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Byron Shire
June 9, 2023

Byron Shire has 200 road projects in waiting

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This section of Main Arm Road saw locals build rock walls along the edge where it was washed away to ensure that people didn’t accidentally drive off what was left of the road. Photo Aslan Shand

The incoming NSW Labor government says it will spend billions on the state’s roads, but will some of the cash find its way to the hundreds of flood-ravaged roads in the Byron Shire?

As Labor leader Chris Minns and his team swept to power on Saturday, there were 200 separate road repair and maintenance projects awaiting approval in Byron Shire, most of them completely unfunded.

Many of these pending projects, including Upper Main Arm, are the legacy of last year’s floods.

Byron Council is almost completely reliant on state government funding to pay for these works.

This part of Main Arm Road has a little of the tarmac left, unlike other sections that were sealed prior to the February 2022 flood. They remain unsealed and severely pot-hold a year after the flood. Photo Aslan Shand

Flood grants closed

Additionally, the period during which Council can claim reimbursement for emergency works associated with the disaster closed nearly two months ago.

Council has now gone cap-in-hand to Transport for NSW for additional funds to pay for interim works, but the state bureaucrats are reportedly yet to respond.

‘The question we’ve put to government is, what is the ultimate strategy to assist councils, not just our Council, but councils across the Northern Rivers to bridge this gap,’ Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, Phil Holloway told last week’s Council meeting.

‘The ongoing costs involved in maintaining a road network that has failed because of a natural disaster are far beyond our current budget capabilities, and we’re very concerned about it.

‘We do have a meeting with reps of Transport for NSW on April 6 to talk about cash flow issues with our Council, to see if there’s a way to alleviate that. But it is a huge problem.’

‘The biggest issue for us is that we literally have 200 packages of work to go forward, but at this stage, not a lot of them have been formally approved other than the emergency work that we’re doing.’

This section of road in Coopers Lane, Main Arm, where the pipes that were under the road were washed out in the February 2022 flood, has seen only locals do work on it to make it passable in the year since the flood. Photo Aslan Shand

Pointed  questions

Earlier in the meeting, Upper Main Arm resident, Navaya Ellis, asked a series of pointed questions about the process Council uses when deciding which road projects to prioritise when seeking state funding.

‘What criteria do Council use to put forward their projects to government for flood-damaged infrastructure funding and will this info be made available?’ Ms Ellis asked.

‘What criteria was used to assess risk of flood-damaged infrastructure?’

‘Does Council plan to address the lack of transparency reassessment of roads?’

Fellow resident, Kol Dimond, said Main Arm Road at Upper Main Arm was ‘in the worst condition it’s ever been in’.

‘The road is now in a worse scenario than it was six weeks ago, when we protested outside this building,’ Mr Dimond said.

‘And it is now busier than it’s ever been, owing to the number of trucks coming up there to do private roadworks, the traffic to the new Tweed walk, and the increase in tourists going to spots like Hell Hole Falls, which now have water in them.’

‘It’s all such a duty-of-care hazard.’

Mr Holloway said there are further works to happen on this stretch of road over the next few weeks.

‘We’ll have ongoing conversations with residents about those works and about those questions that were asked today,’ he said.

However, Mr Holloway also emphasised that residents needed to drive to the conditions.

‘I’m not making any excuses for the road network, but the same people who are wanting the road fixed are still not driving to the conditions of the road in terms of speed,’ he said.

Prior to the state election, Labor leader Chris Minns promised a $1.1 billion funding package to fix the state’s roads over a three-year period.

‘NSW Labor has a comprehensive plan to deliver the critical infrastructure that NSW so desperately deserves’, he said.

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