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Community & Business

7 June, 2021

Rural roads

Rural ratepayers and shire locals are becoming increasingly fed up with the state of the shire’s unsealed roads.

By Emily Middleton

So much so, that passionate local Jamee Wykes, started an online petition, calling on Gilgandra Shire Council (GSC) to commit to, fund and deliver an official biannual repair and maintenance program on all unsealed roads within the shire.

“It’s a massive issue, and it’s not just people complaining. It is those who usually don’t complain about anything. They’re exacerbated with the state of the roads that they are having to deal with,” said Ms Wykes.

On April 19, 2021, Ms Wykes made a formal complaint with the council herself.

“For a number of years, we have experienced firsthand the lack of any regular road maintenance and severe deterioration of the unsealed roads in our area.  Through discussions with the community, I was disappointed and concerned when I discovered this to be the case for majority of residents and landowners across the entirety of the council area.”

Council has recently received confirmation of natural disaster declarations for some roads, as outlined in the May rural roads update. However, these works are restorative, meaning no long-term upgrade or major improvement to the road surface, only returning the roads to their original state prior to rain and flood damage.

Ms Wykes said the natural disaster restoration work doesn’t account for the overall substandard state that the unsealed roads are in, not just because of particular flooding but because of council’s failure to maintain the roads over the past five if not 10 years.

With over 430 signatures within a week, Ms Wykes presented the petition to GSC prior to the ordinary meeting on Tuesday, May 18.

The petition states: “The state of the unsealed roads within the Gilgandra shire are atrocious, unsafe and sometimes unusable. Gilgandra Shire Council has failed its residents with little to no road repairs or maintenance undertaken for a number of years. Rates for landowners have been increased by council over recent years and the level of service has decreased to a point where almost all unsealed roads within the shire are in a terrible state and in dire need of a complete rebuild or significant repair. The residents and ratepayers of Gilgandra Shire Council call on the Gilgandra Shire Council to commit to, fund and deliver immediate repair to the unsealed roads within the shire. All roads to have work commenced, underway or finalised by June 30, 2021.”

Ms Wykes said she is also concerned about the duty of care to residents.

“It is council’s job to provide safe roads and to act when it is advised of road issues - particularly road safety issues.  I have raised in writing a significant concern with the standard of our roads and safety of school buses on our roads – this was over a month ago and there has been no action.”

Over half of the council’s road budget is dedicated to rural roads specifically, meaning over $4.5 million is going into rural road expenses, including sealed, unsealed and flood damaged roads. Just over $900,000 of the roads budget has been provided by the Roads to Recovery program, supporting the maintenance of local road infrastructure. Other funding avenues also impact the road maintenance budget, with rural ratepayers increasingly fed up with high rates for seemingly no road improvements.

Ms Wykes addressed the roads with councillors and other senior staff present at last week’s meeting. She now awaits a formal response from council.

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