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20 September 2001

Minister Wipes hands of Cumborah to Lightning Ridge Road

"The State Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, has wiped his hands of providing any assistance to the upgrade of the Cumborah to Lightning Ridge Road," said Shadow Minister for Roads, John Turner. "I raised a number of questions in the Parliament after consultation with my colleague, the Member for Barwon, Ian Slack-Smith concerning this road.

"I asked whether the Minister had cancelled a meeting arranged with the Walgett Council to discuss the road and if so had he rescheduled the meeting and if not why not.

"I asked questions in relation to how many days the road had been closed, how many days the school bus had been unable to travel on the road and whether the upgrade of the road had been placed in an RTA maintenance program.

"I in fact raised a total of 20 questions but only received a four line reply stating: 'Answer: (1) to (20) The Lightning Ridge to Cumborah Road is a regional road for which Walgett Shire Council is responsible and Council manages all matter associated with this road. Therefore, all the questions raised by the Honourable Member relating to this road should be addressed to Walgett Council.'

"Clearly, the Minister has washed his hands of any responsibility for this road. His actions again highlight the complete lack of understanding of the problems associated with rural and regional NSW and, in particular, our infrastructure such as roads," Mr Turner said.

"Under the Block Grant system, the Government provides funding assistance to all Councils by way of annual grants for use on Regional Roads according to Council priorities.

In 2001/2002, Walgett Shire Council received a block grant of $1,623,000 which includes a component of funding previously provided from the 3x3 Council Determined Component.

Funds are made available to Council under a formula arrangement agreed with Local Government. The formula takes into account the length of roads, traffic volumes and the length of any timber bridges on each Regional Road.

"Under the REPAIR Program, the Government also provides additional funds towards specific projects nominated by Councils. These funds are provided on a dollar for dollar basis in accordance with priorities determined by a Consultative Committee of local Councils.

"You may also be aware that on November 27 2000, the Federal Government announced additional funding to local councils under the 'Roads to Recovery' program. This will provide $340M over four years directly to Local government in NSW for construction and repair of their roads and bridges. Walgett Council will receive $3,366,103 (that is $841,526 per annum) under the program.

"With regard to the Cumborah Road, Walgett Council could now consider utilising its allocation under the 'Roads to Recovery' program for work on that road," Ms Meagher concluded. "Council will commence gravel surfacing eight kilometres of the Cumborah to Lightning Ridge Road within eight weeks at an estimated expenditure of $120,000," said Walgett Shire Council Engineer, Roly Lawford.

"We simply do not have the funds to do more than the area allocated and to suggest that Federal funding be used for State roads is not acceptable."

Meanwhile, local firebrand, May Searle, has steeled her determination to take on anyone who stands in the way of seeing the Lightning Ridge to Cumborah Road sealed.

In a hard hitting letter to Mr Scully, Mrs Searle has asked the Minister to respond within 14 days. It has been intimated that the I.C.A.C. may be called upon to investigate whether monies received by Council have been distributed in a proper manner.

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