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Council at a crossroads on Congo Road - do nothing or spend millions ?

Council will vote next Tuesday May 10th, 2022 to either: Option 1 Take no further action regarding formalising a public road north from the village to Moruya saying the village of Congo is serviced via Congo Road South and Bingie Road which is a sealed, all weather road or Option 2 Firstly, Define a route that is acceptable to the owner which will require a comprehensive survey at Council's cost and then proceed with the costs to create and dedicate the road as a public road. Then, once the route is identified spend $50,000 to establish the value of the sand that lies below the intended "public road reserve". Given that the site is one of the primary sand mines for the region, adjacent to the proposed Moruya Bypass and Moruya Hospital which will both use the high quality sand for concrete the figure for compensation alone, based on the route proposed could be in the millions. Next, (if the compensation is agreed to) an estimate of the costs to undertake the environmental assessment, detailed design of the road, and any potential environmental offset, and the cost to construct the road (beginning at $1.5m at the least). It is critical to realise that, if council chooses to press ahead with Option 2, the full cost of the valuation, the legal fees, the land acquisition, the compensation, the environmental studies, all of the reports and most of all the final agreed cost of compensation for the sand will have to be met by every ratepayer in the Shire. The landowner is opposed to creating a public road reserve over the existing physical road. Council has previously agreed with the landowner that any new road reserve would not be over the existing physical road. The landowner has requested that any public road be positioned on the northern edge of Lot 197 DP752151 so as to avoid adverse impact upon their future mining operations. An alignment that utilizes a northern route and also enters the adjoining National Park is the preferred alignment from the landowner’s perspective. This is due to the large quantities of sand located across the site that the landowner has the ability to mine. Preliminary discussions have taken place with NPWS who have indicated, potential in-principle support for this alignment, however any boundary alteration to a National Park would require an Act of Parliament to ratify, which may or may not be supported. Council say "If an environmentally acceptable solution can be developed, any new route would take some years to deliver. The cost of land acquisition and construction would be very significant given the sand mining potential." The alternate route that is under investigation could require the removal of up to ninety (90) trees many of which would have habitat value for local fauna Should Council decide to proceed with potential construction of a public road, further investigations are required to fully assess the effects of the overall proposal on fauna and flora along the potential new route. This will include recommendations for mitigation and amelioration strategies. Further investigations are required for an Aboriginal Heritage Due Diligence Assessment in the form of sub-surface testing along the route of the proposed realignment. Approval from the Office of Environment and Heritage is required prior to this sub-surface testing taking place. The results of these further investigations will inform the need for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP), Review of Environmental Factors or an Environmental Impact Study for the proposed road realignment. How much? Cost of dedicating a new public road reserve across National Park and then along the norther boundary of Lot 197 - UNKNOWN but most likely tens of thousands. An appropriate valuation would need to be carried out. This would involve a valuation of the land itself as well as a valuation of the resources (sand) affected by the proposed road. It is estimated that a valuation of this type would cost in the order of $50,000 and take at least six months to complete. In addition to the above there will likely be a requirement to provide offsets to compensate for the loss of native habitat. These costs are difficult to quantify without going through the above study process. Should a road corridor through the National Park be pursued then a negotiation process will be required with NPWS to determine an appropriate cost. The cost is most likely to include an environmental offset and possible closure of Council Road reserve in order to incorporate it into the National Park. Should an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) be required (if the designated SEPP wetland be impacted) the costs are estimated to be: Sub-surface testing for Aboriginal Artifacts - $96,000 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for construction - $15,600 EIS including additional Fauna & Flora Assessments- $108,000 Total - $216,600 Should a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) be required (if the designated SEPP wetland not be impacted) the costs are expected to be: Sub-surface testing for Aboriginal Artifacts - $96,000 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for construction - $15,600 REF including additional Fauna & Flora Assessments - $13,200 Total - $124,800 The time frame for cases 1 or 2 is expected to be more than 12 months from the time of engagement. It is estimated that the construction of a new roadway through Lot 197 would cost between $1 to 1.5 million and take over twelve months to construct. The time frame to achieve an alternate route through the National Park could take well over three years. What is missing from Council's figures that will take the project far beyond $1.5 million is the compensation to be paid for the loss of land, and the loss of considerable revenue from sand extraction, should a northern route be agreed to. Council say "Given this, the risk that it may not be supported by Government and the significant costs, this option has not been investigated further." As if by way of heralding their decision to not pursue a norther access Council says: If travelling from Moruya, the Congo Road North route is approximately 9.2km and takes approximately 9.5 minutes of travel time. The Congo Road South route is approximately 16km and takes approximately 13.5 minutes. These times may vary slightly depending on the road conditions, traffic volumes and other factors. It should be noted that Congo Road North is only partially sealed and is subject to flooding. A public road reserve is now in place over the Congo Road south route, and the road is an all weather sealed road to Congo village. PUBLIC FORUM

Your chance to speak to councillors about the Congo Road agenda item - register to speak by midday Monday, 9 May. Public Forum starts at 9.15am. You have seven uninterrupted minutes to present - you must provide a copy of your presentation by Midday Monday. If you want to watch then go to the Council Chamber or watch on Zoom. Join PublicForum on Zoom

Meeting ID: 834 3095 0470

Passcode: 535566


Starts 11am. Join us in the Council Chamber or watch the webcast. Watch the webcast live

Image: ESC GIS