'No bang for buck': Pahlke, Antoniolli row over council cash

Walloon resident Des Hodgson says the dust coming off his unsealed road, Hodgsons Rd, is an issue.
Walloon resident Des Hodgson says the dust coming off his unsealed road, Hodgsons Rd, is an issue. David Nielsen

A LIST of Ipswich gravel roads to be sealed has one councillor seeing red.

Rural councillor David Pahlke unleashed at this week's committee meetings when presented with a large list of gravel roads to be sealed in order of priority.

With the current annual budget of $550,000, it would take 500 years for all the roads to be sealed, at a rate of one or two a year.

Cr Pahlke has demanded more money to correct an "inequitable" distribution of funding across the region, given the council has been able to find 10 times that amount to spend on kerb and channelling.

While Mayor Andrew Antoniolli acknowledged Cr Pahlke's frustration and said he was willing to work on addressing the situation, he said the council's budget "isn't bottomless".

Dust on unsealed roads is a constant problem for the region's rural residents, including Walloon resident Des Hodgson who says with the amount of money they spent on maintaining his road over the years, the council might as well just seal it.

Mr Hodgson has lived on Hodgsons Rd - named after his family - for 75 years. He says the council does a good job of maintaining the surface but, after so many years of cleaning dust out of his house, he would like the road sealed.

"It's worse with the new homes that have been built and more traffic," Mr Hodgson said.

For Cr Pahlke, the issue is broad. He's labelled the lack of council funding allocated to sealing roads in his electorate, which covers more than 60% of the city, "a real equity issue".

Each year, Cr Pahlke's budget for road resealing is $550,000 across his massive 680sq km electorate which also includes 80% of the region's gravel roads.

He gives the program a boost by diverting $250,000 from his divisional budget but it doesn't go far.

It costs the council about $1 million to seal a single kilometre of road. The estimated cost to seal Hodgsons Rd is $1.2 million.

The cost of grading unsealed gravel roads, like Hodgsons Rd, is about $8000 a kilometre and that's done every 12 to 18 months.

The council allocates $3 million towards maintenance of gravel roads each year.

"Rural people aren't getting a lot of bang for buck (under the current funding model)," Cr Pahlke said.

"Why can the council allocate $5-10 million for kerb and channelling in the city but can't increase the budget for sealing roads in my electorate?"

Cr Pahlke says the "inequitable" distribution of funding has been an ongoing issue for 20 years and now he wants to know if the new mayor will act.

The bottom line is that the budget for road sealing needs a significant boost.

Cr Antoniolli said sealing gravel roads was a priority for his council.

"It's not cheap to seal gravel roads," Cr Antoniolli said.

"I have a great deal of empathy and I gave a commitment during the election to focus on the advancement of our rural areas.

"I will push to secure more funding for Cr Pahlke in the budget."

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