23 August, 2023
Property owner fights for gravel on road
A TOPAZ property owner says he is sick and tired of arguing with Tablelands Regional Council over the need to put a layer of gravel on a section of Union Road which becomes virtually unpassable during wet weather.
Scott MacLeod says 600m of the road leading to his property is just pure mud after rain, making it dangerous. He came off his motorbike twice and his Landcruiser slid off the track into a barbed wire fence earlier this month, damaging the vehicle.
That incident promoted him to call Tableland Mayor Rod Marti to complain about the condition of that section of the road which has been the subject of repeated requests to gravel the section over the past 20-plus years.
Mayor Marti came out to the property to inspect the situation but Mr MacLeod was given no promises or assurances that the road would be covered in gravel anytime soon.
Mr MacLeod said the Mayor visit on 9 August gave him no comfort that anything would be done.
“Mayor Marti didn’t have anything constructive to say. His only comment when he arrived was ‘challenging’,” he said.
“When I asked him about how much they are making out of charging ratepayers to fix their roads, he had nothing to add.
“We have been asking for maintenance for the last 23 years. They slashed once after I got narky and haven’t been back since.
“The council is double charging ratepayers. Road Rates (46c in every dollar) go to fix their roads and then they want ratepayers to fix them and pay an annual maintenance fee. How long has this been going on? Is this even legal?”
Mr MacLeod received an email from Cr Dave Bilney on the issue which suggested he could put gravel on the road himself, but would need an operational works permit to do so.
Cr Bilney advised him that the road was considered to be “unformed” and as such, had not been receiving any annual maintenance other than slashing of vegetation beside the road if required.
He said while council had an obligation to “provide a legal point of access” through a road reserve or easement, that requirement had been “fulfilled with access through a road reserve”.
“Council has no obligation to provide any additional or improved road and is unlikely to do so,” Cr Bilney wrote.
He said if Mr MacLeod wanted the road to be surfaced with gravel, he could obtain an operational works permit and advised that he was provided with a “high level costing” of $35,000 for the construction of a basic road and $1500 a year for the annual maintenance cost.
Mr MacLeod has rejected Cr Bilney’s assertion that the access to his property is through a road reserve.
“Cr Bilney should read his own (council’s) website. He could see this is not a public road reserve, it’s a registered public road as per their own website.”
Mr MacLeod is not the first property owner to complain about the road, with previous owner Diane Metcalfe sending letters to request gravel back as far as 2000 to Eacham Shire Council.
“During the first few years of my ownership, Eacham Shire Council periodically graded and filled Union Road and I was able to drive to my property in my Mitsubishi Colt hatch,” she said.
By 2001, it became obvious road maintenance was not being undertaken so Ms Metcalfe wrote to the then CEO Ian Church to complain who gave an undertaking that gravel would be placed on the worst areas.
That did not happen, according to Ms Metcalfe, who says she paid rates for 26 years but was unable to get the road done.
TRC’s Infrastruure and Environment general manager Mark Vis rejected any suggestion that council asks landowners to pay for planned upgrades to roads.
“The community can request upgrades to TRC infrastructure. These requests are assessed and ranked against other priorities within the region and budget allocations, and then inform the works program and long-term capital budget,” he said.
“These rough figures ($35,000 to put gravel on the surface and $1500 a year to maintain it) were provided as an indication of the cost of upgrading and maintaining the road to the property.
“A developer or resident can apply to upgrade TRC road infrastructure at their cost under an operational works permit. The permit must be applied for and approved.”
Mr Vis said council determined its levels of service for roads via a star rating system which used data such as traffic volume and road function, to establish the desired standard of each road in the shire.
“Each star rating category has a desired standard in relation to road width, surface and design elements. The strategy also assists with prioritising maintenance — generally the higher the star rating, the higher the level of service,’ he said.
“This section of Union Road has a star rating of 1.21 and is a natural surface road. The current state of this section of the road generally meets the desired standard.”
He confirmed slashing of the roadside up to the gate of 174 Union Road would continue to be included in the council’s maintenance scheduling.