Grumbling about the poor state of the roads is so common in the Byron Shire it could almost be considered our favourite pastime.
So it might be surprising to learn that the roads have actually improved significantly over the past five years.
Well, according to a new Council road assessment anyway.
The assessment, made using a cutting edge (and in Council’s words ‘very expensive’) laser profilometer system, found that the proportion of the Shire’s road network in good condition has doubled over the past five years from 19 to 38 per cent.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the percentage of the network found to be in poor condition has fallen from a suspension-crushing 41 per cent, to an annoyingly-jolting 22 per cent.
‘The overall road network has improved since 2015 owing to increased investment on the sealed roads,’ Council staff say in the assessment, which went to last week’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting.
‘However, significant long-term investment is still required to maintain the road network condition.’
The report also noted that there was a significant increase in the different types of data about the road network collected this time around, which may also have contributed to the improved result.
This was facilitated by the high-tech road profiling system, which uses a vehicle with eight roof mounted cameras, digital laser profilers and an ACD laser unit to measure pavement cracking, to traverse the entire sealed road network.
Meanwhile, it looks like the Shire will finally get its hands on the $25 million promised by the state government for roads and infrastructure in the lead up to the last election.
It’s been nearly 12 months since Ben Franklin, the Nationals’ candidate for the seat of Ballina, and Nationals leader John Barilaro, pledged to set up a $25m fund to help manage the impacts of tourism in the Shire.
The state government stipulated that 80 per cent of the money had to be spent on roads, with Byron Council having a say in how it would be allocated.
For much of the year following the announcement, Council staff and government bureaucrats engaged in protracted negotiations over the nuts and bolts of the fund.
It appears the two sides may now have reached agreement.
Council staff told The Echo, ‘Council has continued productive discussions with the state government to work through the details in relation to the $25 million tourism impacts infrastructure funding.
‘We anticipate an announcement will be made soon.’