TARGET 10,000 is now Target 15,000 for the Campaign for Better Roads and Safer Bridges petition.
The new target comes in the wake of a tsunami of signatures by Manning Valley residents on forms that have been located on countertops of hundreds of businesses in the Manning Valley and clipped to clipboards held by petition instigators, Greater Taree City Council deputy mayor Robyn Jenkins, councillor Peter Epov, councillor Brad Christensen and an army of volunteers.
This Friday, April 11 will be the 21-day petition deadline and with 13,124 petition signatures already counted as of April 7, the trio made the call the set the target to 15,000 signatures.
The petition calls for the federal government's house of representatives to:
* Immediately restore the $11.4 million roads and bridges funding package to council
* Allocate additional funding to council for its Roads and Bridges Replacement Program
* Urgently establish and fund structures for providing direct funding to rural local government areas for roads and bridges.
The catalyst for the petition was the recent federal government decision to withdraw $11.4 million stage two funding of the Greater Taree Roads and Bridges Package. The decision to try to unite the community and directly lobby the federal government for funding was made by Crs Jenkins and Epov in a bid to try to address the roads and bridges infrastructure backlog in the Greater Taree area. A few days into the campaign, Cr Christensen decided to lend his time and voice to the ambitious petition objective.
The target of 15,000 signatures is tipped to be met with more than 200 petition hosts and volunteers currently working to educate individuals about the need for the federal government to fund road and infrastructure works in our area. According to the councillors, council has a rate base of about $25 million with a backlog in roads and infrastructure of more than $300 million but the council can only afford to spend around $8 million in the next financial year on capital roadworks.
Last Saturday deputy mayor Robyn Jenkins and Cr Christensen took the petition to the people at sporting grounds surrounding Saxby's Stadium in Taree. The face-to-face canvassing of constituents enabled the duo to answer questions and to present their perspective on the federal government funding mechanisms currently available to council under the Coalition government.
Recent federal government advice to council is that it could apply for funds from new Roads to Recovery and Bridges to Recovery programs, but according to Cr Jenkins this "completely misses the point that council, and many other regional and rural councils, do not have the money to match the federal government dollar for dollar in these programs."
Cr Christensen is hoping the petition will be a catalyst for change in the political representation of issues impacting the Manning Valley by federal member for Lyne, David Gillespie.
Cr Christensen contends Dr Gillespie "isn't doing his job and that is, standing up for the people who voted for him."
"Surely Dr Gillespie sees how deteriorated our roads and bridges are! The $11.4 million we are trying to get reallocated is crucial to our local area as the works will link a lot of our villages to Taree and are used by a large portion of our community," Cr Christensen said.
"Withdrawing the funding from these projects was devastating but to now suggest we transfer funds from the major economy-boosting, job creating project available in our area to fund the bridge in Dyers Crossing is totally amazing.
"The transport hub could be the start of injecting life back into our valley and to suggest we forget it and transfer funds is appalling.
"I ask Dr Gillespie to work with the residents and council to move this great valley forward into the future."
It is this passion and desire to effect improvements in political representation and funding for the Manning Valley that drives the councillors and volunteers to do the hard work that is needed to rally and unite a community.
Cr Epov and his wife, Helen have worked hard as a team to drive the campaign and over the next three days will collect nearly 200 petitions kits which are still to be tallied in the final count.
Helen says she has "literally spoken to thousands of people particularly women, over the past two weeks."
"I know how important it is for them and their families to have our roads crisis fixed. These signatures all represent people who want action, and not political rhetoric nor excuses. The more voices that we can represent through petition campaign, the stronger our message will be. If I have to work 24 / 7 for the next five days I will do so to get to that 15,000 signatures target," Helen said.
Cr Epov says Helen "has personally collected over 1300 signatures, I could not have undertaken this challenge without her unequivocal support."
For further information visit the campaign Facebook address https://www.facebook.com/Campaign4BetterRoadsandBridges