Council has now moved more than 12,500 cubic metres of sand, or the equivalent of 550 semi-trailer loads, as it continues to battle the ongoing sand drift affecting roads in the Millewa-Carwarp area.
Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence said the complex issue was now impacting 35 roads in the area, with Council taking a risk-based approach to tackling the problem.
Cr Clemence said Council staff were monitoring roads on a weekly basis to ensure they were acting on up-to-date conditions, and either erecting signage warning of roads impacted by sand drift, or in high-risk situations, taking further action, including clearing roads. A number of staff also gave up their holidays across the festive season in order to work for the community.
He said Council staff were in regular contact with land-owners and emergency services to ensure they were kept up-to-date with changes to road access.
The Mayor said that due to the scale of the problem, the rapidly changing nature of sand drift, and resources available, this was the best approach at this time.
“This is an incredibly complex issue. Firstly the sand drift affects each road differently, meaning a broad range of solutions need to be used. There’s no one-fix solution,” Cr Clemence said.
“Secondly, clearing roads is a costly exercise and unfortunately our resources aren’t limitless.
“If we were to clear every road impacted by sand drift it would cost well over $200,000 each time. Given how quickly the sand drift can return – sometimes in a few days – it’s simply not viable or financially responsible to repeatedly clear every road as it’s impacted.
“By assessing and managing each road and each situation as it emerges, we’re ensuring a targeted and flexible approach that we believe is making the best use of the resources available to us.”
Cr Clemence said Council also needed to work within the requirements of native vegetation and cultural heritage regulations when undertaking earthworks on the verges of roads, which was another factor.
He said that in addition to regularly monitoring the condition of roads in the Millewa-Carwarp area, including throughout the Christmas/New Year break, Council was continuing to investigate both short and long-term solutions to the sand drift issue.
Short-term, the current challenges faced by Council are sourcing more signage in the event that more roads are affected, and securing additional earth-moving equipment, which is becoming more scarce given the demands on this machinery due to emergencies elsewhere in the State.
Council is working with neighbouring Councils, including Swan Hill Rural City Council, in a bid to obtain more signage.
Long-term, Council continues to work with government experts to look at preventative or more permanent solutions to the sand drift, including an upcoming think-tank in the region that will involve representatives from Agriculture Victoria and other industry experts.
The Mayor said while the problem is certainly severe on some Millewa-Carwarp properties, he stressed that not all properties in the region were impacted by sand drift.