By TONY FOSTER
I WAS DELIGHTED to represent our community at the official launch of an historical agreement between our municipality and the State Government to take over the roadside maintenance of the East Derwent Highway and major roundabouts in our municipality.
As you would have read in the front page story of this edition of the Brighton Community News, we are the first council in the State to sign a formal agreement with the Government that allows Council to control roadside maintenance.
The roadside mowing, litter pick-up and planting work was previously the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure, now the Department of State Growth.
While the agreement has just been signed, we have already noticed a significant difference in our community with mowing and cleaning up already being undertaken over past weeks by Council staff.
The result is absolutely fantastic and already we’ve had some terrific feedback from people who are noticing the difference along the East Derwent Highway. The change in the look of entrances to our municipality is incredible.
I am personally thrilled with the outcome because I have been working on this for more than a decade. It’s been such a bugbear of mine to see our highway roadsides look so untidy and trying to get a resolution to the ongoing problem of the state of the vegetation on our main thoroughfares has been a very long journey. It was frustrating to see how untidy some of these areas were becoming particularly during the growing seasons, and we had absolutely no control over our community’s roadsides and verges. This was a State Government responsibility through the former Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources (DIER). Indeed, as a Council we had been in discussion with successive State Governments for Council to take on the roadside beautification work, but without success until now.
You would be aware that the Midland Highway through Brighton was part of the National Highway. I have always believed that people would not stop and shop or want to relocate to Brighton to live while that highway was so untidy.
A number of years ago I asked that we set aside $20,000 in our Council budget primarily for cleanup and beautification of the highway through our Municipality even though we did not have ownership or jurisdiction or, indeed, any call to undertake the work.
One of the benefits I and other Councillors and Staff have had through personal overseas holidays is that we have had the opportunity to see how other countries and cities maintain and beautify their roads and roundabouts. That is why this has been of concern to myself and others who have wanted to do something here in Brighton and in Tasmania.
Regular letters to the editor of our southern daily newspaper have continually pointed to the state of the vegetation with people saying they have been embarrassed by the state of our highways and road verges.
So now after 10 years, we finally have a unique agreement that sees our Council take responsibility for these areas. Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding and his Department saw the merit in this and we’ve now reached this agreement that sees the State Government and Brighton Council sharing the costs.
I want to particularly thank Shane Gregory who is General Manager Transport Infrastructure Services in overseeing the successful resolution of the problem. Shane has been fantastic to deal with and we are delighted that through his efforts, we have now come to an agreement that benefits our community.
The beautification agreement was officially launched by Minister Hidding and myself and council officers at a ceremony in Bridgewater in the past couple of weeks.
As I said earlier our maintenance staff have now taken ownership and have already shown great civic pride in their work and this is already paying dividends in the work they have undertaken to date.
I am ‘over the moon’ with the way our outside workforce has taken ownership of this project with such fantastic civic pride. But it is not just up to those of us in Council. I want the whole community to accept our drive for civic pride and do their part in helping us to eliminate litter on our roads. It has to be a whole-of-community approach so I urge everyone to do their bit so that we can be the tidiest municipality in Tasmania.
At the same time, I am particularly proud that Brighton is the first Council in the State to reach such an agreement and I hope other councils follow suit. I am sure we are setting a great example for other municipalities to follow and that what we have done will encourage them to negotiate similar agreements. The potential outcome will be neat and clean road verges throughout the State, adding to the beauty of Tasmania for both locals and visitors alike.
With a lasting, clean and tidy impression, we can only hope that visitors to our regions will spread the word that we are indeed a very beautiful State, and one very much worth visiting.