Steps toward reopening Congo Road north

Published: 17 May 2023

Eurobodalla’s councillors have an opportunity next Tuesday to endorse a plan that could see Congo Road north reopened.

A short portion of the road that runs through private property was closed by the landowner in November 2021 citing potential liability issues, leaving Congo Road south the single entry and exit to the village.

Residents sought Council’s support to reopen a northern access, and since November 2022 Council has been working with Crown Lands to find a solution.

The plan before Council at its meeting on Tuesday 23 May relies on transferring ownership of a “paper road” – a road that legally exists “on paper” but has not been built.

The paper road runs through the private property but is owned by Crown Lands, who are suggesting ownership be transferred to the Council.

Sections 18-21 of the Roads Act offers a path for Council, as the road authority, to define the boundaries of the paper road over the existing “track in use”.

If the boundary definition process was completed, Council would be the legal owner of the track in use and the existing road could be reopened.

Reopening the road would require removal of nine trees that pose a liability to Council as the road authority, the same issue that caused the property owner to close the road in 2021.

The first step, however, is for Council to endorse the plan to proceed with actions to define the boundaries of Congo Road North.

Council has received legal advice that confirms it is open to Council to use sections 18-21 of the Roads Act 1993 to identify the boundaries of the public road in accordance with the recommendations of Crown Land.

Councillors have been briefed on the matter, and the private property owner has been advised directly of the plan.

The Council report notes this solution is the most cost-effective way to reopen a northern access, as well as having least environmental impact.

No compensation is payable for any loss or damage arising from the operation of section 21 of the Roads Act 1993. The Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 does not apply because Council is not acquiring the land but is instead redefining the boundaries of the unsurveyed road reserve over the existing formed track in use.

Costs to complete the required survey work will be shared between Council and Crown Lands.

If Council endorses the plan, steps toward reopening the road are:

  1. Council applies to Crown Lands to transfer the undefined Crown Road to Council so that Council becomes the road authority.
  2. Council causes surveys to be undertaken to identify the boundaries of the public road over the formed “track in use” under sections 18-21 of the Roads Act
  3. Notice of the proposed boundaries is published for public comment
  4. Council considers any public submissions and whether to approve the survey plan, either with or without alteration
  5. Lodge the survey plan with NSW Land Registry Services for registration.
  6. Before reopening to the public, the road would need to be graded and some trees removed to meet Council’s insurance requirements.

Council estimates this process might take six months or more to complete.

The full report can be viewed in the agenda and minutes of the Council meeting and background information can be found on the Major Projects webpage.

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