Bad roads and old bridges get big bucks in MidCoast Council's handout of Stronger Communities Funding

MidCoast Council believes addressing the standard of road and bridge infrastructure is "likely to have an extremely positive social and economic impact for the local community."
MidCoast Council believes addressing the standard of road and bridge infrastructure is "likely to have an extremely positive social and economic impact for the local community."

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Buckle up and get set to hit fewer potholes, expect to see less patches and prepare to drive on roads that don’t require you to swerve or slow your car to drive safely.

It won’t happen overnight but it will begin to happen following the decision of MidCoast Council to allocate $9 million to road and bridge work in the former Greater Taree local government area. It’s a one-off funding sweetener from the NSW government to MidCoast Council after the forced merger of Greater Taree, Great Lakes and Gloucester councils. It offered up a $14 million ‘Stronger Communities Major Projects Fund’ in the wake of the merger and last week MidCoast Council announced how it would be spent. Four million will be directed to the Gloucester region and one million to the Great Lakes.

The allocation more than 60 per cent of the funds to Manning road and bridges infrastructure is in response to consistent community complaints about the condition of our roads. The most recent survey undertaken by the former Greater Taree City Council “indicated an 82 per cent dissatisfaction level with the condition of roads and bridges”, according to a report tabled on February 8.

“We have listened to our community who very clearly highlighted their priorities – as a result, improvement of our assets, in particular our roads, will remain our number one ongoing focus,” MidCoast Council interim general manager Glenn Handford said.

Mr Handford considers the funding “another step towards making a positive contribution to delivering a safer and more sustainable road network.”

“Our priority is to maximise the life of our assets through a renewal program that holds our sealed roads at a satisfactory condition.

“The Stronger Communities funding, along with merger savings we expect to realise over four years, provides a solid $30 million investment in our roads and bridges that would otherwise not have been possible.”

The $9 million will not transform our roads into a network of smooth surfaces, rather MidCoast Council is aspiring to a ‘condition 3’ on a 1 – 5 scale with 1 being ‘very good’ and 5 being ‘very poor’. “Previous community research indicates general satisfaction with roads at condition 3,” according to council’s director of community spaces and services, Paul De Szell.

MidCoast Council will spend the money over the next three years on a program of priority projects across the region. It will include an extensive road resealing program and targeted road renewals through to 2018/19, bridge assessments and repairs targeting more than 200 ageing timber bridges and a contribution to design and reconstruction of a dangerous section of Thunderbolts Way.

Mr Handford says it “will deliver benefits to our communities that are over and above what the three former councils were in a position to fund.”

Funding, or the lack of it, to finance roads and bridges project remains a top priority on MidCoast Council’s agenda and according to Mr De Szell “an immediate strategy is required to address the renewal funding shortfall.” 

There is an ongoing $5 million annual renewal gap for roads and $1 million gap for bridges and MidCoast Council cites the need for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) in its long term strategy.

“All three former councils flagged the need for special rate increases to assist in funding asset renewals and backlogs,” Mr De Szell said.

The NSW government recently rejected MidCoast Council’s bid for a SRV during 2017-2018.

“Council will continue to pursue this option for 2018-2019 depending on the government’s position at that time.”