The elected Greens MP for the NSW seat of Ballina has again been left out of infrastructure planning for the region, this time by executive Byron Council staff.
As per the article on page 6, Cr Basil Cameron claims staff have pursued, without councillor knowledge, a $78m funding application to widen the Ewingsdale Road corridor.
Nats asked for support
According to Cr Cameron, Nationals MLC Ben Franklin was asked by staff to provide a letter of support for an Infrastructure Australia (IA) funding application for Ewingsdale Road, yet Ms Smith was not.
Cr Cameron says the secret staff decision is based on poor data and it would shift traffic congestion further towards Byron Bay. He also says it’s not in the community’s interest, or consistent with Council policy.
It comes after a recent announcement by local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin, and Mayor Simon Richardson, about a funding upgrade at Grays Lane and Broken Head Road that was made without Greens MP Tamara Smith being invited. Ms Smith says she was active in supporting that project, yet was not offered an invitation for the announcement, or acknowledged for her input at the time.
Mr Franklin lost against Ms Smith in the 2019 State election, yet is active in announcing funding for the electorate.
Ms Smith confirmed that she was not told of the funding
application, and told The Echo, ‘It seems very odd that a Nationals party MLC was asked by Council staff to write a letter of support for a grant application worth over $70 million dollars’.
‘We need to make sure that an integrated transport management plan is in place for the Ewingsdale interchange and that the community have been extensively consulted. Many in our community support park and ride and linking the solar train up to Tyagarah. How do those aspirations fit into the staff led plan?
‘Given the Nationals and Liberals grants rorts exposed over the last 12 months, I think Byron Shire Council should be making every effort to be transparent about the future of infrastructure in the Shire’.
She added, ‘As the democratically elected local member, who also sits on the Byron Shire Council Local Traffic Committee (LTC), I find it super weird that my office has not been included in this process.
‘I’ve written over 20 letters of support for Byron Shire Council in the last four years, so why not this one?’
Cr Basil Cameron told The Echo, ‘There is a lot wrong here. A poor proposal, not in the community’s interest or consistent with Council policy, has been pushed along in the background without councillors seeing the proposal’.
‘The community deserve to know whose agenda this really is’.
‘Tamara Smith is a member of the Local Traffic Committee, yet the application was not brought before that committee.
‘No report was prepared for the Transport and Infrastructure Advisory Committee.
‘We need to transition to sustainable transport systems that meet the needs of our community. That means facing up to what our community is saying.
‘Better public transport, multi-use of the rail corridor, park and ride all have to be a part of the solution.
‘What has been revealed is that without action, the repeated cost of narrowly focussed quick fixes is vastly higher and financially unsustainable.
‘Doing nothing is no longer acceptable’.
Council’s executive staff were contacted and a reply will be published if/when it is received.