Richmond Valley Mayor Charlie Cox has defended his councils unanimous decision to charge the Woodburn-Evans Head RSL Sub-branch with around half the cost of a major diversion of traffic for next months Anzac Day march through Woodburn.
In February, Richmond Valley councillors voted to back the sub-branchs request for an hour-long closure of the towns main street (the Pacific Highway) if the sub-branch paid around $10,000 for the costs associated with the diversion. Meanwhile, Council would bear around the same amount for wear and tear of the roads.In the past, t
he highway has been closed for around 10 minutes for the march.
Councils move incensed sub-branch members with president Darryl Pobje saying veterans were disgusted with the plan, the first time that council had asked for payment in the sub-branchs history.
Last week, the veterans found support in radio talk-back star John Laws and the Australian Workers Union who together promised to pay the sub-branch the $10,000 required by Council to divert highway traffic away from the towns cenotaph.
In the furore, Council was accused of not understanding the importance of Anzac Day but Mr Cox rejected that, saying five of his uncles served in World War II, two Richmond Valley councillors were RSL members and that he regularly marched at the Anzac Day ceremony in Casino.
Mr Cox said on Tuesday that the sub-branch had yet to indicate if it wanted the highway closure for 10 minutes or a 45-minute to an hour diversion.
A meeting was due to be held between Council and the sub-branch yesterday (Wednesday, March 14) to work through the issue.
Mr Cox admitted that as the spokesman for Council he had copped a lot of flak over the decision.
It has not been easy, but then a lot of people have not looked at the core issue which is not one of safety but of traffic noise during the ceremony, he said.
Its quite possible to do the march in 10 minutes I march at Casino which is a much larger march and takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Mr Cox said an hour-long diversion to minimise traffic disruption for the march entailed providing message boards, detour signs and staff to erect and dismantle them on a public holiday.
Some people have been quite alarmed at the cost of the signage but it has to be in place a week beforehand advising people of the detours, then mobile trailers with signs have to be used for the day and traffic-signal operators have to be fully qualified some of the intersections in question are not built for heavy vehicles and staff are also needed there, he said.
Mr Cox said he understood the media backlash, saying it was good to see people sticking up for the diggers we all do but some people had let emotions get in the way whereas the practicalities are a little bit different.
He said Council would not be shifting the monument thats not on as a way of solving the issue in the future because it was too important.
Once the Woodburn bypass is through it wont be a problem, he said.
Mr Cox said that since the Chinderah-Yelgun upgrade of the Pacific Highway opened a few years ago, traffic on the highway had increased by around 1400 vehicles at peak hours and so its estimated that for a 10-minute closure of the highway, traffic would be banked up to four kilometres either way.
He said the 10-minute closure of the highway was still on offer at minimal cost to the sub-branch and that Council would help it in every way including the documentation needed for its bid to the RTA for the longer closure.
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