By CAITLIN CROWLEY
A TOOWOOMBA councillor has revealed she’s received several legal threats in the last week over the state of some rural roads, despite Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) not being responsible for their maintenance.
Oestreich Road at Wellcamp (main picture) has been the subject of fresh complaints from residents in recent weeks, fearing for their safety after the black soil track became a boggy hazard due to wet weather.
Councillor Carol Taylor, who chairs TRC’s Infrastructure portfolio, told colleagues about the “concerning” threats during yesterday’s Ordinary Meeting, where councillors ultimately voted to defer any action on the issue to a later date.
“I don’t know what that means for anyone to be honest with you,” Taylor told the Caller.
“This road (Oestreich Rd) is not a Council road. It’s a road reserve which has had a track to those rural properties.
“People have bought that land and built their houses where there is no road. Now the community out there expects our whole community to pay for that.
“Council needs to be aware, there are hundreds of kilometres of road reserve that are put aside and there’s many old historic sub-divisions so what we’re doing here, is something we need to be very very wary of.”
It’s a complex issue Council has grappled with for the last decade, with complaints about Oestreich Road at Wellcamp (main picture) raised in July last year triggering another look at the problem.
Since 2012, upgrades of roads not on Council’s register have to be fully funded by the applicant, unless Council determines a “considerable benefit to the wider community”, in which case it may be listed for consideration in Council’s capital works budget.
The most recent report to Council on the issue, presented at last week’s Committee Meeting, said only three roads had been upgraded through that process in the last 10 years.
The report also said, “particularly in times of wet weather, Council receives many requests to undertake maintenance of formed, unformed and unopened roads whether maintained by Council or not, where residents and/or road users complain about their circumstances and safety of a particular road but are not prepared to make a formal application for or provide an appropriate contribution to works on that road.”
Possible solutions were discussed back in February this year but a decision was deferred, just as it was again yesterday.
“I have to respect the Council decision but as Chair I am very disappointed at the lack of clarity and understanding around this whole issue,” Cr Carol Taylor said.
“There’s no clarity around what Council intends to do by deferring it.
“It’s just kicking the tin down the road because nobody wants to face the issue, there’s no money there to do it, that in fact we’re not responsible to do it.
“It’s not about being popular, it’s about being consistent and spending our community’s money wisely.”
Cr Taylor said the legal threats she’d personally received were very concerning.
“Council needs to hold the line and we need to support our staff. Our teams are doing the very best they can. We are copping it and our people are doing their very very best.
“We either invest more in our road network or we don’t, and we have what we have. Our teams are not magicians.
“No clear message has been sent to anyone and the pursuit of what these people want will continue, including the threats, I believe.”
At the end of yesterday’s vote Mayor Paul Antonio revealed he’d also received strong feedback from the community on the issue.
“I’ve never had a worse time than I’ve had in the last few weeks with – it’s not abuse – but advice I’ve been receiving from many many people,” he said.
“Quite frankly I think there needs to be a lot more discussion about roads in the not too distant future and how best we can get a lot more funding into roads.”