Red tape stops DIY road plan

NO GO: Cr David Yarnall’s plan to allow residents to fix their own dirt roads has been rejected.
NO GO: Cr David Yarnall’s plan to allow residents to fix their own dirt roads has been rejected.

A PROPOSAL by Lismore City Councillor David Yarnall to allow residents on gravel roads to fill their own potholes with gravel supplied by the council has effectively been knocked on the head by WorkCover and the council's insurers.

Cr Yarnall said his idea was to initiate a system of "road care", similar to Landcare, where the council would provide gravel drops and community volunteers would use it to repair the roads in their neighbourhoods.

"Council requires double the $1 million it currently spends on 400 kilometres of gravel road to provide an adequate service," he said.

"Many residents put up with dangerous and substandard roads... This (volunteer) maintenance would not replace the normal gravel road maintenance program, but act as a temporary solution."

But at a workshop presentation to councillors last week, Cr Yarnall said they were "read the riot act" by the insurers.

"Their attitude was not 'how can we make this happen?' but rather 'how can we stop this happening?'" Cr Yarnall said.

Council's executive director of infrastructure services, Garry Hemsworth, said a number of safety issues were raised by the mix of volunteers and traffic.

"From the point of view of risk management, we have to look at the risks and if we can satisfactorily mitigate or control them, and the bottom line is with the mix of volunteers and traffic, it starts to get too complicated and too risky," he said.

Mr Hemsworth said the representative from NSW WorkCover also pointed out that all volunteers would be categorised as council employees and as such would need to go through a series of induction training sessions and be supervised by someone from the council.

He said given these WorkCover requirements, it is unlikely the council would actually be saving any money by having volunteers do the work.

Cr Yarnall expressed his dismay at the level of red tape put in front of what he considered a commonsense solution that had a good deal of community support.

"Society is rapidly moving to a point where you have to do a risk assessment to get out of bed in the morning," he said.

"Why is it that risk assessment dominates considerations rather than an adequate level of service? Ratepayers have to put up with dangerous roads but are not allowed to fix them because that would be 'dangerous'.

"We must protect our workers and volunteers from injury and litigation. Fair enough. But restrictions to our way of life and our communities' ability to organise and empower themselves are seriously threatened by the direction society is heading."

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