Council backflips on Gawler East Link Road alignment

Town of Gawler Council has backflipped on its decision for the Gawler East Link Road, following an ultimatum issued by state government last week.

In the 2015-16 State Budget, government had committed $55 million to complete the Gawler East Link Road.

Last week, the Barossa Herald exclusively revealed that council was reconsidering the link road’s alignment as pressure from state government to deliver a budget-complying project mounted.

This claim was categorically denied at the time by Deputy Mayor Ian Tooley who said the speculation was “not correct”.

On Monday, the Herald revealed that Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan had upped the ante on council, which was required to decide on a project within budget by today (Wednesday, December 6).

“The state government is fast losing patience with the Town of Gawler and its indecision on the Gawler East Link Road,” he said.

“After more than two years of paralysis, the Town of Gawler is yet to determine an alignment that can be delivered within the allocated $55 million budget.

“If the Town of Gawler does not settle on an alignment that can be delivered within budget at its meeting on Tuesday night, the state government will withdraw the funding for the project and reallocate it to other transport and infrastructure priorities.”

At the special council meeting on Tuesday night, council resolved to abandon its preferred Eckerman alignment – which would cost an extra $10m – and accept the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s original alignment.

Gawler Mayor Karen Redman said the two meetings on Tuesday night – which ran for several hours – provided “mature debate” on a serious issue which needed to reach a resolution quickly.

“It was a very tough decision for council to make, made difficult by receiving this information at the 11th hour,” she said.

“We were shocked by the news of the increased cost of $10m for the Eckerman alignment – it did put the project at risk, despite various strategies from council to reduce the cost of the build to allow for our long-term goal (connection to Tiver Road).”

According to council, in 2016 the Eckerman Avenue alignment was estimated to cost $54.9m (including land acquisition) which was within the $55m budget provided by the state government.

Since then, significant design refinement has occurred and project costs had been revised and updated.

As a result DPTI had advised council that the Eckerman Avenue alignment was now estimated to cost approximately $10m over the allocated budget.

“It’s fair to say state government were not prepared to put any more money in,” Ms Redman said.

State Cabinet met on Friday to discuss the GELR and potential risks associated with its delivery.

Ms Redman was contacted later that afternoon by a staff member from the minister’s office and advised that if council did not choose to endorse the DPTI’s preferred alignment, the $55m commitment would be withdrawn.

“It’s unfortunate that it came to this,” Ms Redman said.

“Until last Friday, discussions with the DPTI had been constructive and informative.

“Cabinet’s mandate to remove the funding for the link road unless council falls into line has changed this dynamic, politicising the matter.

“This was the only decision we could make to ensure the money stays in Gawler.”

A group of concerned residents also attended council chambers of the meeting, but were required to wait outside due to confidentiality restraints.

“The residents waited to hear the decision and I was able to tell them straight after the meeting,” Ms Redman said.

“I think it’s important that they were able to be told first.”

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