Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stoner commits to Marlee and Duffs bridge cause

30 Nov, 2010 12:35 PM

OPPOSITION spokesperson for roads, Andrew Stoner, has stood by his commitment to lessen the financial burden on Greater Taree City Council ratepayers and help fund the replacement of Marlee and Duffs bridges if his party wins the State election in March next year.

Mr Stoner, State member for Oxley, told the Wingham Chronicle this week he stands by his belief that the State government is responsible for funding 50 per cent of the replacement of the two bridges, despite the Bulga Road being a local government priority.

Mr Stoner also stated if the Nationals and Liberals are elected next year, making him the State roads minister, the party will seek a contribution from the Federal Government for the project, further cutting the cost of replacing the bridges for Greater Taree City Council.

The Marlee and Duffs bridges are on Bulga Road, part of Tourist Drive 8, which stretches from Wingham to Ellenborough Falls and Comboyne.

Greater Taree City Council committed in June to replacing the ailing bridges by the end of 2012 as an immediate capital works priority. This means over the next two financial years the city council will allocate its entire bridge replacement program to the two bridges, and borrow additional funds as needed.

Mr Stoner has however voiced his opinion that there is a ‘precedent’ for the State Government to fund 50 per cent of the works.

The Tourist Drive 8 (TD8) Action Group, a lobby group made up of local residents, received written confirmation of Mr Stoner’s stance on this issue in May this year.

Mr Stoner’s ‘precedent’ refers to Recommendation 5 of the 2007 Roads Classification Review which stated that roads being declassified should remain eligible for any future bridge funding program that specifically targets regional roads. Indeed, the Kew Road which was earmarked for declassification in 2007, received funding for three new bridges in 2009/2010 under the Timber Bridge Replacement Program for Regional Roads.

Spending State funds on Duffs and Marlee bridges, which are on a ‘local road’, on the basis that it was a ‘regional road’ before 1996, would be retrospectively applying the principle of Recommendation 5.

However, Mr Stoner has indicated to TD8 members that this would give him sufficient justification to allocate funding normally aimed at regional road bridges.

Mr Stoner also suggested to TD8 in May that the financial burden of replacing the bridges could be lessened on Greater Taree City Council ratepayers should the Federal government come to the table to create an equal one-third sharing of the cost between the three levels of government.

It is understood members of the TD8 group will ask Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott to match the 33 per cent contribution proposed by Mr Stoner, or, in the event there is no contribution from the State, at least a 50 per cent contribution, when they meet with the Federal MP this week.

“Marlee and Duffs bridges service an important tourist route of State and national significance with benefits flowing to a much wider population that just the ratepayers of the Manning Valley,” TD8 member Sandra Kwa said.

“I am hoping Rob Oakeshott will be able to rise to the ‘equal one-third contribution’ challenge, which would mean a saving to GTCC of $3.3m, being two-thirds of the mooted $5 million cost. I would love to see some of that saving spent on making Bulga and Colling Roads a safer and more pleasant drive.”

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