Yesterday’s $2.2m announcement of state government funding to seal some of Byron Shire’s dirt roads has met with a mixed response.
Residents on Tyagarah’s Grays Lane have said they support the sealing of the road while some residents of Broken Head and Seven Mile Beach have criticised the move.
There have been over 600 cars a day recorded using Grays Lane and while locals had previously opposed the road being sealed they have now supported the move.
Key concerns previously put forward against sealing the road were that traffic speed would increase, and wildlife would be further endangered. However, with the significant increase in traffic over the last ten years the dust and number of cars on a dirt road has become untenable, say locals.
‘The increase in traffic is due both to an increase in the local population as well as an increase in beach traffic,’ said Richard Burford, a member of the Tyagarah Community Association (TCA).
‘There are community concerns over speed and control and safety management on the new road but we’ve got to move on from being a community at the end of a dirt road,’ said TCA member Gyan Moyes.
Long time resident Gwen Gould also agreed saying that as long as there were ‘proper speed restrictions etc then residents needed to move with the times’.
Failure to address overwhelming traffic
Seven Mile Beach Road, from Broken Head Reserve Rd to Seven Mile Beach, carries up to 1,150 vehicles a day on its dirt track, but the response to the road sealing announcement has been less supportive.
‘The announcement that Byron Shire Council will be spending money on sealing the first section of Seven Mile Beach Road is absolute insanity. The idea that this is going to help residents, the environment and tourism is even more absurd,’ said local resident Alison Drover.
‘Council has been aware for more than ten years of the rapid escalation in traffic along Seven Mile Beach Road and Broken Head Reserve Rd due to popularity of the surf beaches of Broken Head.
‘Both roads are nothing short of dangerous with endless streams of traffic, no management system, no paid parking or even timed parking or official carparks. There have been endless emails and meetings over six years with residents concerned about the daily potential for accidents and the impact on wildlife.’
It is understood that a strategic plan for this area is due to be presented at the council meeting of 27 August. This follows a recent, unannounced, visit from Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean that appears to have taken place between Byron Shire Council, Minister Kean and National Parks and Wildlife Services.
‘The resolution of the issues affecting Broken Head Reserve Road and Seven Mile Beach Road need an integrated approach from both Council and the NPWS, and this was the purpose of the recent onsite meeting with Minister Kean. The agreed approach from the meeting will inform the report [27 August] to Council,’ according to BSC general manager Mark Arnold.
However, this visit has raised concerns with some residents who say they have been highlighting the issues with both stake holders, BSC and the state government, for the last eight years.
‘We have been requesting community engagement for years. That this meeting should occur, with no notification to local residents who have been requesting a meeting for years, and then they agree to spend the money prior to the strategic report due next month is contrary to good business practice and sustainable long term planning,’ said Ms Drover.
‘Why have they decided to seal this section of road in advance of the strategic plan that is about to be put forward for the whole area?
‘This does not address any of the issues with visitation to the area. This funding is needed to put in infrastructure that will help pay for lining the road, creating official parking bays and putting in a paid parking system as well as looking for a way to limit traffic along Seven Mile Beach Rd and Broken Head Reserve Rd to that which the roads have capacity for.
‘In the middle of fire season last year there was no ability to manage the chaos. Sealing the first section of Seven Mile to King’s Beach will effectively make the entrance look like a formal one and entice more vehicles onto this dangerous road’, she said.