• Tony Bosworth

Unfinished business – Council’s to do list includes work from last term – “needs to be urgency"



As the new Council gets ready to sit its first full meeting of business this evening - on January 11 they re-elected unopposed Mayor Patrick Conolly, who held the role for the last year of the last term, and a new Deputy Mayor, Labor’s Barry Calvert - we decided to look at some of the issues from the last council still on the books...

Tonight, the Liberals and their political bedfellows aim to push through several proposals which we reported on here, call back some decisions made in the previous Council, and look at major changes, including ultimately to the rates structure which will likely see new winners and maybe some losers too. Lots to do this evening, then.


But let’s pause for a moment. Let’s take a breath. Let’s slow down. Let’s go to Lower Portland then on to Upper Colo.


You have to go slow, because Lower Portland’s Greens Road and the bridge at Upper Colo are both still damaged and unusable almost a year after floodwaters crashed through in March 2021.


While the Mayor – to paraphrase a quote from his ultimate leader, PM Scott Morrison – doesn’t hold a shovel, he is responsible for moving this along, and the floods and the damage happened on his watch. Mayor Conolly was Mayor last year too.


Lower Portland's Greens Rd, still not repaired after March 2021 floods


Have a think about that – almost a year since the flood damage was caused, and likely another year before repairs are finished at Greens Road, and into September before there’s a new single lane bridge over the Colo River.


“There needs to be urgency, it’s an embarrassment to local government and state government if they can’t manage under 1km of road repairs in a timely manner after nine months of preparing reports,”...


...says Lower Portland’s Rochelle Miller who has worked tirelessly for her community to try and get Greens Rd repaired.


Greens Rd, residents could be looking at another 11 months of using a poorly maintained fire trail as a long workaround before their road is fully repaired.


Yes, Greens Rd is potentially a complicated repair – the road borders the Hawkesbury River - but locals are far from impressed.


We’re talking about 1km of repairs – you could walk that in about 9 minutes tops.


“Fast track the project with state government contractors,” says Ms Miller.


A temporarily patched up Site 2 on Greens Rd has been reopened and will be open 24 hours under floodlights, unless there is 20mm of rain in a two-hour period when it will be closed once again, and that situation won’t change until full repairs are made.


“The State has repaired other landslide roads within three months across the state,” points out Ms Miller.


“Manpower needs to be on the ground repairing around the clock, at least six days a week. We want them there under lights, getting it done.”


Permanent repairs are currently slated to start in February.


“The new Mayor needs to see that no further delays incur by lack of planning management, the contractors should be able to report weekly targets and keep on track, kept accountable,” says Ms Miller.


“Council cannot be asking residents to drive a bush fire trail for close to another 11 months, they are not considering the families who live this situation day in and out.”



Upper Colo bridge - residents still waiting for a new bridge after flood water damage in March


It’s a similar story at Upper Colo where residents’ patience has been worn thin waiting for a new bridge, and again while these repairs might take time they are also looking at a lengthy process, ongoing, until they get their new bridge.


They have been told a design for a new concrete bridge has now been submitted. It’s a simple affair – single lane and room for pedestrians too, and it is out to tender.


“We will wait with bated breath to see if the same mayor recently elected makes any head roads into fast tracking repairs which have not yet seemed to be a priority for him,” says Upper Colo’s Alice Voigt.


“Residents and visitors to Upper Colo have been waiting and waiting for almost a year for affirmative action from the council to repair basic infrastructure.”


“Visitors to the area are wringing their hands at the continued closure of the [Upper Colo] Reserve which has created huge gathered crowds at the broken bridge,” says Ms Voigt.


As it happens, the Council has just announced that the Reserve – especially popular with locals and visitors as a venue on Australia Day – will be closed immediately and not re-open until at least September. That’s timely for another reason – because as Ms Voigt reports, “the recent rise in the river has trapped trees and debris against the remaining bridge pylons which is just an accident waiting to happen”.


“The promised further investigative report should give good instructions into the needs of the area, community and visitors, if these recommendations are taken up,” says Ms Voigt.


Pump out


Another ongoing issue across the Hawkesbury is pump-out sewage, and what, if anything, Hawkesbury Council is going to do about it to help the 790 or so residents on this antiquated yet costly system.


Will there be action on pump-out costs this year...


Ratepayers are being slugged as much as $400-$450 a month ($4800-$5400 a year) on combined rates and pump-out on blocks as small as 650 square metres. By comparison, the owner of a 100acre block with house at Bilpin pays around $5000 in rates – remember that because the rates structure could well change in this term in favour of landowners at places like Bilpin.


Pump-out residents have been asking for years for some financial assistance – none has been offered – and it took Council staff over a year to get a report together on the overall situation. Council did carry out a very sparse online survey this last year but they only contacted a small percentage of those on pump-out. It’s not an issue that will go away any time soon and it needs action.


At a full Council meeting on November 23, councillors unanimously agreed to review what they call “the Sullage service” before the current contract with the pump out company runs out in May 2023.


Councillors have asked for a report back on that no later than June and they also want to explore the option of the Council carrying out its own sewage collection. They plan to talk to Sydney Water about their “strategic plans for the North West area”, which should cover whether the government body is likely to put a main sewage system in anytime soon for those without – it’s unlikely.


They also agreed to use some of our rates to pay a consultant to “develop education material regarding various technologies available in regard to split systems, including the criteria applicable for each system”. 



Roads


Yes, that old favourite. Roads and potholes feature large when anyone mentions the Hawkesbury and we need a Mayor who can get on top of the issue.


There is some good news here - the Council has been awarded a one off $2.2m under what's called Phase 3 of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCI) and councillors are planning to forward a list of projects, if voted through this evening, which is very likely. Council has already had 2 previous Phases of funding through this system.


It’s not all about resurfacing though, in the case of Windsor St. Richmond, for example Council wants to construct a parking lane on the north side between Market St and the raised crossing.


Here’s a list of Council's suggested projects:


* Windsor Street, Richmond - reconstruct parking lane north side between East Market Street and raised crossing


*Colonial Drive, Bligh Park - new concrete path between Alexander St and George St

* Southee Road, Richmond - rehabilitate a 70m section east of Castlereagh Rd


* Slopes Road, The Slopes - rehabilitate a 100m section east of Single Ridge Rd

* Peel Parade, Kurrajong - rehabilitate section south of Overton Road

* Comleroy Road, Kurrajong - rehabilitate 200m section north of Roxana Rd


* Old Pitt Town Road, Oakville - rehabilitate 170m section west of Boundary Rd.

* Saunders Road, Oakville - rehabilitate 70m section east of Old Stock Route Rd.

* Willow Glen Road Bridge, Kurrajong - replace existing timber bridge with a concrete structure


* James Meehan Street, Windsor - rehabilitate full length easterly from Harris Street.

Argyle St, South Windsor. New footpath missing link north side adjacent to Macquarie St


*Macquarie Street, South Windsor - new footpath missing link west side adjacent to Argyle St


* Greens Road, Lower Portland - seal sharp bends on steep inclines including guard rail.


* Comleroy Road, Kurrajong - rehabilitate failed pavement section in the cuttings from No. 21 to No. 43 approximately.


* Railway Road South, Mulgrave - rehabilitate sections between Level Crossing Road and west of Groves Avenue South.


Many challenges then, and more we don’t even know about yet. Let’s see how this new Council handles it as the year unfolds.






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