All of this recent discussion about initiating conversations with State and Federal funding of the Princes Highway with campaigns such as the TeenSafe "Fix the Bloody Highway" initiative and the northern focused Fairfax "Fix it Now" campaign isn't news to Councillor Phil Constable. Councillor Constable has been a long term campaigner wanting to see a whole of network approach to the Princes Highway and has sought on several occasions to have the relevant parties around a single table. As a reminder during the February 2017 Council meeting Councillor Phil Constable moved the motion that:
Council invite the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP in her capacity as NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime
and Freight, the Hon. Andrew Constance MP in his dual capacity as the Local Member,
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, and the Hon. John Barilaro MP, in his capacity as Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Member for Monaro, together Parliamentary Secretary the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW The Hon. Bronnie Taylor MLC (National) and the RMS Southern Region Manager Ms Renae Elrington to a meeting with Councillors and the necessary Council staff, as soon as it can be arranged, to engage in a discussion about the vital importance of:
i) advancing the upgrading the Princes Highway and Kings Highway, noting the critical role these highways have in servicing Eurobodalla Shire’s residents, businesses and transport needs, the greater South Coast and Canberra regions and the international market place via Canberra airport.
ii) developing longer term plans for the future redevelopment of the Princes Highway and Kings Highway to meet the medium and long term needs. Councillor Constable spoke to the Motion: From the out-set I wish to express gratitude to our local member and Minister of Infrastructure the Hon Andrew Constance MP, who recently reiterated his commitment to the construction of a new bridge at Batemans Bay and the completion of the South Batemans Bay Link Road. Our Shire has other transport infrastructure needs in addition to these two identified; some are addressed within the Princes Highway Corridor Strategy; others are not. The northern approach to Narooma, which only last week witnessed yet another overturned vehicle accident. The intersection of the Kings Highway at Batemans Bay. The congestion problems within Moruya. And, the long-term planning for outer by-passes of our towns and villages are readily identified. While being outside the scope of the corridor strategy, the Kings Highway is of vital social and economic importance to our Shire and the prosperity of our community. Funding for future upgrading of the Kings Highway has dried up. Despite Council staff’s well articulated advocacy through conventionally pursued channels we currently have no new grant funding to assist,even in the planning and design phase,for priority upgrades that need to be constructed. We need another to employ another level of advocacy directly to the decision makers. Preferably on our turf. So that they can best appreciate the needs and issues before our community. It is with respect to our local member Honourable Minister, and his position of support for long-term infrastructure solutions for our Shire’s transportation needs that I propose this motion. The Motion was commended by Councillor Lindsay Brown who offered the suggestion of the addition of Parliamentary Secretary the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW The Hon. Bronnie Taylor MLC (National) to the list of invitees. The motion was passed unanimously. So what happened to that meeting - it was never held. While it is the duty of the General Manger to exact the direction of Councillors it is understood that behind the scene discussions directed that the meeting needn't be called as The Member for Bega and Roads Minister had called in to Council on a brief tour and that was deemed adequate enough. Had the Council staff actually carried out to the letter the instruction of the motion in a timely manner as is their duty (or reported back officially that they could not) then the meeting would have happened over a year ago giving considerable lead time for both State and Federal Governments to consider committing resources or funds to the Princes Highway. The failure of Council staff to go ahead with this very clear instruction has cost the Eurobodalla community. Meanwhile to the north in Shoalhaven they were indeed proactive in their lobbying and have secured considerable Federal and State Funding to improve both their transport infrastructure and the safety of their network. While the State Government has directed $300m to the replacement of Nelligen and Batemans Bay bridges this comes as standard replacement of assets that are factored into life expectancy and renewal covered by our taxes. They are not gifts. Nor is the Dignams Creek bypass as it was a known Black Spot area with compromised alignment and well overdue to be remedied. The document submitted to the RMS by Council, and written by staff, offers very little in the way of any long term vision for the network and as such major projects such as town bypasses for BBay, Moruya and Narooma can not be clearly identified, costed and prioritised. More locally the Mad Mile, though mentioned in the submission, is at least three to four State Government budget terms away. Even the intersection of the Batemans Bay Bypass is in limbo as it has no committed State Government funding leaving us with basically a useless road to no-where while we wait for the State Governement to commit funds to its design and construction.
That alone will be at least a year away if they started right NOW and it was more than evident during the recent visit by the Premier that they don't have the funds to commit to the project otherwise they would have as they moved through the electorate announcing funding. Councillor Constable knows first hand that in order to have major projects acknowledged and committed to it takes decades as is the example of the recently announced Coffs Harbour by-pass. As to why the Council staff took it upon themselves to overrule the unanimous motion to call a meeting of key bodies to discuss the LONG term directions in funding and planning of the Princes Highway and Kings Highway requires public explanation - and at the very least an explanation to Councillor Constable.