FARMERS in the western half of the Moyne Shire claim a council knockback of a local road upgrade has turned it into a hot election issue.
Local landholders David Rowbottom and John Porter spearheaded a petition to seal the northern half of Barkers Road, which lies west of Orford.
Moyne councillors unan-imously voted to reject a proposed sealing of the road when the matter came to a vote this week, claiming traffic use did not justify the cost of the work.
Mr Porter said it was disappointing that councillors rejected the proposal and claimed it had the strong support of ratepayers in the region.
He said councillors had been receptive to the petition when the landholders first approached council two months ago.
“With all the renewable energy projects and blue gum plantations surrounding Barkers Road, it makes sense to seal it,” Mr Porter said.
“If you live along the coast and want to travel to Hamilton, you can either drive along Barkers Road, which is a straight route, or you have to add 15 minutes to the journey by travelling through Tyrendarra or Port Fairy.”
The now-defunct Minhamite Shire first drafted plans to seal Barkers Road in 1966.
Sealing work started in 1970 with a mile (1.6 kilometres) of road budgeted for sealing works each year.
However, the shire did not complete the project and roughly six kilometres of the thoroughfare has remained unsealed for nearly four decades.
Mr Rowbottom said Orford, Macarthur and Yambuk ratepayers would not be pleased by the council decision.
He claimed the issue would sway ratepayers at the upcoming council elections, to be held in October.
“It’s very disappointing and people will see it as a shortsighted decision,” Mr Rowbottom said.
“We’re not talking about some country lane. Barkers Road doesn’t stop at a dead-end — it’s a connecting road and people have to avoid it at the moment because of its poor condition.”
Moyne Shire physical services director Trev Greenberger told councillors the daily average traffic movement along Barkers Road was 38 vehicles.
He said the cost to seal the remaining 6.2 kilometres of Barkers Road with a 3.7-metre-wide seal would be an estimated $850,000.
Cr Colin Ryan said the sealing of Barkers Road would set a precedent within the municipality, forcing council to complete other projects which was “not practicable”.