Welcome to this week’s editorial, The Council meeting this week was preceded with an earlier Public Forum session where members of the community are invited to present to Councillors, for a full uninterrupted seven minutes each, on any item in the agenda of the day. Last Tuesday’s Public Forum was one that should have been witnessed by the whole shire rather than the fifty or so who attended the council chamber to listen. The Presentations should have been live streamed so that the wide community could hear what was said. The Presentations, delivered with passion, grace, humility, despair, frustration and anger should have been recorded so that they could be archived and watched over and over or sent to outside agencies and Ministers to watch and listen. But alas, the Innes Council with General Manager Catherine Dale, along with the majority of councillors voted to remove live streaming, recording and archiving of Public Forum. For that one act a pox on their houses. Had the community been able to witness last Tuesday’s meeting they would have heard heartfelt presentations on the Moruya Bypass. The community was invited by Transport NSW to make submissions on the proposed routes and more recently invited to make comment on what is referred to as the “preferred route”. Transport for NSW recently revealed the preferred corridor for the Moruya Bypass advising the community that their preferred bypass corridor (ORANGE) is about eight kilometres in length starting near Shelley Road and running parallel to the east of the existing highway to the Larrys Mountain Road intersection.
From Larrys Mountain Road, the corridor veers further east with a new bridge crossing the floodplain and Moruya River about 2km east of the existing bridge. Transport for NSW considered five shortlisted corridors including the preferred 8km orange option, a 7km purple option, 11km blue option, 9km yellow option and 13km green option. Before Council last week was a motion that Council write to the NSW Government urging them to take into consideration the community feedback in regard to the economic impact of the preferred route for the proposed Moruya Bypass on the agricultural sector, noting the concerns that have been expressed by a number of landowners and residents. Had the Minister for Roads been in the room, had the Minister for Regional Roads been in the room, had the Mayor bothered to attend the Public Forum, then all three of them would have heard informed reasoning why the preferred Orange Option was most likely the least preferred of all five. What was revealed by the speakers was that the Mullenderree Flats are prime agriculture paddocks that play a key role in the production of food for the region and nation. Whilst speaker after speaker reminded councillors of the importance to the community of these paddocks they also outlined the major flaws in the preferred route that would not only see the impact of prime agriculture land but also the impact that would be made to the adjacent Marine Park. It appears that Transport NSW have failed in their due diligence and have decided that the best route for their 5.5km long bridge would be across a flood plain. Councillors heard first hand that there had been no test bores done of substrata, that the plain has a strata of Acid Sulphates just below the surface, that the soils was subject to salinity with rising water tables and that drainage was critical to maintain a balance between dry times and floods. Councillors heard of the financial impact the route would have on the local beef breeders and that any disturbance to the flood plains could prove hazardous to both the land and the adjacent marine life just 200 metres away. The Councillors listened. In a prepared statement Clr James Thomson said: “Farming is one of, if not the biggest industries in this country, but around the world. You wouldn’t see a bypass put through a mine or industrial park because they would think that was bad for the economy. Farmland is seen, for some reason, as expendable. There’s so much of it. But there isn’t, and particularly in this shire. Farming in this region is dying of a thousand cuts and the preferred rout is a big cut. We need to start valuing our productive land for what it is. Productive”. The presentations by each of the speakers are now in council’s archives for only the keenest of Council watchers to read. There is no footage of the presentations or the questions and answers that followed. Of interest was the pushback stance of Council who are concerned in how much highway they might inherit (along with the old Moruya Bridge) that may become a council asset to maintain and renew. The Moruya Chamber and its members are concerned that the bypass might see the demise of the town unless it is close enough that tourists can see it and decide to make the detour. So we have a stalemate that is a long way from being the “preferred route” as Transport NSW might like to declare. Will it be ORANGE and the longest bridge in NSW at 5.5km and 5m high with columns 40 metres apart or PURPLE that will see the bypass pretty much run 500m parallel to town or the logical YELLOW route that has the least impact on farming, environment, homes and waterbombing aircraft. If it is YELLOW then prepare to see Council and local businesses to fight tooth and nail against it. The reality is that the final decision will be a political one It will also be a financial one and be an asset compromise between State and Local Government. It was clear that the call for submissions were a box ticking exercise for an already determined route. In the noise of all the submissions and meetings it is already clear that the voices of seven farmers, whose very survival is in peril, are being heard or considered by the hundreds in the community who will sway the submissions based on views and convenience. Until next lei
Above: Left to right.. Keith Dance and Chris Nicholson, proud Mullenderree farmers Read the presentations of Keith and Chris along with the others who put forward their fears and insights to Council HERE