May 24th, 2024

Many people are getting agitated about the cost of living and inflation. In the Byron Shire, the state of the roads and potholes are always at the top of the angst list. Social media and letters to the editor are often aflame with cranky drivers saying something should be done.

There are times when Byron Shire Council are deserving of grief, but in my humble opinion, this is not one of them. Traditional ratepayers think there should be only three considerations for councillors: Roads, Rates, and Rubbish. I empathise with pothole haters as it is a severe problem. They increase tyre and suspension costs, which are dangerous and can cause accidents. But maybe we need to consider the difficulties in keeping our roads tip-top.

1. It’s wet out there

It is harder to keep roads in good condition in a wet climate. Not only does a lot of rain cause ongoing damage, but it also limits when council workers can get out and maintain them. It is not just rain from above. The shire is inundated with natural springs and underground water seepage, which plays havoc on keeping a road in good condition.

2. Overuse

Many more people use our roads than just ratepayers. There are two million plus visitors per year. Then there is the well-known secret that we have far more residents than what shows up on the census. Every illegal studio and converted cow bale houses someone with a car or two.  When approvals are evaded, Council misses out on collecting road contributions that upgrade our roads to a safer standard.

3. Climate change

Lousy weather is going to get worse. We will probably see more road slippages like in Huonbrook and Federal. Also, bridges are damaged in heavy rains and floods. I have some sympathy for Kyogle Shire – they are having to come up with the money, over $40 mil, to repair 95 bridges. They are all ending their life span, as all were built in an employment project after WW2.

4. You are the problem

Stop momentarily the next time you complain about being ‘stuck in traffic’. You are the traffic! Same with complaining about potholes. You, when driving around, are the pothole destroyer.

What can we do to help?

1. Report holes

Byron Shire Council can do more maintenance when it knows about potholes early and often. Here is the contact page to notify BSC when a road surface is cracked.

2. DIY

Although no sensible person would encourage anyone to do this, it is dangerous. But you could get a bag of bitumen repair and fix a small hole quickly. $37 from Bunnings and you can do your bit.

3. Help Council to pay

A significant way for the council to increase revenue from visitors (and non-official residents) is through paid parking or fines. The next time BSC tries again to install parking meters in Mullumbimby or Brunswick Heads, don’t complain as if it is the end of the world. Cop it and realise we may get fewer potholes and less damage to our cars if everyone chips in.

Another way is to encourage aspiring Councillor candidates in the forthcoming election to support the timely delivery of the delayed new contributions policy. Currently, the big new commercial and tourist accommodation approvals in Byron CBD pay NIL contributions for roads. The same is true for rural tourist accommodation. This needs to change so we acquire safer roads.

4. Better road construction

If the council can get better cash flow, they may be able to afford some of the new high-tech road surfaces being developed in other countries, like Japan. Modern techniques like polymer-modified asphalt and geotextiles have better resilience and are not that far away, let’s hope. Installation of petroleum-based asphalt releases toxic fumes like polycyclic hydrocarbons and other chemicals that run off into the water system.

Happy driving! Enjoy the view, lucky people, but watch out for the potholes.


  1. It’s a shame the state government won’t allow us to impose a tax of one dollar per night for our visitors.

    1. Hi Bill, yes that option has been through a number of loops trying to get it passed state go. Itr seems sensible and reasonable. It was tried for a while in Port Douglas and then they phased it out.

  2. You fail to mention the cause of potholes, as explained by one of councils civil engineers: The roads all over the shire were paved with bitumin before an adequate base was built and compacted. That factor combined with inferior drainage will cause pot holes to occur forever. Look at the sections of road that dont get potholes overnight, like the highway or the sections that drain well. The cure is to go after the drainage problem and then worst area by worst, rip up the bitumin, rebuild the base properly and then re pave it, particularly bad zones would be done with reinforced concrete,, or just keep dodging, a legacy left by the cheap corner cutting road pavers of perhaps 50yrs ago.

    1. Thanks Chris. Yes what you say makes sense. But I believe doing secondary roads in concrete is prohibively expoensive. good point though.

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