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Community & Business

21 January, 2022

TRC cycling strategy costs questioned

A NEW cycling strategy will be developed by Tablelands Regional Council despite Deputy Mayor Kevin Cardew strenuously arguing that it will cost ratepayers too much.

By Robyn Holmes

Photo | Dreamstime

Council had been approached by local recreational umbrella group, Tablelands Outdoor Recreational Association (TORA Inc), to develop a 10-year strategy so the region could reap the economic and social benefits cycling can bring. 

The group presented three ways to achieve the outcome – council engage an external consultant; develop the strategy in-house with the expertise of council staff and liaison from stakeholders; or a joint internal/external model involving council staff working with a community reference group or advisory committee. 

Council officers recommended it take the first option which would require $80,000 be allocated in the next budget for an external consultant to develop the strategy, but Cr Cardew said that despite the fact he recognised the importance of such a document, he did not support paying that much money to a consultant to develop it.

“There are better ways to achieve the strategy without having to spend $80,0000 of ratepayers’ money,” he said. 

“I would be surprised if officers did not have the capacity to do this and I won’t be supporting any motion with $80,000 in it. I believe we have the expertise sitting in this room without having to put a burden on ratepayers of $80,000. 

“We have the capacity and the knowledge and much of the work has been already done. We will get a much better outcome (if officers worked with stakeholders) – the people in the cycling fraternity know what they want.” 

But Community Services Manager Shiralee McHardie said council officers did not have the capacity to do the work as the “Community Development team is small” and rejected any suggestions that the strategy could be done by an external consultant for less than $80,000. 

“We have benchmarked this and $80,000 is the bare minimum – if this was cut down, officers will not be able to deliver the strategy,” she warned. 

Mayor Rod Marti said it was imperative that the strategy be done as quickly as possible as the region was losing opportunities without it. 

“We have good assets but it’s not organised and not strategic. I don’t believe the resources are here internally and I can’t approve this (going ahead with the strategy) without funding being attached to it,” he said. 

He also backed the exercise to be done as a joint project between council and the relevant bike and recreational groups involved. 

Cr Bernie Wilce was also in favour of taking on a consultant to prepare the document, saying “we want to do it properly and I don’t think we will get the result we want” if council attempted to do it internally and with less funds. 

Council agreed to allocate the $80,000 cost in the 2022-23 Budget for an external consultant to develop the strategy and also to establish an advisory committee to allow for input from stakeholders. 

Outside the meeting after the decision, TORA spokesperson Gayle Sticher said she was surprised and thrilled council had opted to fund the external consultant and also set up the advisory committee to allow groups like TORA to feed into the document.

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