Four years on, local councils still wait for action on the transfer of the old Pacific Highway

It’s been a long and winding journey for Nambucca Valley Council yet, four years after the State Government announced a review, Council still waits for a decision on the handover of the old Pacific Highway.

THE State Government is facing a backlash from local councils due to the lack of action on the transfer of the old Pacific Highway.

“It has taken longer to sort this issue out than it did to build the new highway!” said Nambucca Valley Mayor Rhonda Hoban OAM, referring to the years-long wait for a review decision.

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The Nambucca Valley Council is one of a number of councils awaiting the outcome of the review and transfer process.

The Council has had the maintenance of the old highway on its agenda since the northern section of the upgraded Pacific Highway opened in July 2016.

At the time, Cr Hoban expressed her concern about the costs involved in managing an extra 30 km of tarred road along with fourteen major concrete structures, and the burden it would add to Council finances, which would inevitably affect ratepayers.

In January 2017 proposed arrangements were outlined for the handover to Council of the Pacific Highway between Warrell Creek and Urunga by the Roads and Maritime Services, which was at the time the New South Wales Government agency responsible for building and maintaining road infrastructure and managing the day-to-day compliance and safety for roads and waterways.

The RMS was dissolved on 1 December 2019, when Transport for NSW took over the responsibility.

Negotiations continued in good faith until early 2019 when the State announced there would be a review of the handover process.

Four years later, there is still no resolution and local roads remain in a state of suspension, awaiting action.

There is a lack of certainty about the impact that decisions relating to transfer and reclassification will have – what level of service and funding will be provided for maintenance, renewal and upgrading, for instance?

And of course, the big problem for Council is not being able to make long-term plans on community projects.

It’s difficult to make important decisions on funds allocations without knowing the extent of support that will be offered by the State to maintain the old highway, and a timeframe for when the handover will take effect.

In August 2020, the Nambucca Valley Council and the Bellingen Shire Council made a joint submission to the State Government in an effort to achieve some progress on the matter, but it has had no effect.

Cr Hoban is concerned that when the handover does occur, some sections of old highway may need potentially major and costly work, and she emphasises that Council can’t afford to take on assets that are not in good condition.

The cost to Nambucca Council is estimated at $266 million in total liability.

“The potential cost is too much for the ratepayers to be burdened with, that’s why it is imperative the State resolves the issue as soon as possible,” Cr Hoban said.


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