Congo Road North: More questions than answers

The Congo Road North that traverses Por 197 remains closed to the public. There has been no further information forthcoming from Eurobodalla Council since they advised (Wednesday 15 December 2021) that: "Council initially had agreement of the landowner to retain public use of the road subject to removal of 10 road-side trees. Council sought legal advice to ensure it could legally undertake that activity under the Roads Act 1993. Some members of the community objected to this work and raised concerns about the legal ability of Council to undertake the work, citing an alternate legal view. The work on the trees was paused and those legal questions referred to Council’s legal advisers for further review. Due to the complexity of the context, this legal advice is not expected until the new year. The community remain in the dark as to how a road that they have used for over five decades was able to be closed without warning or consultation. The answer is "Easy." Council explains: "For public roads in the shire, Council is the road authority and can make and enact decisions about road safety and risk mitigation within the provisions of the Roads Act 1993. As a roads authority, Council also has protection under the Civil Liabilities Act 2002. In this instance, the section of road in question is privately owned and Council is therefore not the road authority and not protected under the Civil Liabilities Act." "The section of Congo Road north across the private land will therefore remain closed as per the landowner’s decision."

"Council will await further legal advice before responding to Congo residents about the appropriate next steps." But what appropriate next steps might be considered? The simplest solution for our Council would be to move that a survey be carried out to determine where the current dirt road is and to then begin the process that would formalise the Congo Road North access making it a Public Road. All Council would need to do is undertake discussions with the land owner to open the public road and close the existing Crown Reserve road. All it would require is the registered proprietors to agree in principle to any proposed opening/closing. All Council would need to do is to rubber stamp a recommendation from staff that actions be taken for the road opening/closing with Por 197 DP 752151 when the final detailed design is carried out to determine the area to be acquired for future road requirements. But then why should they do this when a previous Council did exactly this in March 1999 as per the extract of the Council agenda.

source In March 1999 the Council of the day gave a very clear instruction in regards to tidying up the road anomalies that were to be found on the Congo Road North including two part-lot acquisitions (Lot 24 and Lot 181) for the purpose of Congo Creek Bridge.


From the evidence below (Government Gazette) Council did action the acquisition of road reserves as described from Lot 24 and Lot 181.

Given that the Council gave a clear directive to staff in March 1999 to proceed "when the final detailed design has been carried out to determine the area to be acquired for future road requirements" ; and given that "the registered proprietors had agreed in principle" and that discussions had already (August 1998) been undertaken with the registered proprietor regarding road opening and closing that indicated a final road design be provided for determination; why was this direction of Council not carried out? The operative words are "WHEN the final detailed design has been carried out to determine the area to be acquired for future road requirements" This action would have required a budget allocation for the work to be carried out by Council's registered surveyor. A line item would have had to have been raised in the General Ledger with a budget allocated. That budget came under the control of the Technical Services Manager of the day. It was the Technical Services Manager of the day who recommended the action. The question now is "Why wasn't this action done?" The only person who can answer this is that Technical Services Manager, who just happens to now be the Director of Infrastructure. It is hoped that a Question on Notice be raised by the new Mayor and councillors seeking clarification around the failure to act on a directive handed down by the Council of 1999 that came from his own recommendation to formalise public access across Por 197 that remains, as a consequence, as a private road and alas, remains closed.

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