Local News

Upper Hunter Shire Council moves to apply for funding to go towards fixing part of the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road

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Upper Hunter Shire Council has moved to apply for a loan to go towards fixing part of the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road Project (MR358) that needs to be redone. 

The cracks in the project appeared last year when actual cracks appeared along a 3.5 kilometre section of the road in the pavement and downslope fill embankment after the completion of some earthworks in October and November, with further cracking in February this year.

Council said that after a site inspection on 3 March 2020, Council engaged Geotechnical engineers Douglas Partners who were on site within 48 hours. After geotechnical advice on the condition of road and associated infrastructure on 5 March 2020, a 5 tonne load limit and single lane was put in place.

Investigations, field work and daily monitoring have continued since then.

Last week Council received the draft Geotechnical report on the road condition and initial recommendations for rectification works. An independent project review and audit is also underway.

On Thursday this week Council held a last minute Extraordinary Council Meeting to vote on applying for a $5 million loan to go towards fixing the road. 

A majority of councillors voted to support the motion with Councillors Sue Abbott and Lee Watts voting against.

Council moved:
1. Resolve to execute the drawdown of the approved loan facility supplied by Treasury Corporation relating to Road Infrastructure works to the value of $5,000,000.
2. Provide delegated authority to the Mayor and General Manager to approve any required loan documentation to facilitate the drawdown of the loan facility.
3. Direct the General Manager to audit all projects with the value of $1,000,000 and over to ensure the appropriate and available insurances are in place so as to protect the UHSC from further exposure and report the findings of said audit to the August meeting of the UHSC Audit Risk and Improvement committee.
4. Direct the General Manager to create a project management guideline for all projects undertaken by the UHSC. This guideline is to be reviewed by the UHSC Audit Risk and improvement committee before being submitted to the Infrastructure Services Committee for notation.

Councillor James Burns spoke to the motion at the meeting.

"We made a mistake, we know this, it started in this room, we made the mistake so this is about us fixing this," he said.

"Yes it's going to be expensive, yes its going to take time but this is a way that we can actually fix the mistake in the future and hopefully it doesn't happen again."

Mayor Maurice Collison also admitted the project stuff up is "embarrassing" but they have to fix it.

Councillor Watts questioned whether or not there was another way to get the funding.

"But a loan that will impact this community for 20 years is surely not the only way forward."

Councillor Watts also expressed her frustration at how long it took for anyone to notice the project was "a disaster".

Councillor Abbott added that she was frustrated she wasn't briefed before the media on the state of the road and what the total cost of fixing the road would actually be. 

Image credit: Grant Broadcasters/Jessica Rouse