Monday, November 9, 2009

DAILY TELEGRAPH: DIY roadworks, towns fix own potholes as councils cannot afford to fix roads

By Vikki Campion, Urban Affairs Reporter From: The Daily Telegraph November 09, 2009 12:00AM

Marlee, west of Taree.......where students see flash floods block this by-pass constantly forcing longer delays to one and all. Picture Robert McKell Source: The Daily Telegraph

COUNTRY people may have to fix their own streets or face being cut off from civilisation because of a $4.5 billion repair backlog allowing rural roads and bridges to crumble.

Residents may be trained to repair the roads because potholes, poor drainage and corrugation costs are too much for councils to cope with.

The Local Government Association is looking at providing insurance and training to volunteers as towns face isolation and dangerous delays for ambulance and fire crews.

In one of the worst examples, Greater Taree City Council banned vehicles heavier than two tonnes, including trucks, school buses and 4WDs from the shaky pylons of the Marlee Bridge, sending them on a 29km detour down a flood-prone narrow track instead.

The rotting bridge means the school bus ride now takes four hours each day and the fire truck's two-minute dash across the creek now takes 40 minutes.

The Manning Valley's river towns were built on dairy but since the ban three weeks ago the last farmer left after deregulation is facing his end.

Col Hurrell's Rocky Falls farm, in the family for three generations, now has to tip milk down the drain when tankers can't use the bypass.

Tourist Drive 8, the road to the bridge, takes buses past rolling hills, wineries, boutique horticulture such as organic eggs, blueberries and macadamia, to the spectacular Ellenborough Falls waterfall.

Rob Marcic of the Marlee General Store has lost his income since tourist buses were forced off the bridge.

His ledger shows on October 27, two weeks after the ban, his daily takings were nil.

"I have never been a rich business. But now there is no point in turning on the fridges, this is not even covering the electricity," he said.

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