A funding plan to fix a road used heavily by mining companies in the NSW mid-western region has been slammed by the local mayor for slugging the regional council with a multi-million dollar bill.
Under the plan handed down by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the Mid-Western Regional Council will have to pay $13.34 million of the $33.5 million to upgrade and maintain Ulan Road under a funding plan proposed over twenty years.
However, Mudgee Guardian reports that over the next five years, the capital works bill would exceed $18 million, with the council having to find an additional $9.4 million.
Mayor Des Kennedy said council studies show 75 per cent of the road’s traffic is related to mining.
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 and that director of general of the department, Sam Haddad, was favouring mining companies.
“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.”
Kennedy said the extra funding the council was being forced to find for Ulan Road is more than it 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.”
However the regions miners say they are paying their fair share for the upgrades.
Glencore Xstrata’s Ulan Coal, Moolarben Coal and Peabody’s Wilpinjong Mine have stated that the NSW Government’s strategy is a “fair and reasonable share of costs”.
“We accept without question that we have a responsibility to contribute to an upgrade that is important to the safety and welfare of the local community,” a mines spokesman said last week.
“However, we believe the contributions should be fair and reasonable.
“The funding determination considered evidence from all parties and included an independent engineering review.
“This showed that significant portions of Ulan Road did not meet the minimum requirements under Austroads standards for the local traffic identified in traffic studies.
“That is council’s responsibility, and the funding allocation has taken this and future maintenance into consideration.”
The mines said they would support the council in any applications for funding.
“But just like our employees, as ratepayers we also expect council to invest in the development of local infrastructure and improve its maintenance of local assets.”
The spokesman said council criticism was disappointing.
“Coal mining in Ulan has been part of this region for 90 years,” he said.
“The three mines currently provide direct employment for more than 3000 employees and contractors.
“We have each created a number of community partnerships that contribute significantly to improvements in health, education and welfare in the area.
“We have also assisted council with contributions to infrastructure development that total more than $20million over the past five years, over and above annual payment of almost $3 million in rates.
“Any suggestion that we are not committed to improving services and supporting the local community is well wide of the mark.”
A spokesperson from the department also said it was disappointed by the council’s response.
“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 also said it would support the council’s bid to apply for state or federal grants.