IT WAS one of three petitions tabled routinely without ceremony in the House of Representatives in Canberra on Monday. Titled 'Manning Valley: Bridge and Road Funding', the petition was first off the rank to be tabled by the Chair of the Standing Committee on Petitions, Dr Dennis Jensen.
Following quickly thereafter was the 'Hematopoetic Stem Cell Transplant' and 'Asylum Seekers' petition it was an unceremonious end to the petition process as no federal member of parliament agreed to table the petition that captured 20,817 signatures from the Manning Valley.
Greater Taree City councillor and principal petitioner, Peter Epov this week announced the tabling of the petition and said "in terms of signatures, the Manning Valley petition ranks in the top five petitions presented to the House of Representatives since February 2008 when the Standing Committee on Petitions was established and it appears to be the single largest number of signatures ever from a local government area on any issue."
He said he "initiated the petition in response to the refusal by the newly elected Coalition Government to honour a budgeted commitment of $11.4 million of urgently required roads and bridges funding, despite the former government having advanced $1.1 million for the design of the proposed works".
"I challenged our community to peacefully demonstrate their concern and to channel their outrage into the time honoured democratic process of petitions. We set a local government area target of 10,000 petition signatures in 21 days, we achieved over 10,000 signatures in 10 days so I reset the target to 15,000 signatures and at the end of 21 days we had achieved 20,817 signatures. This is a remarkable achievement particularly for such a small region, but more importantly it embodies the public concern out in the bush about the neglected issue of rural infrastructure," Cr Epov said.
"It is clear that our local government area is at the epicentre of a very real and serious national rural roads and bridges infrastructure crisis where many many rural councils around Australia are unable to keep up with the pace of repairs and maintenance of their local roads and bridges. Greater Taree City Council, as an example, has an infrastructure backlog of $300 million dollars, a rates income averaging $25 million dollars and a capital works program of $8 million, this is unsustainable!
"To put this into context we have a very real Hunger Games scenario, where the city's roads are paved with gold, but rural pothole ridden infrastructure is falling to pieces; literally tens of billion of dollars are being spent on dual lane highways connecting capital cities and major infrastructure upgrades for the capital cities, whilst rural infrastructure has been so badly ignored that many rural councils are seriously contemplating ploughing over deteriorated bitumen roads and returning them back to gravel, and closing decayed wooden bridges that are too dangerous for traffic."