Mayor Des Kennedy has slammed NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure Director-General, Sam Haddad, for slugging Mid-Western Regional Council with a multi-million dollar bill to fund an Ulan Road upgrade.
A fortnight ago the Mudgee Guardian revealed Mid-Western Regional Council ratepayers would have to pay $13.34 million of $33.5 million to upgrade and maintain the road under a funding strategy proposed by the Department over 20 years. However over the next five years the road’s capital works bill would tally $18 million and council would have to find an extra $9.4 million. This is something Council cannot afford.
The bill comes from a decision by Mr Haddad in May that determined a cost sharing for capital works needed for Ulan Road.
Council’s own studies suggest 75 per cent of traffic on Ulan Road is directly mine related.
Cr Kennedy said Mr Haddad’s decision was hard to comprehend.
“His decision assigns costs to our community that the mining companies have incurred. By recognising in his decision that Council’s costs on this road will increase by millions of dollars, Sam Haddad acknowledges by inference that other community services will have to be cut,” Cr Kennedy said.
In a letter to Council Mr Haddad said “the costs for Council in my determination are higher than council’s current spending on the road”.
Cr Kennedy said council was being forced to increase expenditure on the Ulan Road from an average of $600,000 per year to $2.4 million per year.
“Developers in NSW are required to fund infrastructure upgrades needed to service their development. Why now, has Mr Haddad decided council should subsidise the impact that three developers are having on our infrastructure? The generosity he has shown the coal mines is clearly at great cost to this community and has us asking some serious questions of the Department.”
A spokesman from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure said the department was disappointed by Council’s response and stood by its analysis, which it considered to be fair and reasonable.
“Where a clear relationship was established between certain coal mining developments and usage of the road, the mining companies have been required to fund the road’s upgrade accordingly,” he said.
“The department’s decision on how to split the cost between Council and the mining companies was based on detailed road usage data and independent advice, as well as a range of historical and technical factors. It was also based on strict legal and merit assessment requirements.
“It should also be noted that the funding required is over a 20-year time frame.”
The department indicated it would support any council applications for State or Commonwealth grants to assist with funding “this important piece of regional infrastructure”.
Cr Kennedy said extra funding that council was being forced to find for Ulan Road exceeds what Council spends on three pools, libraries, the airport, tourism and events combined.
“Imagine cutting all these services to maintain one road that is used mainly to service three coal mines,” he said.
“These international mining companies employ a lot of people in our region and provide economic development opportunities, and for that we are very grateful. However, they need to take responsibility for the impact their developments have on local infrastructure.”