As the old saying goes: be careful what you wish for.
Maitland has had a long-running issue with the state of median strips across the city and suburbs.
For several years, residents have periodically, but regularly, complained that the roads in the local government area – particularly along the New England Highway – are often overgrown and full of litter.
Roads and Maritime Service, the state agency that conducts maintenance on state roads such as the highway, obviously has plenty of work to do across NSW.
RMS spokespeople have repeatedly told Fairfax Media that Maitland maintenance work is part of a rotating roster. Fair enough.
But the issue has reached such a level that Cr Philip Penfold (pictured), who will contest the city’s mayoral race later this year, wants Maitland City Council to take control of the maintenance duties.
“This issue has existed for many years, under the previous ALP government and under the current Coalition government,” he told Fairfax Media. “In the coming term of council I will move for council to take on the mowing and maintenance in return for compensation from the RMS."
Cr Penfold plans to make a move on this issue in the next term of council, after the September election, should he be re-elected.
He concedes that the current councillors aren’t on board with the idea.
While greater control over maintenance work on these particularly visible parts of the city seems like a positive thing at face value, there are some obvious questions that need answering.
Under Cr Penfold’s plan, council would ask for compensation from the RMS because the city would be taking work off the state’s hands.
Will council be able to get enough compensation to cover the cost of the city doing the work and will that compensation be ongoing or a one-off sum?
Will the RMS think it’s worthwhile to offload the median strip maintenance in Maitland if it’s going to come with a similar financial cost to doing the job itself?
And if a deal is struck, can the responsibility be handed back to the state if council falls on tough financial times?
This is not to say Cr Penfold’s idea doesn’t have merit. But these questions need answers before any commitment is made, so the new council – if it considers such a move – doesn’t end up out of pocket for work that is the state’s responsibility.