MidCoast Council's first meeting in Gloucester

MidCoast Council directors and the Mayor at the Gloucester chambers. Acting general manager Steve Embry left the meeting during the decision of Old Bowman Farm Road due to conflict of interest.
MidCoast Council directors and the Mayor at the Gloucester chambers. Acting general manager Steve Embry left the meeting during the decision of Old Bowman Farm Road due to conflict of interest.

Around 40 members of the community attended the first council meeting in Gloucester since the election of the inaugural MidCoast Council.

Concerned residents took the opportunity to speak about matters that are important to them at council’s Gloucester office on Wednesday, March 28. 

Gloucester resident, John Paskins spoke passionately about his part of town which includes Moppy Road, Rawdon Vale Road and Gloucester River Road.

He expressed his desire to keep the roads gravel and not be tarred, to avoid the widening of the road and an increased road speed. John said he was concerned that if the road became bitumen it would mean losing the area’s unique beauty.

Mayor David West said it was refreshing to hear someone speak about the beauty of the country which was received by applause from the crowd.

The next topic discussed by speakers from the community was the proposed closure of Old Bowman Farm Road; a public road that travels through private property providing access to the Barrington River.

The matter has been before the former Gloucester Shire Council on numerous occasions since 2011 without resolution.

Elected members of MidCoast Council sit in front of the members of the public.

Elected members of MidCoast Council sit in front of the members of the public.

It has returned to the council business papers at the request of the Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen, who was present during the council meeting.

The road was used to cross Barrington River prior to 1969 when a new crossing was constructed. Gloucester Council used the road to access a quarry leased from the property owners and when the lease ended in 2012, the owners sought to buy the land and close the road to the public. 

Gloucester resident, John Hannaford spoke on behalf of the property owner, in favour of the closure, raising issues about who is responsible insurance wise for the public access the river.

The road is used for access to the river for kayaking and canoeing and council stated in its report on the matter, written by director Engineering and Infrastructure Ron Hartley, that maintaining community access to the river is a policy of the former Gloucester Shire Council.

Gloucester resident, John Watts spoke on behalf of Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre stating the organisation has been using the access point for over 30 years.

He explained how the road provided one of the best access points for non-motorised boats in the region.

After the public speakers finished, council members discussed the matter with Cr Karen Hutchinson asking for it to be deferred in order for council to research it further. The motion was met with an objection by Cr Katheryn Smith as the matter had already been deferred in order to have it presented at the first Gloucester meeting.

Cr Len Roberts said there had been some conflicting information presented between the council report, the public speakers and the information provided to the councillors during an earlier site inspection. He explained that council doesn’t have the final say on closing a public road as the final decision needs to go through Department of Primary Industries and that in the past with was rejected due to objections to the closure.

Council passed a motion to defer until the June council meeting scheduled to be held in Gloucester.

After the matter was heard, half of the members of the community who were in attendance left the council chambers.