FREEDOM of Information (FOI) requests at a cost of $3300, ministerial promises that have amounted to near nothing and a litany of RTA staff who have moved on from the second Grafton bridge project – the Concerned Citizens of Grafton group believes it has been misled and blindfolded in its quest to keep a new bridge out of the CBD.
At the crux of the issue is a list of requests the group put to the RTA about several bridge-related items, including traffic reports, raw data and directives for those reports, project management plans and email correspondence.
Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) member Mick Hillery said the group had been told by an independent Gold Coast-based engineer that figures contained in the RTA’s Traffic Study on the current bridge were “rubbery at best”.
He said CCG members had questioned the accuracy of the study which claimed 93 per cent of traffic over the bridge was local-to-local traffic.
Other items questioned include the projection of a 1.9 per cent increase in traffic flow on the bridge per year when other documents show the actual growth may be closer to 0.5 per cent.
These pieces of information were critical in the RTA proving a need for a new bridge and limiting options for a new crossing to near the current bridge.
Initial requests for up to 30 documents met with brick walls at a local level, Mr Hillery said.
So the group put together an FOI application, only to be told the information would cost it $3300.
Group chairman Kim Dahl and Mr Hillery’s wife Sue met with the then Roads Minister David Campbell and senior RTA staff in Sydney in early April and, Mr Dahl said, the Minister promised to provide whatever information was needed by the group free of charge.
The group withdrew its FOI application and the RTA handed over four of the requested documents.
Mr Campbell’s alleged promise was then denied by the Minister’s office, Mr Hillery said.
A letter from the RTA’s senior project manager Damien Sartori to Mr Hillery offers an explanation for the missing information.
“The RTA does not publish draft documents that have not been internally quality checked by the RTA simply because we need to ensure that, to the best of our ability, they are error-free,” Mr Sartori writes.
The CCG’s FOI application has now been shelved as the group decides the next step forward, with the possibility of “passing the hat around” for a new FOI application.
Mr Hillery said RTA representatives had assured Concerned Citizen Group members that more information would be forthcoming but at this stage no new information had been forwarded.
“Some of their minutes of meetings we’ve had with them are completely different to our versions,” Mr Hillery said.
“But every time we meet with them there is someone different; they keep changing people’s roles and there’s always a new face.”
Other members of the CCG listed some of the RTA staff involved in the project who had now moved on, including project manager Steve Williamson (replaced by David O’May), regional manager David Bell (self-removed from the project because of interests in Dovedale area replaced by Chris Harrison (Acting)) and general manager of infrastructure communications Fiona Court (replaced by Ed Scully).
Of course the former Roads Minister David Campbell fell from grace last month and has now been replaced by David Borger.
The Daily Examiner sent questions to the RTA late yesterday. At the time of going to print we had not received a response.