Message from the Mayor: 24 February 2023

Published on 24 February 2023

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

The week started I guess last Saturday, with a visit to Paterson Sportsground where the Member for Upper Hunter, Dave Layzell announced funding to upgrade part of the sportsground. The part that is in the winter months, the rugby league field. The $216,000 to drain and resurface that part of the ground, which in talking to the rugby league representatives, will make the ground far more usable than it has been, and they had I think major difficulties during the wet period when the ground became quite unusable because of a lack of appropriate drainage.

So moving on from that, as I've moved around during the week with the Meet the Mayor sessions, it's become apparent that there is naturally a lot of interest but also a lot of concern and complaint about the road and the roadworks which it's perceived are not happening at the pace at which the community would like. I know I've spoken previously about road funding and the delays that we're occasioning at the moment, but I thought it might be opportunity to address it again.

The most significant parts of the funding that Council has is the $25 million Special Purpose Grant that was announced prior to the by-election, the Upper Hunter by-election back in 2021. Whilst that's a long time ago, it took over 12 months before Council was in a position to make any progress with that work. It took that period of time to negotiate with Transport for NSW on the segments of road to which the money was to be applied. And even prior to that on a methodology to be applied to determine the segments of road to which the money was to be applied. And then the money wasn't allocated in one lump sum of $25 million, it was allocated over a period of five years. So, the work is in progress as it was always intended to be progressive program, not an instant $25 million, which couldn't be spent anyway.

So, the works that have been undertaken to date are a section of Bingleburra Road near the Allyn River Road intersection. And work has commenced this week on the section of Park Street or Allyn River Road from the bridge through to the supermarket or there abouts within East Gresford. Those works have started and are being done by Council and will continue on that spending part of the $25 million.

Following on from that the works in Durham Road which is around the corner from Park Street in between East Gresford and Gresford and those work are going to go out to tender and they should go out to tender next week. And then hopefully, if there's an appropriate tender, one can never be sure of that in the current climate, then those work should start very soon.

It had been intended to go to tender on section of Stroud Hill Road from the railway viaduct back towards town. However, there's been unexpected delays in the design work for that for that road. The design was outsourced to contractors because Council didn't have the capacity to deal with all the design work it had at the moment, and regrettably there has been an unexpected, inordinate delay in the delivery of the design by those contractors. However, as soon as the design comes to hand, then it will go out to tender and hopefully again, they'll be a successful, appropriate, tender that can be accepted.

In addition to the $25 million there are, of course, other continued road funding amounts that are being spent all the time. And in addition to those, I think I might have announced last week, we received $2.8 million for Allyn River Road for a stretch of road between Halton Bridge and Gringai Bridge. There is also, of course, the Fixing Local Roads funding and the pothole funding. And we've received $250,000 in the first round that pothole funding, which is has been spent throughout the shire, and there is then the more recent $1.3 million of funding for which is to be used for heavy patching of potholes on bad sections of road and an assessment is currently being undertaken for where those funds might be applied.

There's been some difficulty to ensure there's no overlapping with other funding the council is shortly to receive for the Flood Relief funding, the funding to fix roads damaged by the floods and excessive rains during 2022. So, we don’t want to be denying Council appropriate funds by spending other monies inappropriately. But there is absolutely no delay been occasioned by any of that at the moment. The Council workforce is working at its full capacity and contractors are being retained whenever possible. And regrettably, that's not always possible, and certainly not possible at prices that fit within the government grants and we can't exceed the amount of the government grants.

Obviously works continue to be done on Hooke Street within the area between Lord Street and Abelard Street is currently under reconstruction and when that work finishes in the next few weeks, that crew will then move, I'm told, to the top of Hooke Street and to the area around the corner to Common Road. And it's hoped that those works at the top end of Hooke Street can be undertaken during a period that includes the school holidays, and therefore a period when there is less traffic than normal in that area.

And I'm sure many will say well why move to the top when you're at the bottom at the moment. One of the reasons, or the dominant reason for that, is that the work between Lord Street and Dowling Street is it is hoped that Council will we be successful in an application it has put in for betterment funding. The government has announced and made mention of on numerous occasions, their desire to build back better and Council has sought funding under that program to increase, amplify the culverts that go under Hooke Street near the Lord Street intersection. And if successful, then Council will be able to put in hopefully additional culverts which hopefully will facilitate the water that gathers in that area in times of heavy rain and floods to dissipate more quickly. So, to enable the government to determine the betterment funding applications, that's the reason that Council will move the roadworks to the top end and then come back to that section after a determination has been made by government.

The works on Clarence Town Road between Dungog and Clarence Town, everybody will have seen that there's been little progress made on that stretch of road in recent times. Most of the work on that road has been funded by a program that's jointly funded by the state and federal government and administered by the state government by Transport for NSW. Unfortunately, Transport for NSW have advised Council that the funding has been deferred until July, until the next financial year. So that has meant that we have had to stop doing the remaining sections on that road, change the plan and change the program.

But it is hoped that in June, that work can commence on section 10 which is that section as you enter Dungog from Clarence Town through the top of the hill through to Mary Street. It's hoped, at the moment, subject to change that works can commence in that section in June using available funding. And then hopefully after the 30th of June, the government will release additional funding which will enable the other sectors of Clarence Town Road to be to be worked on and the works to be finalised.

I know that today I've laboured roads a little, I've done it to try and communicate with as many people as possible because clearly there has been a lack of communication or a lack of understanding or both. And I hope that today might help get a better understanding by the community.

Before I conclude just to change to a very different topic in a very different place, today, Friday is the last day of this round of Meet the Mayor and I’ll be at Clarence Town School of Arts from 4pm to 6pm. So if anybody wishes to talk to me to discuss any issue of concern to them or any complaints they might have or matters they think Council should be addressing which it's not, please call into the Clarence Town School of Arts between 4pm and 6pm Friday afternoon.

With that, good luck and goodbye until next week.

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