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Report on Empire Bay & Districts Roads Action Group (EBDRAG) Community Meeting, August 9, 2016.

Scope of Meeting: The community meeting held on Tuesday, August 9, was organised and facilitated by EBDRAG founder, Gregory John Olsen and his wife, Leeanne Tyler-Olsen, who are residents of Empire Bay and members of the Empire Bay Progress Association. They were responding to their own observations and a request by the former EBPA President, Shirley Crocker, to look into the safety of Empire Day Drive for pedestrians, particularly school children. Gregory shared the event on this and several other local facebook pages and, along with Bensville resident, Sally Wegener, letterboxed 1,160 homes informing residents of the meeting.

Suggested issues to be canvassed were the condition of the roads, stormwater drains, kerbs, guttering, paths, cycleways and pedestrian safety.
What Happened: Seventy residents of Empire Bay and Bensville attended the meeting. They agreed to give their contact details, which Leeanne oversaw, when they arrived. The meeting commenced at 7:40 PM and, after a short welcome, Gregory ran a workshop that gave attendees the opportunity to form small groups and discuss the issues that concerned them and to write down the ones they saw as most important. After ten minutes or so a spokesperson for each group read their two or three most important points. Those pieces of paper were collected and posted on the wall for all to see.

Some participants were so motivated that they were constrained to speak to the whole group. Most chose to keep their comments to the small groups in which they were involved. Speakers were very determined to share their experiences, over at least 20 years, of “neglect” of the issues that affect them on a daily basis. They spoke of many frustrating attempts to get action by Council who appeared to be better at prevaricating than making positive decisions. It was clear that stormwater drainage and the condition of the roads were the preeminent issues.

Volunteers were invited to form an Action Committee to take forward the matters revealed at the meeting and with whom residents may confer. Seven attendees responded. The meeting was formally closed at 8:30 PM but informal discussion went on for another 45 minutes.

Assessing the Issues Raised: There were 75 issues submitted by the participants. They fell into five distinct groups as follows:

i) Roads (26 @ 35%) including flooding, poor condition, road resurfacing, long term solutions for potholes, speeding, limiting heavy traffic speed, traffic calming devices, stop signs, traffic lights and roundabout with references to specific roads such as Empire Bay Dr, Greenfield Rd, Rickard Rd, Boongala Rd, Gordon Rd, Kendall Rd and Rosella Rd in Empire Bay as well as Hastings Pde, Killaroo Rd, Skye Close and Huntly Rd in Bensville;

ii) Stormwater Drains (20 @ 27%) including blocked and open drains, contamination of ‘holding water’ pits, drainage on the reserve, flooding after heavy rain and high tides;

iii) Kerbs, Gutters and Footpaths (15 @ 20%) including references to on street parking, pedestrian safety issues on Greenfield Rd and approaching the Empire Bay Public School;

iv) Other Issues (8 @ 11%) including trees overhanging roads, boat ramp upgrades and parking for trailers, weed control, removing boats from reserve in Empire Bay, public amenities such as toilets for ferry users;

v) Empire Bay Public School Concerns (6 @ 8%) including ‘kiss & drop’ zones, bus shelter and a pathway east to Poole Close. With 82% of the issues raised relating to roads, drains and footpaths etc., it is clear that these are overwhelmingly the major concerns for our community.

What We Are Asking All Levels of Government: The EBDRAG Action Committee is prepared to work cooperatively with all levels of government, to bring about identification of and solutions to our issues. We know that you are willing to join with us in this quest. Clarification of the delineation of responsibilities is essential to move action forward and prevent matters being shuffled between government bodies. The EBDRAG Action Committee undertake to liaise with the community via our facebook page, the Empire Bay Network website: http://empirebay.network/ and facebook page, emails, phone calls and letterbox drops as well as submit articles to local newspapers.

In the recent past there have been three accidents at the intersection of Empire Bay Drive and Greenfield Road. It is clear this is a major ‘black spot’ and in need of urgent attention. We understand the State government is responsible for Empire Bay Dr and Council for Greenfield Rd. We understand that there has been approval given to the installation of traffic lights at that intersection. Therefore, there needs to be cooperation between both levels of government to expedite their construction, subject to approval.

We further propose that a roundabout is constructed at the intersection of Rosella Rd and Greenfield Rd (see image right). We believe the roundabout should allow only light traffic, say with a two or three tonne limit, onto Rosella Rd, thereby enabling residents of Rosella Rd and roads west of it, to access their homes more directly, removing the long detour down Greenfield, Rickard, Echuca and Myrtle Roads. This would also reduce traffic along those four roads thereby sharing the load of wear and tear. In addition, traffic exiting and entering the eastern section of Rosella St will be able to do so more safely via the roundabout.

The installation of STOP signs at the intersection of Greenfield Rd and Rickard Rd would, in combination with the above measures, go a long way to solving the problems of speeding cars and pedestrian safety on Greenfield Rd. However, if speeding continued unabated, then other traffic calming measures should be evaluated.

Pedestrian safety is very important to all of us, particularly that of school children who, in our case, must use Greenfield Rd and Empire Bay Dr to get to and from Empire Bay Public School. Therefore, construction of a shared pathway on the eastern side of Greenfield Rd, to complete the 100 metres of path that already exists north of Rosella Rd is a high priority for us. The associated kerbing and guttering of this section would provide some necessary on-street parking of which there is currently none available on Greenfield Rd, other than illegally on the nature strips.

We are aware that Adam Crouch, NSW MP for Terrigal, has been supportive of a pedestrian pathway from the Empire Bay Public School to Poole Close. We have been informed that Council rejected the idea earlier this year. Late last week, a car ran off Empire Bay Drive into the drainage ditch. Thankfully, nobody was hurt but, had that occurred further down, closer to the schools, there could have been school children injured or worse. Therefore, we ask the Central Coast Council to urgently revisit the issue and reverse its decision.

Another important issue is that of the proposed cycleway/pathway plan referred to in Gosford Bike Strategy 2014: http://search.gosford.nsw.gov.au/do…. Pages 8, 48, 66, 71 and 72 show existing and proposed cycleway routes in our region. The fact that this plan is already approved and in place but awaiting funding means that it is more likely to see action taken in the near future, and it’s one that will benefit everyone. This issue is of particular concern of Bensville residents who very much want a cycleway for safety and recreation reasons.

The eastern end of Pomona Rd, Empire Bay, has very deep potholes and very poor storm water drainage. There was some remediation work done on drainage at the western end of the road some time ago. However, sewer teams cutting and patching more holes in the road recently has created more problems.

Regarding the complex issues of flooding and drainage, we are not fully conversant with the latest research in respect of the effects of climate change and rising sea level. However, we accept that Empire Bay is on low lying land and its fundamental flood issues are caused by both catchment and storm surge flooding. Clearly, an integrated approach to the construction of kerbs, guttering and drainage is required as they all affect each other.

To fully understand the issues of mitigation and adaptation in respect of sea level rise, and how Council is responding to the latest research, we ask your assistance in getting us the information we need so that we can make well informed proposals to put before the appropriate authorities.

Some of the issues concerning us may attract State funding. Therefore we ask that all levels of government be proactive in distributing that information to us. The EBDRAG Action Committee looks forward to working with government to improve the safety and amenity of our area.

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