A change to federal policy which put unrealistic pressure on Tenterfield Shire Council’s cash flow in regard to its handling of the $24 million Mt Lindesay Road upgrade project has been resolved, with Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to now bankroll the project.
Council’s chief executive Terry Dodds said arrangements made in June last year allowed council to be recompensed both federal and state funding one month in arrears. In November the federal government changed its technical policy to instead pay out in a phased approach, meaning that council would have to seek funding to support its cash flow.
“That would have cost around $360,000 over the three years of the project, and it would have put council outside of its buying ratios,” Mr Dodds said.
“Twenty-four million dollars is our entire funding for a whole year. It would be like mortgaging your house to buy a rental, and then having no income from it for 12 months. Council wasn’t prepared to do that.”
Federal member Barnaby Joyce was approached and Mr Dodds said his office was very helpful in resolving the impasse.
“The RMS will now run the project through their books, and be chair of the project consortium group and arrange payments.”
While RMS is taking over administration of the works, Mr Dodds said the project doesn’t conform with that body’s economies of scale, making the collaboration between RMS and council the best of both worlds.
“Council is quite agile. Now we have RMS finances backing the job and the agility of a smaller entity assisting RMS to run the job.”
Meanwhile work has continued on the project while a workaround was found, subject to a new deed being signed after Easter. Surveying, land acquisition and design work has been carried out with the tender for construction of phase one of six just awarded.
Mr Dodds said while the project has been a bit slow off the mark it’s a massive job, and a long section of road to navigate in unforgiving country. Ultimately, though, it will be very good for everyone who uses that road and improve economic development prospects, cutting 64 kilometres off the route to Brisbane over the alternative.
“It will allow people to be more competitive, and safer,” Mr Dodds said.
The $24 million upgrade is joint-funded between federal and state governments, and includes realignment and widening works along a 42 kilometre section of road connecting the New England to South East Queensland.
The new arrangement to relieve cashflow pressure on council will allow the project to proceed as early as possible, Mr Joyce said.
“I’ve been fighting for improvements on this road for years, and this is a great result for all involved.”
Mayor Peter Petty thanked the federal member for his assistance to improve the safety of road users in the area.
“We’re very grateful to Mr Joyce for his continuing support of the road upgrade which is not only popular with tourists and freight, it’s also a local school bus route as well,” Cr Petty said.
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