MITCHELL Shire Council has identified nearly 40 priority footpath projects to be considered in future capital works programs under a 2021 update to its footpath missing links program.
The update prepared by council officers found 38 priority projects, of which 26 were deemed high priority, meaning they are flagged to be finished inside four years.
About 120 kilometres of footpath missing links were identified in the update, with an estimated total cost of about $48 million.
The top priority project was a 1.2km footpath connection between Springridge Estate and the Wallan township on the Northern Highway, set to cost an estimated $480,000.
Other high-priority projects included a 1.6km, $5 million path along Kilmore Creek from the Northern Highway to Hudson Park and a 613-metre, $490,400 shared path along Mia Mia Road from Short Street to Derek Drive in Broadford.
Wallan and Kilmore had the longest totals of missing footpath links, with 42.2 and 20.9 kilometres respectively.
Broadford and Pyalong also had more than 10km of missing footpath links.
The report found council would need to spend about $5 million during the next four years to complete the 26 high priority projects, and source funding from elsewhere to assist.
The report initially recommended the next review of the missing links program to be scheduled in 2024, but Cr Fiona Stevens moved an alternate motion for the program to be reviewed on a yearly basis, which was supported by other councillors.
Cr Stevens said footpaths had long been a priority for the Mitchell Shire community and that a yearly review of the missing links program would bring more accountability.
“We never have enough money for this particular project, but it’s one of the most important ones that we do,” she said.
“Now there is more transparency and accountability. You can’t find any fault in reviewing.”
Cr Stevens was still critical of the timeframe of some of the projects, noting the top-priority project of connecting the Springridge Estate to Wallan was not due to be completed until the 2024-25 financial year, along with a $500,000 on Seymour’s High Street.
“High Street, Seymour has been brought to our attention many times … and once again it’s sitting at year four,” she said.
Cr Nathan Clark said having yearly reports on the footpath program was good for the shire.
“I think it shows the staff are quite willing to show some transparency in the process and keep the community in the loop of what’s happening. More frequent reports means better council,” he said.
Cr Bill Chisholm, a vocal advocate for better roads and footpaths across the municipality, also supported a yearly review.
“This is a really valid thing to reassess this program every year. It can only be a positive to judge where we’re going and what we’re achieving,” he said.
“I think footpaths are comparable to roads in the community’s expectations, and there are a lot of areas really missing out.
“I think it’s critical we look at the criteria of judgement of our list of priorities and listen to the concerns of the community. We get a fair bit of those concerns through the front office at times.”