Ruined roads require more than promises

The state’s peak agricultural body has reminded politicians funding alone is not enough to repair flood-damaged roads.

On Thursday the state and federal governments announced $312 million to rebuild and improve roads in the state’s north, which was recently smashed by successive serious floods.

However, farmers and landholders on the Kempsey-Armidale Road, which links Armidale and the coast, have been waiting for years to have their fire- and flood-damaged road repaired, to no avail. The road is so badly damaged now – closed in multiple places – that people are worried for their safety, and some landholders say they would sell up and move out, if they could find anyone to buy a farm on a ruined road.

Sandra Mitchell, a local NSW Farmers member who lives on the road, said it was time for all levels of government to stop passing the buck and for work to be done.

“This would never happen if this road was in front of a local councillor’s house,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We don’t care who does the work as long as it gets done, and soon – this is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The road was declassified from a regional road to a local road in 2009 despite steadily increasing traffic as an important thoroughfare between Kempsey and Armidale. As the road crumbled, the local agriculture, tourism and timber industries all suffered as continual closures and reductions in load limits made operating businesses untenable. Prior to the 2019 State Election then-Roads Minister Melinda Pavey wrote to local residents and told them: “the Kempsey-Armidale Road will be re-classified as a State Road under a re-elected NSW Nationals and Liberals Government. It means, in effect, that the State will resume responsibility for maintaining and improving the Kempsey-Armidale Road”. Furthermore state MP Adam Marshall announced in 2020 that the NSW Government would fund work to repair the entire length of the road, but so far little work has been done to fix the situation.

While Thursday’s announcement talked about helping communities “recover and build back stronger”, NSW Farmers Vice President Xavier Martin said it was clear there needed to be a concerted effort to actually get the work done.

“Cash doesn’t fix roads, people with construction equipment do,” Mr Martin said.

“We’ve seen from the shocking example of the Kempsey-Armidale Road what happens when funding is not met with workers to get the job done.

“Make no mistake: we welcome this $312 million funding announcement, but we want to make it clear action is required now, you can’t just sign a cheque and declare ‘job done’.”

Background

• The Kempsey-Armidale Road is an East-West Corridor, stretching for 87 kilometres – 68 kms of which are unsealed and are in a terrible state of disrepair.

• The road was declassified from a Regional Road to a Local Road in 2009.

• Vehicle counts in 2001 indicated 51 – 55 vehicles per day used the route. By 2020 traffic counts estimated the usage at 127 – 130 vehicles per day – meaning the volume nearly tripled. Local farmers believe these counts to be questionably low.

• Two grants were obtained in 2020 by the councils: $5 million to Kempsey for a section of road known as Pee Dee and $5 million to Armidale Council for Flying Fox Cutting.

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