CAMPAIGNERS pushing to have a roundabout installed at Bathurst’s worst intersection have responded angrily to news there will be no federal funding made available.
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack confirmed on Wednesday that the intersection of Mitre, Lambert and Suttor streets had not made the final list of more than 100 projects to be funded under the 2018-19 Black Spot Program.
Bathurst Regional Council lodged its application for funding in July last year after councillors voted to set aside $850,000 in the 2017-18 budget to fund half the roundabout upgrade while committing to seeking black spot funding the pay for the rest.
Councillors also voted to fully fund the $1.7 million roundabout if black spot funding was not made available and council will now come under increased pressure to do just that.
West Bathurst resident Kent McNab – who, with his wife Dianne, has led the campaign to build a roundabout and collected more than 5000 signatures on a petition backing their push – said he was “devastated” by Bathurst’s omission.
“I thought we had a fair chance – it’s a worthy cause in a school zone,” Mr McNab said.
“I expect to get a formal letter in the mail and I look forward to reading what it says.”
Mrs McNab was even more scathing, accusing council of using the black spot funding application as a delaying tactic.
She said she did not regret the time they had put into the campaign.
“If nothing else it has show politicians and their staff that people are passionate about issues in the country and if the politicians don’t listen then they will hear about it at the next election,” she said.
Cr Alex Christian, another vocal roundabout campaigner, lay the blame squarely at the feet of federal Calare MP Andrew Gee.
“Basically our federal member has given us lip service,” Cr Christian said.
“It was up to him to lobby for this and get it done but nothing has happened.
“The 5000 people who signed that petition have been ignored.”
But Mr Gee hit back at the criticism, saying he was “bitterly disappointed” and had let Mr McCormack know of his anger.
“I’ve had a conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack about it and expressed my anger and disappointment,” Mr Gee said.
“He made it clear that the assessment of black spot funding proposals is carried out at arm’s length by an independent expert panel and he does not have the ministerial discretion to intervene. This is to prevent political interference.
“I’ve ascertained that all projects are ranked and given a benefit cost ratio score based on a number of different factors, including crash history and the strength of the application.
“The only project that got funding in our area was a reasonably small $135,000 road widening project in Orange. It scored 6.5 which was the highest of all the local projects.
“The Suttor, Mitre, Lambert streets roundabout in Bathurst scored 2.1. No project anywhere in Australia with a score of under 3.0 got any funding.”
Mr Gee said he had also been told there had been issues with council’s application and he would provide council further advice on that.
He indicated he wanted to keep pushing for federal funding.
“I’ve let the deputy prime Minister know in no uncertain terms how important this issue is to our area and he has invited Bathurst Regional Council representatives and Kent and Dianne McNab to Canberra to explore other ways that funding can be found,” Mr Gee said.
“I fully support this roundabout and while this is an extremely frustrating setback, we’re just going to have to keep working to find a way to make this happen.”
But council general manager David Sherley did not seem interested in further delays and said he would now prepare a report for councillors on how council might fully fund an upgrade of the intersection.
“We’re disappointed that funding has not been provided but we will be working to get a report to council as soon as practicable to ensure works go ahead at the intersection of Mitre, Lambert and Suttor street,” he said.