Gawler Council told commit or 'cough up' for link road

Town of Gawler council risks losing $55 million for the Gawler East Link Road if it does not reach a final decision, within budget, by Wednesday.

With the state government’s December 6 deadline looming, a special council meeting to discuss the project was scheduled for Wednesday night, but has since been brought forward to Tuesday night.

Gawler mayor Karen Redman said she was unable to comment on the matter, which had been subject to confidential meetings.

“It’s really almost impossible for me to make much comment at all,” she said.

“We’re continuing to have discussions (with the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure).

“Gawler Council is really committed to getting a positive outcome for the community; we’re very much at the table with the department and we’ll see what tomorrow night brings.”

Meanwhile, the government has lashed out at council’s failure to commit to an alignment which falls within budget.

“The state government is fast losing patience with the Town of Gawler and its indecision on the Gawler East Link Road,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan 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.”

His comments follow more than two years of consultation and indecision from council.

The ‘link’ road has been touted for close to a decade, aimed at providing traffic relief to the town’s main street and Adelaide Road.

The government committed $55 million to construct a road from Calton Road at Springwood to the Potts and Main North Road intersections at Evanston.

The Gawler East Link Road Eckerman alignment, endorsed by Town of Gawler.

The Gawler East Link Road Eckerman alignment, endorsed by Town of Gawler.

However, council chose to investigate alternatives, including its preferred route, known as the revised Eckerman alignment, which was believed to add nearly $10 million to the bill.

In September 2015, Mr Mullighan made it clear the government was willing to consider requests for change from the council, but any additions to scope and cost would need to be funded by council.

“Following detailed cost estimations of several alignments, only the state government’s alignment can be delivered within the allocated budget,” Mr Mullighan told the Herald this week.

“It is also the community’s preferred option, with over 75 per cent of respondents supporting the state government’s alignment during consultation.

“Respondents believed that the state government alignment would have lesser impact on landowners, reduced impact on the environment and deliver better travel time in comparison to the two other proposed alignments.”

But Ms Redman said there had been “a lot of consultation” over a long period of time, dating back to before DPTI pitched its alignment.

“You’re going back 10 years, so I think it’s an interesting process when you pick out one particular community engagement process when there’s been ones prior to that,” she said.

“It’s a long-term discussion that the Gawler community are probably tired of.”

Residents along council’s preferred route have continued to voice concern that it has chosen the route which affects the most people, requires the greatest level of private property acquisition, and costs more than the allocated $55 million.

While not going so far as to say the community didn’t support the state government’s proposal, Ms Redman said she thought people “just wanted the road to be built”.

She said the GELR was a “political issue” that council was not interested in getting involved in.

“It’s certainly council’s role to advocate on behalf of the community and also provide advice and direction where it can.

“There’s an election coming up, it’s very much a political issue because both sides of politics have it as a priority on their election timetable.

“I think as a council we’ve got to cut through that and make decisions that are right for our community and let the state politicians do their own thing – we have to focus on the job at hand.”

A government spokesperson said the claim this was an election issue was “just not accurate”.

“This will be decided well before the election (in March),” they said.

“What council is doing is trying to deflect from its inability to make a decision.

“This is not a simple issue – we’ve been talking about this for 2.5 years and we still don’t have shovels in the ground.”

The spokesperson said if council committed to the government’s alignment, construction could still start in early 2018 as previously pitched.

“The Town of Gawler is putting at risk significant investment in the Gawler region and a project that will support 110 jobs over the life of the project,” Mr Mullighan said.

The state government’s GELR project would cater to new residential developments underway in Gawler East, Gawler South and Evanston Park, which were expected to create 3500 new dwellings housing an extra 8400 residents.