28 May, 2022
Councillor intervention saves bus company from unfair conditions
A BUS operator has been saved from having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade the public road outside his property after Tablelands Regional Councillors stepped in to delete the condition from his development approval.
Kevin Emerson has been running a bus company for the past 44 years and, due to the lack of industrial land large enough to accommodate the buses, a part of his property on Carson Road was given a special zoning by the former Eacham Shire Council in 1986 so he could maintain the vehicles there. Buses were also stored at site in the Tolga Industrial Estate until recently when that location was sold which resulted in Mr Emerson having to construct a gravel hardstand area at short notice to store the vehicles, as there were no other industrial sites available in the area that were large enough to accommodate buses.
After neighbours complained about the sudden intensification of activity at his property, council officers investigated and issued a Show Cause Notice in November 2021 which sparked the Material Change of Use application from Mr Emerson. Planning officers recommended approval but wanted Mr Emerson to fork out for an upgrade to Carson Road, from his property to the intersection of Malanda-Atherton Road, saying the road did not meet standards of the FNQROC manual. Another condition placed on the approval was a requirement for Mr Emerson to prove to satisfaction of officers that the property had a reliable source of water.
The conditions brought a stern response from Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Cardew who made it clear he did not support the officers’ position on the road or the need to prove up the water supply.
“This business has been there for 44 years, the road’s been the same for 44 years, there is no edge damage to the road, and the road has largely been the same all that time,” he said. “I drove that road the other morning with my trailer on my car which is wider than my vehicle and just happened to pass a bus on that road and there were no issues, getting on or off – it was not a problem. “Those buses drive all over the local roads in our shire that are in much worse condition than Carson Road. It’s a nice straight road, plenty of vision and grass verges on both sides, so it’s easy to get on and off. “I don’t share with the views of the management – I mean he’s been there for 44 years and there’s been no incidents. “I have the same problem with the water supply condition – they have been there for 44 years, they’ve got water, they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t.”
Cr Dave Bilney supported Cr Cardew on the road issue, saying officers were trying to retrospectively fix a problem that should have been dealt with in 1986 by trying to widen the road from 3.3m to 4.5m. “It’s been said it would be in excess of a couple of hundred thousand dollars to do this – I really struggle to impose that cost on this business.”
Council approved the Material Change of Use application, with the conditions on the road and water supply deleted.