KEMPSEY Shire Council is keen to see Maria River Rd improved – but it must be affordable.
To that end, the shire plans to resheet the gravel road this current financial year – while neighbouring council Port Macquarie Hastings, is setting money aside with a view that one day the coastal tourist road from Crescent Head to the North Shore might be tar sealed.
However, Kempsey is not in a position to match such an undertaking in this current budget.
The council's director operations, Robert Fish, confirmed that funding to seal the gravel road were not identified in its 2018-19 budget.
"However, council is committed to maintaining its network of unsealed roads with Maria River Rd one of the priority roads to be re-sheeted this financial year," he said.
"Grant funding for Maria River Rd was sought in 2017 in collaboration with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council but was unfortunately unsuccessful.
"While there are currently no funds identified for sealing the road, consideration will certainly be given if suitable grant opportunities arise."
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has taken a different approach with director Alex Fisher saying funds have been allocated toward the sealing project as reserve funds within its current budget.
“Council has allocated $2m towards the sealing of Maria River Rd, as reserve funds within the 2018/19 budget," Ms Fisher said.
"This figure would need to be matched by Kempsey Shire Council, and an additional financial contribution would be required from other levels of government in order for the project to proceed.
"Council will continue to work with all stakeholders in exploring available opportunities to fund the sealing of Maria River Road.”
Council will continue to work with all stakeholders in exploring available opportunities to fund the sealing of Maria River Road.Alex Fisher
The news has not deterred the Northside Progress Association who are taking a business as usual approach to maintaining pressure on local and state governments for funding to seal the dangerous road.
Association president Carla McKern said the North Shore community considers the road a major link and an essential route.
Mrs McKern said the rising population on the North Shore, the level of business operating in the area, particularly along Maria River Road and the need for emergency services to have an option when the Pacific Highway is blocked were strong, valid points for the sealing of the road.
"Our community feels that it should be sealed and made safe," she said.
"The population on the North Shore has boomed over the last few years.
"There are more reported accidents on that road and with the highway by-pass in place, it (Maria River Rd) becomes an even more important link to the north.
"We have residents along Maria River Rd who utilise all the services on offer at Port Macquarie, they use the shopping centres, the doctors and public services.
"Those residents deserve a better deal," she said.
In 2017 a joint funding application between Port Macquarie-Hastings and Kempsey Shire councils was knocked back by Transport for NSW.
The association was told the application was not successful because the safety and economic benefits generated by the upgrade didn’t significantly out-weight the capital cost required to warrant the investment of state funding.