Independant candidate for Clarence Debrah Novak
Independant candidate for Clarence Debrah Novak

Novak weighs in on highway pay dispute

A CLARENCE Valley councillor has weighed in on the financial mess left in the wake of the Ostwald Bros collapse in August which impacted about 200 workers.

Cr Debrah Novak has pledged her support for the unpaid Pacific Highway upgrade subcontractors and employees, calling on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey to intervene immediately.

"It is unbelievable 200 workers were put out of a job and 23 subcontractors haven't been paid because of a lack of due diligence in the RMS tender process," Cr Novak said.

"This exact situation happened with the Nambucca upgrade earlier this year where 90 workers were unpaid and two road construction companies went into liquidation.

"Surely the State Government and RMS learned some valuable lessons from these mistakes but it doesn't look like they have."

Cr Novak also voiced concerns about the lack of an official presence or response at the Unpaid Wave 5A creditors' meeting held in Grafton on Sunday.

"Who do these government and company officials think they are coming into our local government area and treating our workers and local business community with such contempt and low disregard?" she asked.

"Pacific Highway GM Bob Higgins and construction contract companies Ostwald Bros, Seymour Whyte and Pacific Complete should all hang their heads in shame for not dealing with this situation sooner.

"What is even more disturbing is the fact our sitting members, Nationals MPs Kevin Hogan, Chris Gulaptis and Andrew Fraser were nowhere to be seen either.

"The people elected to look after our interests have continued their silence and knowledge on this matter and it is an indication they simply aren't up to the task of ensuring the accountability and transparency of this multi-billion dollar project."

"Our elected representatives should be on the front foot looking out for our local workers and small business contractors not hiding behind closed doors.

"What we find instead is they pat each other on the back for their media photo shoots but when they are really needed they are nowhere to be seen. I'm sorry but that is simply not good enough.

"The Clarence Valley has 3,800 registered businesses and those involved in this current state government debacle can ill afford to carry the financial burdens or incompetence of a state government who hasn't done its due diligence.

"The knock-on effect of this shabby treatment is huge and creates undue pressure and stress on our business community and their families which impacts on their mental health.

"It is obvious our elected members are not interested in sorting out this mess or that it doesn't happen again. So I am calling on the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton and Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey to come to the Clarence and sort out these problems now before others are impacted."