The South Gippsland Shire administration is currently in caretaker mode and will be until the next council is elected. But what does that mean? Does it mean taking care not to waste money on works that will be surplus to requirements once the new council has the chance to review such programs?
In early September, the Sentinel-Times published a letter I wrote calling on council to not proceed with spending any money on signage or construction of any part of the identified “temporary” crossing of Roughead Street in Leongatha for users of the Great Southern Rail Trail as it is fundamentally unsafe and will be rendered redundant by a long-term, safer solution.
Midway through last week, it was brought to my attention there were early signs that council engineers had started marking out where the “refuge” island might be positioned on Anderson Street as part of the “temporary” GSRT pedestrian traffic route.
I immediately contacted council to ask for reassurance that this work wouldn’t be proceeded with only to be told that council is in caretaker mode.
On the weekend, I noticed earthworks have begun on both sides of the highway which indicates council is going full steam ahead on this project.
I believe the best long-term solution is the one already identified by council as part of its Leongatha Heavy Vehicle Bypass Stage 2 listed priority project – traffic lights at the Hughes and Long Streets intersection and the intersection commonly referred to as ‘Kamikaze corner’.
To that end, I have lobbied our local state Member of Parliament, Danny O’Brien, to do what he can to attract the attention of the Minister for Regional Infrastructure to hopefully secure funds towards this safety project as well as contacting our local federal Member of Parliament, Russell Broadbent, to see if there is a federal budget that council might also be able to tap into.
Apart from adult walkers, joggers and cyclists, users of the GSRT include infants being pushed in strollers, young children on bicycles, young family groups walking, elderly and impaired walkers, people on reclining cycles, people on horseback and the occasional horse-drawn vehicle.
Does anyone familiar with horses believe for one moment that a horse being asked by its rider to stand still on a refuge island in the middle of a busy highway will not shy with vehicles travelling in front and behind it or with young children on bicycles beside it?
That is a recipe for disaster that can simply be avoided by council using every endeavour to deliver on their own long-term solution.
Getting back to my original question, installing traffic lights at the intersections that control traffic going over the GSRT in Leongatha has already been identified by council as part of a priority project. I doubt the installation of a temporary crossing was ever voted on by council.
So, does being in caretaker mode mean the administration has to proceed with an ill-thought-through “temporary” solution that was created as a knee-jerk reaction to a problem, or does it mean they have to work harder on delivering at least part of a project that has already been identified as a priority?
Jeremy Curtis, candidate for South Gippsland Shire elections, Berrys Creek.
Editor: Edited for space.