Saturday, 31 August 2013

Pot holes to development

Things are not the same around Wandoan. With rampant resource sector development in recent years the police district covered from Wandoan has experienced a 200% increase in heavy traffic movements. This is more than any other area in the Surat basin. The Wandoan police station has had a doubling of staff from 2 to 4 officers to cover the extra traffic and policing issues brought on by coal seam gas projects. Resource company dual cabs as a lighter vehicle would not be covered in the heavy traffic movement statistic significantly outnumber any other traffic on Wandoan community roads. It has become a common sight to witness a one of these vehicles worst for wear from an accident on the back of a tilt tray truck. Some Wandoan district back roads now have more vehicles use them in one day than what would once travel their length in one year.

With all this activity the inevitable occurred, the ruination of roads, pot holes, slower driving times, worries about livestock transport, dust and great inconvenience to the Wandoan and district community.

On a Friday afternoon 30th August community members came in good numbers to a forum at the Wandoan cultural centre to voice their frustrations to their not so local council, the Western Downs Regional Council. (WDRC)

It was almost a perfect storm for WDRC. It was formed out of what Professor Scott Prasser recently described in a recent ABC radio interview as the “surreptitious manner in which former Qld Premier Peter Beattie brought in council amalgamations.” A mammoth task of tacking together the former shires of Dalby, Wambo, Tara, Chinchilla, Murilla and the crude hacking in half of the Taroom shire. The latter is the Wandoan community.

 Then there were the consecutive flood years of 2010 and 2011. There were many roads damaged in this time by flood waters not helped by coal seam gas exploration vehicles who insisted on using non all weather roads in the wet. At the beginning of WDRC existence Xstrata caused a lot of vehicles movements with exploration & pre-development work on the proposed largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere. In buying out farmers and graziers in the mine area this proposed super hole in the ground ripped a large hole in the fabric of the Wandoan community which is replaced by zilch since Glencore/ Xstrata have now announced the policy of no new “greenfield” coal mines. Xstrata are now conspicuous by their absence as also missing in action is those vehicles running around in the bid to develop the “missing link” railway. However these were replaced in increased numbers by the invading hordes working on gas pipeline projects and the development of new coal seam gas fields.

But it wasn’t the perfect storm as the meeting at Wandoan did not allow the WDRC engineers, councillors and the mayor, Ray Brown to avoid all responsibility. Damage to roads by flood is being funded from State and Federal governments administrated in what appears to be a ponderous convoluted fashion by the Qld Recovery Authority. The emphasis is on restoration not reconstruction; restoration to the pre-existing level. It may be unfair but there is the appearance that WDRC councillors have allowed themselves to become consumed by the weight of the system, the process, the red tape that they have lost the capacity to take control. The meeting was assured that just as much money as previously was spent in the Wandoan area on roads was met with scepticism after taking in account of CPI, mandatory budget allocation of depreciation and most emphasised by the meeting ever increasing WDRC red tape. All of which isn’t helped by the autocratic management style of Mayor Ray Brown.

At the start of the current ongoing coal seam gas activity there was no arrangements in place for the repairs of roads. Narrow 4 metre bitumen road proved to be completely unsuitable for the amount of traffic experienced. Because when passing vehicles have to move at least in part off the bitumen, the sides got worn away, a drop down developed off the bitumen and then the edges of the bitumen would break away, narrowing the road further. On gravel and dirt roads the resource companies started to maintain the roads. For example the principle contractor for the QGC gas pipeline project, MCJV, would send a grader, water truck and roller up a road every fortnight. Some of these roads were maintained in a better condition than they ever had been before. Then without explanation to their ratepayers WDRC stopped resource projects maintaining roads. The meeting was told that the roads weren’t being graded in the correct manner. This received the very good reply of that council have specifications for their own staff to meet; why can’t these specifications be provided and overseen for work done by resource companies?

There are now agreements in place for resource companies to pay for damage to roads. The Qld Co-ordinator general has made directions to a process. The original traffic predications proved to be of little worth and WDRC now work on calculating actual damage to the road. There are problems with different resource companies using the same road pointing the finger at the other for being the culprit of inflicting damage. WDRC has received funds from QGC, Origin and Sunwater, having spent to date $28 million on repairs with an estimated $42 million required. Typical of how they operate, Powerlink are conspicuous by their absence with any dialog with WDRC to meet any repair bill.  

Apparently the aim is require any resource company when a project is completed to repair the road to a standard it was before they began operations. But is this adequate? Should not roads that can’t handle the expected traffic such as narrow bitumen be upgraded before commencement of a project? Should a community suffer this much inconvenience with the only expectation of no improvement when it is all over?  


  1. Excellent article. As a ratepayer in WDRC (We Don't Really Care) my rates have increased by close to 40% in just 2 years. We in Chinchilla are not seeing any benefits of rate rises, only the negatives from the hideous increase in traffic, the failure of town planners and the impact on the surrounding environment, fauna and flora. What a disaster.

    1. A couple of years ago they changed the method of rating from unimproved value to a valuation based on the recent sale of properties. Your land value (and consequently your rates) would now be set on the sale of properties which have been purchased by the LNG/CSG companies or other purchasers in your area.
      If any of the land purchased by them was above the normal prices paid it increases your valuations.
      Probably previously there would have been a case for reduction of valuations because it could be argued that the presence of the gas industry would affect the unimproved valuations of properties.
      With the valuations now based on land sales, the argument of devaluation because of the presence of this dirty industry no longer applies.
      Our valuations in my home town went up 124% in 2 years, based on the sale of 2 vacant lots of land in the town in spite of the fact that the Government has frozen our town and will not permit any development in the town and they also imposed a "management control zone" around the town to ensure that they had total control over the town.
      There is no valid reason why the town is frozen but a bloody minded senior person in then Gladstone industries convinced the Govt that they should freeze the town and they refuse to lift the freeze.
      The reason given was that if Mt Larcom was to be allowed to develop residential lands, it would sow the seeds for the demise of the entire 40,000 hectare State Development Area and with it the the loss of employment and training opportunities for thousands of Gladstone area residents. Our town does not adjoin the State Development Area.

      up to 4 of the gas pipe lines will now run within 2 kms of the town in spite of the fact that they had to deviate quite a way to put it where it is. 2 are currently under construction. The LNG mob really do not give a bugger how much they hurt people as long as they get their pockets full of money to take away overseas.

  2. Peter you will be witnessing how much traffic pipeline construction can generate. Those same two pipe projects went close passed where I live and at their height caused a great deal of inconvenience and road damage.

    I just open my latest rates notice that came in the mail on Friday. In the information booklet WDRC informs the reader that general rates are now based on a 3 year valuation averaging "to limit the impact of the new property sales that took effect from 1 July 2011, 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2013."

    Rural property away from any resource company buy ups has actually decreased in value in the last 12 months.

    Karen I believe that rates up in the Wandoan district that was the southern end of the old Taroom Shire have risen more than 50%. After amalgamation WDRC brought in a policy of phasing parity of rates as a percentage of unimproved valuation between all the different old shire areas. If memory serve me correctly Wambo had the higher rating and Taroom the lowest. Up this end we will be seeing the most increase in rates.

  3. Most of the resource companies have now contributed some millions to WDRC for repairs to roads that these companies have caused. Some of these companies are voicing concern that they believe that WDRC is not spending all this money on the actual roads that they are using and some is going elsewhere.

    In an information page that the forum convenor sent out before the meeting it was stated that WDRC are raking off the top of these funds contributed by resource companies 30% for administration which is over the top for larger projects.

    There is much concern amongst ratepayers of an ever increasing WDRC bureaucracy and petty titles and procures.

    There is some odd paper trail you are suppose to follow to report a road in bad repair. Once you just rang up the local councillor, there is now no councillor living in the Wandoan community.

  4. Peter Beattie has a lot to answer for with his forced amalgamations. Hopefully, Queenslanders will remember that on Saturday and he and Rudd are out on their ears like the recycled has-beens they really are.

  5. Officer-in-charge of the Wandoan police station Sergeant Garry Stephen gave more statistic of the increase in traffic and accidents in an article in the September 5 issue of the Chinchilla News, Man dies on busy highway.

    "Sgt Stephen documented a 156% rise in accidents between 2011 and 2012, and another rise of 23% between 2012 and 2013.
    "It is primary the routes used by the resource sector- the Leichardt Hwy, Jackson/ Wandoan Rd, Nathan Rd and Roach Creek Rd.
    We are trending towards single vehicle accidents, involving utes and heavy loads. They constitute 60% of our accidents."
    He said the increase was due to the magnitude of industry in what was once a quiet, rural town."


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