Bumpy road ahead for Lismore drivers
David Yarnall, a community representative on the council's Assets and Infrastructure Policy Advisory Group, said the council continued to whittle away at roads funding to pay for major infrastructure projects such as the Goonellabah Recreation Centre, the Memorial Pool, and CBD upgrades.
"At a time when council's budget is in deficit, courtesy of borrowings for these big projects, our roads are falling apart," he said.
"I'm furious about it.
"I've been working for five to six years on the roads committee and we keep getting knocked back at every step.
"I've had furious discussion with councillors and council staff and it's very frustrating from our point of view. But it's frustrating for people who live in rural areas, and even people in the urban areas, to have to live with these appalling roads."
The council's total roads budget for 2007/08 was $18.9 million and the budget approved for the 2008/09 year has roads spending at $17.7 million. Mr Yarnall said, allowing for 5 per cent inflation ($945,000), the total figure being cut was more than $2 million.
He said the situation with gravel roads was even worse with the maintenance budget remaining static since 2002, a decrease of 34 per cent in real terms.
Lismore City Council disputed the figures, saying funding allocation had increased by 8.5 per cent in the past six years.
"I don't know what planet they (council) are on, but it must have very different roads to where I live," Mr Yarnall said.
"Everywhere I go, every person I speak to, every forum I attend, I hear the same refrain: 'What is happening with our roads?'
"I have conveyed this message to the council on many occasions and I am met with a stony silence or indifference."
But Lismore Mayor Merv King has defended the amount spent on roads.
"People have to realise council doesn't only spend money on roads. We spend about 25 per cent of our general fund on roads, which I think is not too bad an effort for one item. It would be lovely if we could spend $30 or $40 million, but we haven't got that kind of money."
Cr King said the figure was only 'marginally' down on last year, and they had received some grant money for repairing bridges not included in the roads budget.
"If you increase funding for roads you have cuts somewhere else. Where are you going to cut it from? Community services? Staff?" he asked.
When asked if he thought more should have been spent on gravel roads over the years he said: "I've lived on gravel roads. You've got accept what you've got ... if you're paying a few hundred on rates you can't expect council to come out and spend thousands and thousands on your road. We have to spread resources across a range of areas."