Canberra target

THIS week a separate campaign for better roads and bridges in the Manning Valley was launched by Greater Taree City Council's deputy mayor, Robyn Jenkins and Cr Peter Epov.

The councillors aim to raise "10,000 signatures in 21 days" so they can argue their case in Canberra.

Both councillors believe the roads and bridges situation in the Greater Taree area is very serious and reaching a crisis point, which has lead them to take their fight one step further.

Greater Taree City Council has a rates base of about $25 million, with a backlog in roads and bridges infrastructure of more than $300 million, however the council can only afford to spend around $8 million in the next financial year on capital roadworks.

There are 240 bridges, of which 104 are timber, many of which are reaching the end of their lifespan.

"I am appalled at the state of the Dyers Crossing Bridge, it is terrifying," Cr Epov said.

"The situation of underfunded roads and bridges in the Greater Taree local government area is unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue.

"Quite frankly, I am very tired of the negativity and of being told why we can't do things; there is a plethora of excuses, and reasons why we can't.

"Surely it's time to be constructive, proactive and try to find intelligent and creative solutions that achieve fair and reasonable outcomes for this community.

"Rural councils were never designed to be financially self sufficient and independently sustainable, it just can't work, particularly in a state like NSW, where the State government continually terrorises rural council's with various cost shifting schemes," Cr Epov said.

As a result, Crs Jenkins and Epov are calling on the community to come together and continue the push for greater State and federal government funding for roads and bridges.

The pair are calling on all councillors, community groups, chambers of commerce, and all residents of the Greater Taree area to back the latest campaign for better roads and bridges and support a petition that has been organised by both councillors with the aim of raising 10,000 signatures in 21 days to present to the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia.

The Manning Alliance is already a supporter of the initiative and both Peter and Robyn are hoping all other areas of the community will follow.

"Together we will be personally placing and paying for advertisements in the Manning River Times and the Wingham Chronicle carrying copies of our petition," added Peter.

"We are embarking on this program as independent councillors, and the cost of this campaign will be borne by us, personally, and not council, and we do not have access to any Commonwealth or State funds."

At the heart of the campaign is the loss to council of the $11.4 million roads and bridges funding package.

"This is a devastating blow to the entire community, a blow from which we will all experience the flow on effects.

Cr Epov also noted that in a document entitled "Bridges to a Stronger Future", produced by the Australian Local Government Association last year, the newly elected minister for infrastructure and regional development, Warren Truss is quoted as saying:

"Yet across Australia some of the 30,000 bridges are approaching the end of their lifespan.

"Many are unsafe for school buses or for people to travel to their nearest commercial centre."

Mr Truss also stated in that same document: "The government understands that upgrades to bridges are often beyond the financial capabilities of local governments."

Crs Epov and Jenkins are hoping to ensure that Mr Truss is fully appraised of the situation in Greater Taree.

"It is only through an expression of people power, through one mass petition can our voices be heard and our solidarity demonstrated to the people who make the decisions," Cr Epov finished.

"Petitions will be distributed throughout the entire Greater Taree City Council area and we are calling on merchants to host and collect copies of the petition and volunteers to help with this campaign."

Initially people can contact Cr Epov and Cr Jenkins on 6550 5853 or email campaign4betterroadsandbridges@gmail.com.

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