Saturday, April 28, 2007

Battling Bloody-minded Bureaucrats

Dealing with bureaucrats at any time is difficult. Dealing with public service bureaucrats is a nightmare.
Here is a typical example.
The highway that runs past our property is Route 1 that basically links the entire coastal region of Australia, a distance of over 14,500km.
Our section runs between Sydney with Melbourne, a trip of around a 1000km and is the second busiest route for that sector.
The road's condition however is abysmal.
It is in most cases a narrow winding two lane highway with sections of passing lanes of varying length at varying distances. It has also numerous old and narrow bridges.
Improvements are slow with the major Sydney to Melbourne route, the inland Hume Highway (Route 31) attracting the most funding with most of its length now a four lane freeway.
As a result many people are killed or injured on the Princes Highway and its northern continuation to Brisbane, the Pacific Highway.
The state government is slowly trying to improve the highway as funding becomes available.
One project set down is the replacement of the old bridge across the creek that runs through our property and the elimination of dangerous bends directly to its north.
A neighbour of ours and his young son were lucky not to be killed there when a truck shunted them at 100km/hr while they were waiting to cross oncoming traffic into their property on New Years Eve 2005.
The highway is bounded by private property on the western side and a National Park on the eastern.
The National Park was, up unto a few years ago, State Forest but was "gifted" to the people under certain conditions. One of those conditions was that a 20m corridor for future road improvements be maintained.
There is another 20m right of way on the private land.
Despite the fact that the route through the National Park will produce a straighter road, the government instrumentality concerned, the RTA, had decided to resume 2ha. of my neighbour's land (10% of his property) and build the new bridge and road there because it is a few meters shorter and therefore cheaper. But it will still have a bend.
They are using the old environmental impact excuse not to use the eastern option.
This is plainly a joke.
The National Park is home to the endangered swamp oak flood plain and a remnant is situated near the bridge. But there are 15000ha of swamp oak flood plain left in NSW. The area lost to the road would be at the most a few hundred square metres. Not only that, the land involved is currently home to a rest stop and picnic area and is severely degraded.
The community is up in arms about this and letters of protest have been flying, meetings have been held and the media is giving it great coverage.
The RTA and National Parks initially ran for cover and hoped the whole situation would go away.
But it didn't.
They then tried bullying tactics saying the law was on their side and they would do what they considered best. No discussion would be entered into.
This only made the protest louder and more aggressive.
The three levels of government came on board in support with members of the local council, the state seat member and the federal seat member demanding a sensible resolution to this situation.
The RTA and National Parks were finally flushed out of hiding and forced to hold a public meeting to explain their decision.
The local hall was overflowing with people from the community interested to hear their reasoning.
And what a group of stereotypical government workers these public servants were!
To think out tax money could go in wages to such incompetents!
They spoke a language of legalise, legislationise and environementalise and really were not of this world. They had no concept of how their decision impacted on the community. Theirs was a world of black and white, no grey and doing things "by the book".
This attitude only increased the resolve of those present at the meeting which at times became extremely heated.
The RTA and National Parks were left in no doubt that there was a need to revisit this decision and revise it.
They agreed to the former.
Whether we will have decision in our favour is still up in the air.
This fight is not over.....not by a long shot.

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