Council growing weary of hollow government funding promises
Delays in delivering a number of government funding promises is causing Byron Shire Council reputational damage and is disrupting construction programs that Council is seeking to deliver to help reduce its infrastructure backlog.
Prior to the last State Government election then Deputy Premier, Troy Grant, while visiting Lismore announced funding for a new “multi-million dollar” bus interchange for Byron Bay and went on to describe in detail the extensive design features of the proposed facility.
Byron Shire Council General Manager, Ken Gainger said relocation of the bus interchange from its current location in Jonson Street to Butler Street was envisaged in the recently adopted Town Centre Master Plan and is fundamental to progressively making Byron Bay more pedestrian friendly; a key objective of the Plan.
“Despite Council being engaged in discussions by Transport for NSW following the election to discuss and advise on suitable locations for the new interchange, the project has since fallen into a “black hole” and Council’s communications with TfNSW have gone unanswered for more than a year,” he said.
In the lead up to the last Federal Election Council was promised $500K to fund vital repairs to the Belongil Creek Bridge on busy Ewingsdale Road by Nationals candidate for Richmond Matthew Fraser.
On receiving confirmation post-election that this promise would be delivered, Council prepared tender documents for the bridgeworks and advertised calling for tenders to be submitted for the works.
The tenders have been evaluated, but staff cannot prepare a report to the Council seeking appointment of the contractor because the $500K has yet to be made available.
Mr Ken Gainger said the bridgeworks were vital due to extensive concrete cancer.
“Closure of this bridge for safety reasons, or implementing load limits for the bridge, are not realistic options for Council as Ewingsdale Road is a vital arterial road for both locals and our two million visitors each year.
“Further delays to this funding will increase the risks of further structural damage and the need for the Council to contemplate load limits.”
In the lead up to the construction of the Pacific Motorway upgrade between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) gave a commitment to the Council that on completion of the Motorway works funds would be made available for the upgrade of the intersection of the Hinterland Way and Coolamon Scenic Drive, and the popular lookout at St Helena would be upgraded at their expense.
Although the new Motorway has been open since March 2016 neither the intersection upgrade works nor the lookout funding has transpired and calls by the Mayor and General Manager to the RMS hierarchy have gone unanswered.
Mr Gainger said reducing the infrastructure backlog was Council’s number one priority and this focus has been strongly supported by our community.
“During recent community discussions on a proposed application to the IPART for a 7.5% p.a. SRV rate increase, the community expressed mounting frustration at growing tourist numbers (now 2 million per year) and the lack of funding support from the state and federal governments for infrastructure funding.”
“Byron Shire contributes significantly to the state and regional economy yet we are largely ignored when it comes to receiving any financial support,” he said.
“Byron ratepayers are becoming increasingly annoyed that they are being asked to fund infrastructure that is damaged and degraded by millions of visitors. 15,300 ratepayers cannot continue to support two million visitors without significant government support,” he said.