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Yamba roundabout subject of climate change debate

Geoff Helisma |

At last week’s June 25 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, the controversial traffic lights versus roundabout debate, regarding the intersection of Treelands Drive and Yamba Road, took an unexpected turn when Cr Andrew Baker moved a motion to include climate change data connected with the use of concrete.

In the report to council, staff advised councillors that the non conforming roundabout, supported by councillors Toms, Novak, Ellem, Clancy and Simmons (who initially supported traffic lights), could not be constructed within the “estimated cost of up to $500,000” nominated in their September 2018 decision.

“It is recommended that the expenditure limitation of $500,000 be removed from the current resolution, which would allow council to consider a range of pavement and other associated construction options for the roundabout at Yamba Road and Treelands Drive,” staff wrote in their report to council.

Councillors were asked to “note the preliminary estimates for the construction of the non-conforming roundabout”; however, no estimate was provided in the report, nor disclosed during the meeting.

Councillor Baker’s motion inserted a second point that called for the inclusion of “the climate change effect … in any future costing report on Yamba Road roundabouts … when measured … against the effect of using traffic lights that are solar and battery powered, with mains power backup”.

Councillor Greg Clancy immediately called a point of order, however, the mayor, Jim Simmons, ruled in Cr Baker’s favour.

This drew a dissent motion from Cr Clancy, who argued Cr Baker’s motion was “irrelevant” as far as climate change was concerned because the decision to have a non-conforming roundabout had already been made.

“[The motion] is clearly trying to reintroduce traffic lights,” Cr Clancy said, repeating an earlier comment that Cr Baker should bring a notice of motion if he wanted to reverse councillors’ previous decisions.

While acknowledging that “some councillors might read in an attempt to reintroduce traffic lights”, the mayor disagreed.

Councillors Simmons, Lysaught, Baker, Kingsley and Williamson voted against the dissent motion.

Answering a question from Cr Williamson – “Is it your intent in any way to propose a variation of the current CVC policy regarding the roundabout at Treelands drive? – Cr Baker said: “Certainly not, it can’t possibly be read that way.”

Cr Clancy: “Then why include it if that is the case?”

Cr Baker: “Because I believe there are viable alternatives when considering intersection treatments.”

During debate, Cr Baker indicated he was complying with the councillors’ April 2019 decision to declare a climate emergency, which directs staff to “include a … subheading, ‘Climate Change’, in all reports”.

Councillor Baker opposed the climate emergency decision, calling it a “nothing motion” at the time and arguing that it was “not paired with a clear action plan”.

“If we vote for this –and I won’t – we are grandstanding,” he said.

At the end of debate about the Yamba Road and Treelands Drive intersection at last week’s CVC meeting, Cr Baker’s motion won the day, with councillors Novak, Ellem, Toms and Clancy opposed.

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