Araluen Road: ARE WE BEING INFORMED, OR FOBBED OFF?

Dear Beagle Editor,

Araluen Road residents west of the landslide, 23km from Moruya, are fed up with the lack of information and progress towards a resolution of our road closure.

ARE WE BEING INFORMED, OR FOBBED OFF?

The 3 updates provided to residents thus far, fail to provide any optimism towards a resolution of a problem that is having an enormous impact on the lives, livelihoods and emotional well being of residents.

The problem is far from a mere inconvenience as stated in council’s Feb 19 update.

The use of fire trails, that are now in dire need of repair, and negotiating past landslips presents significant safety risks, not to mention the wear and tear on vehicles.

To top this off, as of this week, residents now have to contend with fully laden log trucks, as Forestry has begun using the diversion roads, Maulbrooks Rd and Larry’s Mountain Rd, as a haulage route.

On Tue 13 April I contacted council’s works dept about this new hazard, but they were unaware of it.

I was told Forestry would be contacted. A number of phone calls to council on Wed elicited no new information.

Thursday morning I received the following email from council:

“I’ve had a chat with forestry regarding their operations and how it impacts on people using the detour.

Forestry originally intended for all movements to go to the Princes Highway via Buckenbowra Road and Maulbrooks Road north. However there are two gullies that are still running water so they are using the southern access (Maulbrooks Road south and Larry’s Mountain Road) for operational and environmental reasons. They will be limiting their use of the southern route as much as possible, with the balance of haulage movements going via Pistol Shot Road and Buckenbowra Road. At present they have 3-4 movements (on the southern route) per day and don't expect to have more than 5. They expect to be finished with truck movements via the southern route by the end of May. This is a reasonable volume of truck movements sharing this road with people obliged to use the Araluen Road detour.”


I do wonder what an ‘unreasonable’ volume would be.

I firmly believe that the longer this situation continues, particularly with the added risk of meeting log trucks, the more likelihood there is of a serious accident occurring.

So as to inform the general public of the information we are being provided with, I have included ESC’s latest update (9th April), with my additional comments, in parentheses, bold and italicized, to indicate relevance, usefulness or correctness.

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Dear resident/landowner,

Restoring access – Araluen Road

Following our letter of 18 February 2021 and the storms and flooding we’ve just experienced, we would like to bring you up to date with the current situation and our proposed works on Araluen Road.

For all works required to recover the road damage resulting from the seven natural disasters since January 2020, Council is seeking financial assistance from the NSW and Australian Governments under the natural disaster funding arrangements.

(KNOWN – REPEATED INFORMATION re funding. The road damage is a culmination of YEARS of neglect, not just recent events – ask any resident or road worker)

March flood damage

The high rainfall experienced last month has caused further serious damage to Araluen Road and roadside slopes.

(WE KNOW)

An initial assessment of the full length of Araluen Road within the Eurobodalla Local Government Area has been undertaken since the flood waters receded. These inspections reveal the latest flood event has resulted in:

i) significant additional loss of gravel material from the road surface

ii) significant groundwater intrusion impacting the road pavement in isolated areas

iii) sections of Araluen Road with extensive tension cracking and slope movement on both the upper and lower side iv) further rock falls at the site of the road closure near Knowles Creek

v) damage to causeway and culvert structures/outlets

(WE KNOW. The ‘tension cracking’ is not just cracking. Many sections have collapsed. ‘The latest flood event’ did not cause all the problems)

Initial clean-up works are in progress with a particular attention on restoration of drains and culverts along with delineation of the slip areas.

(WE KNOW. We drive the road. The contractor has cleaned out gutters adjacent to slips and the openings to the drainage pipes that he could find. Our road looks very pretty with all the little flags ‘delineating’ the slip sites)

As an interim safety measure, we have temporarily placed a 10t load limit for vehicles travelling on Araluen Road between the landslip at Knowles Creek and the Queanbeyan-Palerang border. Vehicles over 10t are not permitted on this section of road until further notice.

(NEW INFORMATION! So what are the implications? No trucks delivering building materials from either the coast or Braidwood for bushfire rebuilds, no cement trucks, no septic pump outs, no cattle trucks, no machinery to fix slip sites, no council grader???)

Motorists using the road in vehicles less than 10t must use caution and observe signs and barriers in place.

(REALLY? There is no other way to drive this road other than ‘with caution’. We’ve been doing so for years ............... without signs.)

The areas where some of the slips and tension cracking has occurred is within challenging mountainous riverside terrain with very steep downhill and uphill slopes. Therefore, a specialist geotechnical consultant has been engaged to review the most challenging areas of the failure and provide advice on the solutions and interim measures.

(KNOWN – REPEATED INFO since Nov. When the Geotechs initially (Nov ‘20) checked out the landslip, didn’t council also have experts out doing core samples from the rest of the road to the west? Didn’t these experts advise council that, in some sections, they didn’t know what was holding the road up?)

Once more detailed site investigations have occurred, we will be able to provide further information.(After 5 months they should be very ‘detailed’ indeed. Will we be told the geotech results, the action to be taken and when?)

Similarly, the alternate route for residents around the Knowles Creek slip, via Mount Wandera back to Moruya, has sustained further damage in this same flood event to the road surface in some areas. This event has also resulted in tension cracks along this route near Mount Wandera.

(YEP, WE KNOW, WE DRIVE IT! I put rocks along a crack that council did not find, but the backhoe operator pushed them over the edge when he was clearing the gutter)

More urgent works are in progress to restore damaged drains, adjust the road edge and address the most impacted areas of the road surface as soon as practicable. A 2t load limit will remain in place for the general public utilising this alternate route.

(YEP, WE KNOW! We saw the backhoe contractor doing temporary repairs at the slip sites.

Does ‘adjust the road edge’ mean using white posts to make the road even narrower?

You say ‘general public’. Isn’t the 2t limit section for ‘residents only’ – that’s what the signs say? Too bad if a resident has a vehicle over 2t, like a landcruiser or any 4WD with a load – like taking rubbish to the tip. Anyway, the bypass is used by Eurobodalla locals and tourists alike – most have a GPS’s to find their way around the landslip.)

McGregors Creek Bridge (24.6km mark) and Kenny Creek Bridge (32.5km)

New single lane concrete bridges will be built to replace the existing timber bridges. Contracts have been let for the design and supply of a modular bridge system and for the installation of both bridges.

(Please note that these bridges have nothing to do with the road closure and have been listed for replacement since mid last year.)

After delays caused by the major landslip east of Knowles Creek and the recent floods, construction was planned to begin in April 2021. Unfortunately, the latest flood damage sustained on Araluen Road means we are unable to proceed with construction of the two bridges until the roadway is deemed safe for heavy vehicles.

(INCORRECT INFORMATION! According to council Contract Register, that I downloaded in Oct 2020, work on these 2 bridges was to commence on 11 August 2020 and take 4 months to complete. It didn’t commence!

I understand 4 bridges on the Belowra Road were to commence at the same time with a different installer. I’m pretty sure they were all completed. Doesn’t a councillor live out that way?)

The temporary timber bridge repairs are sufficient to allow access in the interim period. (How long do you think that ‘interim period’ will be?)

Tree work

A significant number of fire affected trees have already been removed from the road and roadsides. (KNOWN since after the fires) Monitoring of the trees now reveals significant secondary tree death along the route. A program of additional tree removal has been implemented across the 490km of fire impacted roads across the Eurobodalla. This will include further work on Araluen Road to mitigate the ongoing risk.

(RELEVANCE? We’re not interested in tree removal around the shire.

As regards our road, the contractors trucks and machinery would be over the 10t limit. How about a tree lopper in a mini moke with a hand saw?)

Landslip site east of Knowles Creek (approximately 23km west of Moruya)

We continue to undertake the necessary design, geotechnical, environmental review and discussion with landowners to assess the provision of a new alternate road around the slip site compared to restoring the existing road. The most recent flood event resulted in significant additional rock material falling onto the existing roadway.

(KNOWN - REPEATED INFORMATION. INCORRECT INFO: ‘continue ...... discussion with landowners’ only preliminary one occurred months ago)

Neither option is simple given the steep terrain and constraints in this location.

(KNOWN – REPEATED INFO)

We continue to inspect and maintain the alternate route for light vehicles west of the landslip back to Moruya, via Knowles Creek Road, K-Ridge Road, Heffernans Road, Maulbrooks Road and Larrys Mountain Road.

(QUESTION! “continue to maintain”?? The only repair work I am aware of was that done by the back hoe contractor last week. Does erecting signs count as maintenance?)

A map of the alternate route for residents was provided in the first update for your personal use. We advise the public that this alternate route is for local residents, service and emergency service vehicles only. We do not publicise the route for this reason.

(KNOWN – REPEATED INFO. Do not keep poking your naughty finger at residents!

GPS’s allow everyone to find council’s ‘yellow brick road’.)

Road pavement

Minor gravel resheeting and road grading work will be undertaken on the alternate route via Mount Wandera and at isolated locations in the near future.

(How does that happen when there is a 2t limit in that area?)

Any major resheeting work between Knowles Creek and Pigeon Gully will be subject to the restoration of access for heavy vehicles. We will seek to undertake maintenance grading when required and subject to availability of access for plant.

(DOES THIS MEAN THERE WILL BE NO GRADING, RESHEETING OR MAJOR REPAIR WORK DONE ON THE WESTERN END UNTIL ARALUEN ROAD REOPENS? What does ‘subject to availability of access for plant’ mean? )

Council will be undertaking gravel resheeting works on the unsealed sections between Moruya and the Knowles Creek slip before the end of the financial year utilising Council funding. We will also finalise the approaches to the new Bradburys Bridge.

(We are happy for our neighbours on the eastern side. This grading was already budgeted for and WAS scheduled to occur in March)

General advice to the public (I thought this was letter was for residents)

Council will remind residents and visitors via its communications platforms that Araluen Road remains closed to commuters travelling between Canberra and the coast with the Kings Highway the quickest and safest route between Braidwood and Batemans Bay.

(Council can continue to say what it likes, but its making little difference to commuters or visitors who are using the road and the bypass)

If you have a specific transport need (eg gaining access for a tradesperson or delivery), please contact us by phone to discuss if we can assist in providing consent for access or further advice on timing.

(So now we have to seek PERMISSION for a plumber, electrician etc to access our properties? Surely council is not serious!)

We will be in contact again when there is more to report. We would like to thank you for your cooperation and patience while these works and assessments are underway.

(Sorry, but we have run out of patience, particularly with these updates that keep providing us with the same information lacking any indication of progress towards a solution or a time frame for achieving it.

The 10t limit council has now imposed makes matters even worse, particularly for those trying to rebuild after the fires.

AND WHY WAS COUNCIL NOT AWARE OF FORESTRY’S INTENTION TO USE THE BYPASS FOR LOG HAULAGE? Surely this possibility would have been discussed when the bypass route was negotiated.

I do hope ESC has a very good insurance policy!

Patricia Gardiner—Deua River Valley

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