Road rage almost blocks draft budget

Naracoorte Lucindale Council has released its 2018/19 draft budget, but not before some fiery words from councillors about road maintenance priorities.

At Tuesday night’s special meeting, several councillors spoke out about local roads, seeking explanations from director of operations Steve Bourne about priorities.

Cr Trevor Rayner had issues with the upgrading and maintenance of Lucindale’s Hakea St being “pushed aside”, and public consultations about the Lucindale master plan not yet having a date.

“I’ve been on this project since 2015!” Cr Rayner said of the Lucindale master plan.

“It’s a complete waste of my time being here!”

Mayor Erika Vickery’s response was that the Lucindale master plan was the town’s biggest step forward in a decade, and that a public consultation date needed to be made after, not before, the budget was passed.

Cr Ken Schultz took a stand on maintenance planned for Robertson St. According to Cr Schultz, the upgrade to Robertson St should be deferred until other roads were taken care of.

Mr Bourne had an opposing view, pointing out that not only were tenders about to be given out, but also that the area needed proper kerbing and a water table. Mayor Vickery added that it was a CBD street that was used frequently, and was important for business and tourism reasons.

After it was explained to Cr Schultz that the Robertson St upgrade was the most critical part of the whole project (which is being done in stages), he conceded that it couldn’t be deferred.

But later in the meeting Cr Schultz said that constituents had expressed anger at Clarkson’s Rd not being drivable in winter, and that there was too much money being spent on unsealed road construction including Struan Road and Flinders Lane.

This caused Cr Damien Ross to interject, arguing that Clarkson’s Rd was a summer road, and that home owners in the area knew that the road came with the land. Cr Craig McGuire also mentioned that the road was close to a swamp, and nearly a swamp itself in rain season.

Mayor Vickery halted the arguments by stating that in a Strategic Asset Meeting (SAM) in February, a resolution was passed to assess whether work on Clarkson’s Rd could be extended. 

Mr Bourne also pointed out that the smaller roads like Flinders Lane were part of a larger stormwater catchment scheme.

But the strongest criticism of the road priorities came from Cr Toby Robinson, who accused Mr Bourne of not doing enough for arterial roads in the country, and of “shifting the goal posts”.

Mr Bourne’s rebuttal was that the majority of rural roads were already under maintenance, and that those that still needed attention (such as Bool Lagoon Rd and Cadgee Rd) were being assisted in their funding with a local roads program.

Cr Ross expressed exasperation that the meeting’s aim of adopting the draft budget was being sidetracked. He said the issues could have been discussed three months ago, in the February budget planning stage.

Cr Ross did say that he wasn’t opposed to the ideas of the other councillors, but he wanted the proper processes followed.

The only other road issue that resulted in a tense stand off came when Cr Malcolm McLean challenged the reasoning behind why there should be a bike riding trail to the Naracoorte Caves.

This challenge was met by Cr Scott McLachlan, who replied that some people liked cycling to the caves.

Cr McLean said they could ride on the road – but Cr McLachlan replied that they had been told by cyclists that it was unsafe.

When Cr McLean labelled the idea “a complete waste of money”, Cr McLachlan argued that cyclists bring tourism money into the town.

The draft budget was passed 6-2, with Crs McLean and Rayner voting against its adoption. Crs Ross, Robinson, Schultz, McLachlan, McGuire and Rebecca Smith voted in favour. Crs Tom Dennis and Julie Earl were absent.

The draft budget will be available to view at the council website, and at the council offices, from Friday, May 18. Public submissions are welcome before June 8 and people can also speak on the budget at the next special council meeting on June 12.