Board at a crossroads on Congo Road
The Council will vote next Tuesday May 10, 2022 either:
Take no further action regarding the formalization of a public road north of the village at Moruya saying Congo Village is served via Congo Road South and Bingie Road which is a sealed all weather road
First, define a route acceptable to the owner which will require a full study at Council’s expense, then proceed with the costs of creating and dedicating the road as a public thoroughfare. Then, once the route is identified, spend $50,000 to establish the value of the sand that lies under the planned “public road reserve”. As the site is one of the main sand mines in the region, next to the Moruya Bypass Project and the Moruya Hospital which will both use the high quality sand for concrete, the figure for the Compensation alone, based on the proposed route, could be in the millions. Then (if offset is accepted) a cost estimate to undertake the environmental assessment, detailed design of the road and any potential environmental offsets, and the cost of constructing the road (starting at $1.5 million at least).
The landowner opposes the creation of a public road allowance on the existing physical road. Council previously agreed with the landowner that any new road allowance would not be over the existing physical road. The landowner has requested that any public road be positioned on the northern edge of lot 197 DP752151 to avoid any negative impact on his future mining operations. A route that uses a northern route and also enters the adjacent national park is the preferred route from the landowner’s perspective. This is due to the large amounts of sand located on the site that the landowner has the ability to extract. Preliminary discussions have taken place with the NPWS who have indicated potential principled support for this alignment, but any changes to the boundaries of a National Park would require the ratification of an Act of Parliament, which may or may not be supported. The council said: “If an environmentally acceptable solution can be developed, any new route would take a few years to deliver. The cost of acquiring and building the land would be very significant given the potential for sand extraction.” The alternate route under investigation could require the removal of up to ninety (90) trees, many of which would have habitat value for local wildlife. If Council decides to proceed with the potential construction of a public road, further investigations are required to fully assess the effects of the overall proposal on wildlife along the potential new alignment. This will include recommendations on mitigation and enhancement strategies. Further investigations are required for due diligence assessment of Aboriginal heritage in the form of subsurface testing along the route of the proposed realignment. Approval from the Office of Environment and Heritage is required before these underground tests take place. The results of these additional investigations will inform the need for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP), environmental factor review or environmental impact statement for the proposed realignment of the road.
Cost of dedicating a new public road allowance through the National Park and then along the northern boundary of Lot 197 – UNKNOWN, but most likely in the tens of thousands. An appropriate assessment should be carried out. This would involve an assessment of the land itself as well as an assessment of the resources (sand) affected by the proposed road. It is estimated that such an assessment would cost in the order of $50,000 and would take at least six months. In addition to the above, it will likely be necessary to provide offsets to compensate for the loss of native habitat. These costs are difficult to quantify without going through the study process above. If a road corridor through the National Park is pursued, a negotiation process will be required with the NPWS to determine an appropriate cost. The cost will most likely include environmental compensation and the eventual closure of Council Road Reserve to become part of the National Park. If an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required (if designated SEPP Wetland is impacted), costs are estimated at: Underground Testing for Aboriginal Artifacts – $96,000 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for construction – $15,600 EIS including additional wildlife assessments – $108,000 Total – $216,600 If an Environmental Factor Review (REF) is required (if the designated SEPP wetland is not is not affected), costs are expected to be: REF including additional wildlife assessments – $13,200 Total – $124,800 Time frame for cases 1 or 2 is expected to be more than 12 months from receipt of commitment date. It is estimated that constructing a new road through Lot 197 would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million and would take over twelve months to construct. The time frame to achieve an alternative route through the national park could take well over three years. Missing from the Council’s figures that will take the project well over $1.5 million is the compensation to be paid for loss of land and loss of considerable revenue from sand mining, if a route to the north was accepted. The Council said: “Given this, the risk of it not being government funded and the significant costs, this option has not been considered further.” As if to announce their decision not to pursue northern access, the Council says:
If you are traveling from Moruya, the Congo Road North route is about 9.2 km and takes about 9.5 minutes travel time. The Congo Road South route is approximately 16 km and takes approximately 13.5 minutes. These times may vary slightly depending on road conditions, traffic volumes and other factors. It should be noted that Congo Road North is only partially sealed and is prone to flooding. A public road allowance is now in place on the southern route of Congo Road, and the route is an all-weather sealed road to Congo Village.
Your chance to speak to councilors about the Congo Road agenda item – register to speak before noon on Monday 9 May. The public forum begins at 9:15 a.m. You have seven uninterrupted minutes to present – you must provide a copy of your presentation by Monday noon. If you want to watch, head to the council chamber or watch on Zoom.
Meeting ID: 834 3095 0470
Access code: 535566
Start 11 a.m. Join us in the boardroom or watch the webcast. Watch the live webcast http://webcast.esc.nsw.gov.au/