CLAIMS by member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead that the Roads and Maritime Services had threatened to withdraw $2 million of funds because Greater Taree City Council had not used the money, has been denied by council.
In a media release on his website this week, Mr Bromhead said he is tired of the excuses used by council in its failure to provide adequate roads in its council area.
Mr Bromhead said his office receives hundreds of calls from disgruntled Manning residents asking or seeking information about Greater Taree City Council's lack of action on many local issues.
"The quality or lack of it, of local roads in the Manning is one example and Taree council is attempting to shift the blame for its inaction and inability on to other levels of government."
However a council spokesperson said significant funds have been spent on reconstruction of roads and bridges over the last three years and these works are of high quality, as evidenced by the recent engineering awards.
Mr Bromhead said, "The condition of local roads was said to be the 'greatest issue in Taree' and a Roads Forum was held in February 2012 where the public were made aware of how State funding, including those through Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is made available."
"It is very disappointing that although many grants have been made to Greater Taree City Council, RMS recently threatened to withdraw $2 million of funds
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because council had not used the money.
Senior leader for Asset Planning Duncan Clarke said council has received no correspondence from the RMS threatening withdrawal of funding from council.
"Council staff are in regular contact, and work closely with, RMS staff with regard to funding allocations and their distribution to each specific financial year."
Council has over the last three years expended $14.2 million of RMS grant funding on its roads and bridges, with addition funding coming from both council and federal funds.
Mr Bromhead also said council "blamed the NSW government for a lack of natural disaster funding to repair roads and other infrastructure after the June 2011 and early 2012 floods,despite clear guidelines about how applications for this type of funding must be made.
"$13.2million of natural disaster funds has been made available when council only expected $8.8 million of funding"
However these figures are also being challenged by council, which states council has to-date had RMS funding approved for the past three flood events of only $11,832,846 not the $13.2million stated by Mr Bromhead and the amount claimed by council was $29,446,827 not $8.8million as stated.
Mr Bromhead said it was due to council's "tardiness" that the RMS was going to withdraw $2million of that fund as council had not taken it up.
"Luckily I was able to step in and the funds were not withdrawn."
Council confirmed it has received no correspondence from the RMS stating it was going to withdraw funds and it was not in a position to know what dealing Mr Bromhead may have with the RMS.
"We enjoy an open and very good relationship with officers in the department," said the spokesperson.
Mr Bromhead said that on April 6, the front page of the Manning River Times ran the headline 'Federal fix needed' over an article quoting council's statement that 'the lack of financial assistance from the federal government has long been a source of angst at a local level'.
"This was the time when council called for the then federal government to make GST revenue available to councils to fund road and bridge maintenance, even though I had told the Roads Forum and council this required an amendment to the Australian Constitution, which we now know did not occur.
"Notwithstanding the fact that other NSW councils with a similar area do not have the same problems with roads maintenance as does Greater Taree, in 2012 roads funding for Taree was the 18th highest out of 152 local councils in NSW," Mr Bromhead said.
Council said the area of a council is not the issue, it is the amount of roads and bridges that have to be maintained.
"Greater Taree has at least 400km more of roads than other council's in the area and are only second to Kempsey in the number of bridges.
"(It) is 22nd out of all the 152 council's for length of local road, sixth of 152 for the number of bridges and 18th in funding."