Bellingen, Nambucca councils are arguing with the RMS for 'adequate' financial support.
Bellingen, Nambucca councils are arguing with the RMS for 'adequate' financial support. Trevor Veale

Old highway handover to cost councils, ratepayers $300m

THERE are concerns the proposed handover of the Old Pacific Hwy from the government to Bellingen and Nambucca Shire councils could impose a $300-million cost burden on the councils and their ratepayers.

With the new Pacific Hwy between Kempsey and Urunga now open, the councils are in final negotiations with Roads and Maritime Services over the compulsory handover of the old highway.

A joint statement released by the councils today claimed the impost is equivalent to a one-off special rate increase of 33% for Bellingen Shire and 45% for the Nambucca Shire.

"Both councils acknowledge the efforts and good will to date between RMS and the council in seeking a resolution to these issues," the statement read.

"Without corresponding funding from RMS to manage the road, the transfer would have an immediate, negative impact on council's bottom line, with the value of the assets and annual depreciation charges challenging councils' long term financial sustainability."

The handover would apparently negatively impact the councils' financial performance by an estimated $2.3million for Bellingen and $4.2million for Nambucca Shire.

The councils said they are currently negotiating the transfer with the RMS and are arguing for "adequate" financial support to accompany the handover to avoid the need for rate increases to maintain it.

The relevant sections of the old Pacific Hwy are valued at $298million, comprising 24 bridges valued at $16million and 32km of road valued at $182million at Nambucca, and eight bridges valued at $5million and 15km of road valued at $95million at Bellingen.