Lake Macquarie warns roads at risk if referendum fails

By Julian Bajkowski

The City of Lake Macquarie in New South Wales has come out fighting in support of the ‘yes’ case for the local government referendum, claiming residents stand to lose at least $3 million a year if federal money dries up.

The Mayor of Lake Macquarie, Cr Jodie Harrison, has warned the “really important local projects” including the Fernleigh Track, Red Bluff Shared Pathway and Lake Macquarie Variety Playground that “have only been made possible with direct Federal funding.”

“These landmark projects have together received more than $7.8 million in federal funding to Council under programs such as the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure program,” Cr Harrison said.

The council is similarly cautioning residents that the local government has also benefitted from the $3 billion plus in federal Roads to Recovery project funding in recent years through “an allocation of $6.37 million for the period 2009-10 to 2013-14.”

“Over the five-year period this Federal funding will see 62 projects implemented to improve the safety, quality and longevity of roads in our City,” Cr Harrison said.

Lake Macquarie’s Mayor is also pointing to $850,000 that council received to fix dangerous traffic conditions at Warners Bay Road in Charlestown.

“The road between EK Avenue and Whitburn Close had been the site of a high incidence of head-on collisions, with more than 10 recorded head-on and run-off carriageway crashes over a five-year period, including one fatality. Since completion of the works to install guardrails, bollards and other traffic calming devices, there have been no recorded injuries in crashes at the site,” Cr Harrison said.

The push to link improvements to federal funding is a key element of councils’ push to make residents realise that there is real infrastructure at stake because of the Constitutional uncertainty following two High Court decisions.

“When our Constitution was written 112 years ago, Federal funding for local government projects wasn’t mentioned, which means today billions of dollars in Federal funding for community projects could technically be legally challenged,” Cr Harrison said.

But the referendum itself is facing legal uncertainty because the Federal government led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is yet to say on what date the federal election will be held.

The poll had previously been slated for 14th September by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard with the referendum to coincide with it.

That hasn’t dented the enthusiasm of Lake Macquarie’s council.

“Our important local projects need Federal funding and voting ‘yes’ is the only way to ensure it will continue in future. There is no other source to replace this funding,” Cr Harrison said.

“Around the country direct federal funding has delivered safer roads, better playgrounds and parks, and upgraded libraries and other important local amenities – in short, safer and improved local environments for our communities.”

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