Friday, November 20, 2009

WINGHAM CHRONICLE: Special attention needed

17 Nov, 2009 11:53 AM

Although the community is focused on finding a solution to the problems on Marlee and Duffs bridges, the deteriorating state of these structures has again placed the spotlight on the litany of problems along Bulga and Colling roads.

The Elands community has been putting up with the landslips along the upper end of the mountain road all year.

Heavy rain in April 2008 caused much damage to the road and this was worsened during the wet weather events of February and March of this year.

This resulted in the road becoming narrow in places and Greater Taree City Council (GTCC) erected signs and webbing to denote sections of the road as one-way only.

The road requires extensive and costly repairs, the council says.

Many residents argue the road deserves special, urgent attention because it is part of Tourist Drive 8, a scenic route advertised to visitors on the Pacific Highway.

The Manning Valley was declared a natural disaster area by the New South Wales Government after the February flood which allowed the council to access special funding from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

The council submitted a claim for $3 million for repairs to Bulga Road and Koppin Yarrat Road, Upper Lansdowne.

The acting director of engineering, Graham Schultz, said the council had chased the RTA to follow through on this funding ever since the disaster was declared – but it is still waiting.

New inconveniences will arise when the funding arrives and the extensive repairs begin. Mr Shultz envisages that the road will have to be closed at certain times of the day to allow the work to be carried out.

This will mean Elands people will have to access Wingham and Taree via Killabakh, through Colling and Comboyne roads.

GTCC maintains 6.6 kilometres of Colling Road, which connects Elands to Comboyne, while Port Macquarie-Hastings Council maintains the remaining 8km.

Elands resident Barbara Jackson said she had been lobbying members of parliament and the two councils to upgrade the unsealed road for the past 20 years.

In 2004-05, petitions were submitted to GTCC and the then member for Port Macquarie, Rob Oakeshott, regarding the use of the road by logging trucks. Residents asked for three kilometres to be sealed to protect the people living in homes close to the road from the continual dust stirred up by the traffic.

“People in Sydney and all along the East Coast were affected recently by the dust storm; this is a normal dry day for residents of Colling Road,” Ms Jackson said. “During dry periods, residents in houses on Colling Road experience a dust storm every time a vehicle goes by – three days after rain it starts. During long dry periods, the dust storm is unrelenting.”

The council’s works committee costed this work at about $840,000 in April of 2005 but this work has not been carried out.

“Remember, this is Tourist Drive 8 – many, many tourists visit the ‘jewel in the crown’ Ellenborough Falls accessing Colling Road to do so,” Ms Jackson said.

“I request that GTCC and Hastings Council seek funding from State and federal government for the sealing of Tourist Drive 8, starting with Colling Road, and that in the meantime, GTCC investigate and fund a dust suppressant on 1.8 kilometres of the Colling Road, starting at Bulga Road.”

Mr Schultz said the council is always examining the different dust suppressant products available on the market to assess their effectiveness for our region. However, Ms Jackson wants action sooner rather than later.

“We have to start looking outside the square people! Residents’ health is at stake here.”

The member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, has been a supporter of the Tourist Drive 8 cause. He and his representatives have met with the Tourist Drive 8 Action Group and promised to advocate their cause.

“This is something we need to start to place weight on as a community and look at as an enormous opportunity if we invest well in it,” Mr Oakeshott said. “The downscaling of (Marlee and Duffs) bridges would be a backwards step for the campaign to have this tourist drive mean something, and it is once again a reason to look for the three tiers of government to do some heavy lifting on these important roads and bridges in the Upper Manning Valley.”

Greater Taree City Council meets tonight to consider the best way to deal with Marlee and Duffs bridges.

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