Message from the Mayor: 17 February 2023

Published on 17 February 2023

Hi, I'm John Connors the mayor of Dungog Shire, bringing you this week's mayoral message.

On Monday at five o'clock, the Independent Planning Commission of NSW released their decision with respect to the application by Martins Creek Quarry for development consent which would enable them to increase their production. The Commission refused the applicant’s application, the effect of which is, the quarry can still operate, but it can only operate under the 1991 development consent, which is far less than what they were proposing and restricts the majority of the material to go by rail and not by road.

Council took an active role in the Commission inquiry, in that it made submissions both in writing on a number of occasions and oral submissions to the public hearing held the Tocal. It is pleasing that the reasons given by the Commission for their determination indicate that much of the material submitted by Council was indeed relevant to the Commission's finding, in particular, Council commissioned a social impact assessment which is referred to by the panel from Dr. Judith Stubbs and that clearly was material to their finding. Council also commissioned some drone footage to highlight the pinch points, the danger points, of the proposed road haulage; the intersections, the railway crossing in Paterson, and of course, the intersection where a truck a minute or more was to turn right in the middle of Paterson. In the course of the one-on-one hearing between the Commission and Council, the commissioners showed great interest in what the drone would is depicted and I'm sure that also had a material impact.

In saying that, I'm not for a moment attempting to diminish the significant impact by the Martins Creek Quarry Action Group, and of course, all those members of the community who made submissions both in writing and orally at the hearing. Whilst it's disappointing to see a development of this nature and of this magnitude not proceed, it's comforting to see that the Commission has appreciated the significant adverse impact on the community, should consent have been granted. One would like to think that the applicants might readdress the proposal and consider transporting the material by rail rather than their original proposal. So many trucks on the road all the way from Martins Creek Quarry through the village of Paterson and on down through Bolwarra and ultimately down Melbourne Street in East Maitland to the New England Highway. So hopefully the resource can be properly recovered and properly dispatched from the quarry to where it's required both in the valley and elsewhere in New South Wales, but not in a way that has such a significant adverse impact on the community.

Council through the week was also fortunate to receive advice that a grant of $2.8 million has been awarded for works on Allyn River Road between Halton Bridge and Gringai Bridge. This will enable obviously a significant amount of work to be carried out in that stretch of road.

Also during the week, advice was received that Council or confirmation of Council’s local roads and community infrastructure grant in the sum of $800 odd $1,000. This grant was originally announced prior to the federal election last May. Unfortunately, there'd be no confirmation of it after the election and the general manager and I had made personal reference representations to the federal minister and to the local member Dr. Gillespie, seeking confirmation that the grant would in fact be honoured. So it was pleasing this week to receive confirmation of that fact that the monies will be forthcoming. Council, in anticipation of receiving those monies, had in fact allocated them dominantly to two ongoing projects to bring them to finality. That's the Gresford Sporting Complex and the Dungog Library. So it's pleasing to know that they are now a reality.

Starting today at four o'clock at the Council Chambers in Brown Street in Dungog, I'll be recommending Meet the Mayor from 4-6pm today in Dungog. And then next week

  • Tuesday at the Beatty Hotel in East Gresford,
  • Wednesday at the Vacy General Store,
  • Thursday at Tucker Park in Paterson, and
  • Friday at the School of Arts in Clarence Town,

on each occasion 4pm to 6pm. Please drop in and raise any issues you might have that are of concern to you.

If your issues are potholes, I and Council at large is well aware of that issue and is doing all it can to address the problem as quickly as possible. I know you will think that's far too slow, and it is, but there is nothing that can be done to expedite it regrettably.

This coming week, Council will be continuing works on the landslide on Bingleburra Road where contractors are attempting to stabilise the bank to minimise the impact of future landslips. Works in Hooke Street in Dungog will continue between Abelard and Lord Streets. And work will commence in Park Street at East Gresford in two sections of Park Street, the dominant works at the bottom end of Park Street from the bridge to Durham road, and then there's a small section of works that will be undertaken to create a temporary solution at the other end of Park Street near the Roman Catholic Church on the Vacy end of East Gresford. Those works it will take place in the coming week.

The bridges continue to be built and as a result of a resolution of Council on last Wednesday night, all 23 bridges for which funding has been received either completed, under construction, or under contract and due for completion prior to April of 2024. Which is a great achievement, it's an achievement that when added to it, the further seven bridges that have been built outside the current program, that's a total of 30 bridges that Council has built in the term of the current Council and the previous Council since 2017. A total of 30 bridges which leaves the Shire with only two bridges that haven’t or won’t have been replaced and that's the Suspension Bridge at Gresford, where we're still trying to seek funding and some appropriate solution to that issue, and the Pounds Crossing Bridge which was not eligible for funding on this occasion. They're the only two bridges that won't have been replaced by concrete structures.

The work at the Dungog Library continues and hopefully the library works will be finished during March and the library will have relocated by then back to the library and will open to the public. The Clarence Town new amenities block is under construction on the village green and that's due for completion later this month. Works at Bennett Park and anybody who's driven past Bennett Park in Dungog will see that it's very brown at the moment. That's because the grass has been poisoned and there is to be a resurfacing of the of the oval. Contractors have been engaged to do that work and it is they that have carried out the initial work of killing the existing set of grass. The work is to commence, well continue, it’s commenced in that the poisoning has place, but to continue during this month and into the next month, with the earthworks commencing perhaps next week or certainly the week after hopefully.

Maintenance works throughout the Shire continue with pothole filling, tar patching and the like. The most recent announcement by the government for pothole funding and heavy patching works where Council received an excess of $1.3 million, that money will enable Council to carry out heavy patching rather than mere pothole filling on many sections of road. At the moment a schedule of works is being prepared and once that's finalised Council will then proceed to roll out those heavy patching works across the most needed sections of the road network throughout the Shire. And of course, that doesn't alleviate the need to fill potholes when required and as quickly as possible and that will, of course continue.

So I think that brings us up to date for the week, and I emphasise again if you've got any issues any concerns, please call and speak with me at Dungog Council Chambers today, the Beatty Hotel at East Gresford on Tuesday, the Vacy General Store on Wednesday, Tucker Park Paterson on Thursday, and the School of Arts at Clarence Town on Friday of next week. All of those times are 4pm to 6pm. So please drop in and make me aware of your concerns or discuss issues with me.

Until next week, goodbye.

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