastructure such as amenity blocks or lighting.
Five months after the promise was made, council and the state government remain in negotiations about how the money should be spent.
‘Council has developed a list of potential projects based on community feedback and input over the last couple of years but all projects will need to be approved by the State Government,’ Council’s General Manager Mark Arnold said.
‘The $25 million program of Tourism Impact Funding is a four year program, and it is understood that funding for the approved projects in the first year, will be received in the current financial year,’ he said.
Main Arm local Ron Priestly, who worked on major road projects for many years, welcomed the funding but said $25m would ‘not go terribly far’.
‘What would be very interesting to know is how they’re going to spend it,’ Mr Priestly said.
‘That’s something the public should know,’ he said.
‘At the very least you would hope it would be a case of safety first – prioritising those spots where the potholes are at risk of damaging people’s cars or even sending them off the road.’
The combination of recent rains, ever increasing traffic and the Shire’s growing infrastructure backlog has contributed to a bumper crop of winter potholes.
Local social media pages have been bombarded with posts from locals venting their frustration over the state of the Shire’s roads.
A number have reportedly suffered damage to their cars as a consequence of hitting some particularly deep potholes.
There are around 2.1 million visitors to the Byron Shire every year, the majority of whom arrive by car.
This puts a huge strain on local infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drainage and road barriers.
However, funding for this infrastructure is drawn from a ratepayer base of just 15,300 properties.