Livingstone ratepayers received another slap in the face this week with Assistant Minister for Defence David Fawcett officially confirming to Council that not one dollar of the $1 billion SWBTA funding will go towards upgrading army access roads.
The $1 billion upgrade is planned to go towards doubling the number of overseas troops training at Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA).
Assistant Minister Fawcett said the Australian Government had no obligation to contribute to road maintenance through rates despite being the major single user of the three, Shire-maintained access roads to SWBTA and occupying more that 25% of the Shire land.
Mayor Bill Ludwig said he was quite frank in telling the Minister Fawcett his response was not good enough.
“Livingstone residents will be potentially facing 3% – 5% rate rises once the full extent of the current ADF ‘behind closed doors’ land acquisitions are revealed,” Cr Ludwig said.
“The Australian Government needs to let Livingstone ratepayers know just how they intend to address this matter as well as making a genuine commitment to bring all army access roads up to recognised ‘fit for purpose’ safe standard. If they are simply going to say ‘tough luck’, please tell us up-front now so at least ratepayers and voters will know the Government’s position.
“On the issue of road maintenance, it has been claimed that maintenance agreements are in place and ADF had been paying their fair share to use Shire roads.
“This claim is simply not true. ADF has steadfastly refused to sign any maintenance agreement and has not contributed one cent since the Talisman Sabre Exercise two years ago when ADF simply contributed to repairing the damage they had directly caused.
“Frankly it defies belief that no capital investment whatsoever has been provided to bring Shire-funded army access roads up to a ‘fit for purpose’ safe standard, despite the massive $1 billion expansion plans now underway.
“A commitment to the establishment of long-term defence industries in the region to compensate for the $35 million in direct and indirect losses to the regional economy is also a matter that continues to be swept aside as well as the direct negative economic impacts on communities like Stanage and Marlborough townships.
“Over the last five years all our community has asked for is a ‘fair go’ and an honest commitment from the Australian Government to address these major issues impacting on our Shire. This should not be too much to ask our elected representatives to stand up and fight for,” Cr Ludwig said.