A joint announcement that money from the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund has been granted to build a roundabout at the intersection of Yamba Road and Shores Drive, Yamba, has prompted negative commentary on several social media sites.
A post on Maclean, Buy, Swap, Sell, NSW asks: “So can someone explain why Bushfire Relief Money is being spent on a roundabout in Yamba when there are still many communities that have been badly hit by the fires that still need help???? What a disgrace!!!!”
The post garnered over 100 responses – similar commentary has appeared on other community-based Facebook sites.
News of the announcement, made by Page MP Kevin Hogan, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Council (CVC) mayor Jim Simmons, was published in a story, ‘Bushfire money to build “unfunded” roundabout’ in the Independent on November 11.
“Yamba is one of the state’s premier tourist destinations, it is important that we improve traffic flow and make our roads safe,” Mr Hogan said in his media release.
“This project will support many jobs in our community, not only the construction workers, but in our food and retails shops, who benefit from having more tourists spending money locally.”
According to the NSW Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund webpage, the fund aims “to provide $250 million of further funding to support the social and economic recovery of communities affected by the [2019-2020] bushfires in 47 regional NSW Local Government Areas”.
The funding is available to councils upon application, and must meet five criteria:
- Alignment with regional objectives;
- Local support and participation (Applications must provide evidence the community supports the project);
- Evidence base (Applications must demonstrate the community has a need for the proposed project and its outcomes);
- Feasibility (Applications must provide evidence the project has been adequately planned, costed and appropriate mitigation strategies are in place for identified risks); and,
- Enduring benefit (Applications must demonstrate the project output will deliver an ongoing, sustainable benefit for the community).
Responding to criticisms and questions posted on social media sites, the Independent sent the following enquiry to each of the government leaders:
People are wondering why the Bushfire Local Economy Recovery Fund money was granted for a roundabout, [particularly given Yamba and the Lower Clarence are experiencing some of the busiest times in their history].
- Can you please explain the rationale used to allocate the grant funding for a roundabout?
- Can you tell the Independent’s readers which data was used to make the decision to allocate the money towards the roundabout?
Speaking with the Independent, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said the bushfires had impacted CVC’s “normal budgetary spend throughout the region”.
“Council put in an application, and if the application met the criteria it is likely to succeed,” he said.
Mr Gulaptis said he wanted “see more tourists” visiting Yamba, which leads to more “economic activity”.
“It’s a positive in my mind, there’s nothing incorrect in the process,” he said.
“While there was no direct [fire] impact on business houses, they were certainly supported by Job keeper and seeker, but for Covid, not necessarily bushfires.”
Neither mayor Jim Simmons, nor Mr Hogan provided comment on any of the Independent’s enquiries prior to the paper’s editorial deadline.
Note: Meanwhile, the Lower Clarence, Yamba in particular, has most likely enjoyed an economic recovery due to seasonally unprecedented tourist visitations since that time when the NSW Government encouraged intrastate travel after Covid restrictions were lifted in June/July – for example longstanding operator of Skye Coffee Lounge in Maclean, Laurie Fitzpatrick, said the past months have been as busy as any time I’ve experienced outside of school holiday times over his 22 years at the cafe.
He said it has been “almost as busy as holiday times” and that he “probably recovered economically”; thanks to “government assistance and the unseasonal increase in trade” (he is not receiving any government assistance now and is trading on a normal basis).
He said that the fires did not directly impact his business and the “only losses were due to fewer travellers”.