Rage builds as locals still wait on road grader

Peter McCarten in one of the many ruts running across and through McCartens Lane between Weethalle and Rankins Springs, as his wife, Meegan, who is just as frustrated with Bland Shire Council, looks on from their prime mover.

Peter McCarten in one of the many ruts running across and through McCartens Lane between Weethalle and Rankins Springs, as his wife, Meegan, who is just as frustrated with Bland Shire Council, looks on from their prime mover.

AUSTRALIANS are all for a “fair go”, but rural ratepayers in country shires know they end up holding the short end of the stick when it comes to their roads.

Many pay tens of thousands of dollars-plus a year in general rates, but don’t see value for money or much in return from those hard-earned on-farm dollars.

All these people want is their road, particularly those relying on gravel roads, to be graded or patched on a reasonably regular basis.

In Bland shire Peter McCarten has been waiting for some five years to see a council grader run along three roads he and neighbours regularly use.

These roads are vital links for his mixed-farming businesses – the movement of grain and stock.

That’s apart from getting to shops, school, medical appointments etc.

“These roads are our lifeblood, but they have been neglected,” he said.

“The ruts in our roads are unbelievable. It really frustrates me.”

Mr McCarten and wife Meegan crop a minimum of 2430 hectares of their country each winter at “Nargoon”, between Weethalle and Rankings Springs.

They also run 4000 Merino ewes of Wanganella blood, the younger half reserved for their self-replacing flock, while the older half are joined to Poll Dorset rams for Prime lamb production.

The roads include Mud Hut, Hannan and McCartens Lane, two being main roads running through the Erigollia district 80 kilometres west of West Wyalong, 85km northeast of Griffith and 60 to 70km south of Lake Cargelligo.

Mr McCarten said he pays between $20,000 to $25,000 a year in rates to Bland Shire and virtually gets nothing in return.

“I complain about the state of our roads and the result, council places signs – Road Closed, Reduce Speed, Danger,” Mr McCarten said.

“We have suckers six to seven feet tall growing in the table drains it’s been so long since the roads were graded. People know councils don’t have a lot of money, but surely they can do some forward planning to include gravel road grading.”

He said he had used his front-end loader to fill big water flow holes and potholes on his road, then was told he was not allowed to do such work.

“We just want our roads graded, nothing more.”

In many rural shires gravel roads are “run over” by a grader prior to harvest, but Mr McCarten says that never happens out his way.

The family has sold all of their wheat harvest which had been trucked out on the bad roads..

“But the last truck driver told me if he had to come back along those roads he would be forced to charge an extra freight rate for wear and tear on his rig,” he said.

Bland Shire lane tops flood money priority listing

A ROAD in Bland Shire that hasn’t been graded for at least five years will now be top of the priority list once flood damage funding arrives from the Roads and Maritime Serves (RMS), according to council general manager, Ray Smith.

“McCartens Lane was one of the worst damaged roads in the September/October rains, we don’t deny that,” he said. “It was completely washed out.”

However, there’s a “catch22”.

Like all other local government areas (LGAs) if Bland Shire Council begins repair work, the RMS will only pay for that work still to be finished.

“The lane was in our claim for flood damage, and it was only inspected by the RMS two weeks ago and they will not pay for any work we do beforehand,” Mr Smith said.

He was replying to The Land inquiry after receiving complaints by Peter McCarten, “Nargoon”, Rankins Springs.

Mr McCarten claims there has not been a grader on either McCartens Lane, Hannan Lane or Mud Hut Road in five years.

“These roads are our lifeblood and we need them in good repair,” he said.

Soon after Peter McCarten asked the possibility of McCartens Lane being graded, the road was closed. He wonders if that's just a Bland council insurance measure.

Soon after Peter McCarten asked the possibility of McCartens Lane being graded, the road was closed. He wonders if that's just a Bland council insurance measure.

However, Mr Smith said once there was agreement to the funding McCartens Land will be one of the very first roads repaired.

“It’s at the top of our priority,” he said.

For some years the shire’s road network, the second longest in the state, has worked on a “hierarchy” of one to five.

“Five being lanes that might service one property, and which will get the less amount of maintenance,” Mr Smith said.

“That would compare to a three or two priority which may be bus routes or major link roads.

“This was put in place a number of years ago, but we constantly review it because we know things change.”

Mr Smith said council income “just doesn’t” match the maintenance expenditure bill every year.

“We understand where rural ratepayers are coming from, but we still have to provide facilities for community use.”

Bland shire spends “about” $5 million on roads.