Araluen Road: from ‘buggered’ to even more ‘buggered’; what Council don't want you to see

Dear Editor,

Very little publicity has been given to the state of Araluen Road in the Deua River Valley.

In fact many locals I have spoken to are surprised on learning that the road is still closed from the 2nd November landslide.

Well, the state of the road has gone from ‘buggered’ to even more ‘buggered’.

I thought your readers might be interested to learn about the current situation.

OPEN LETTER Mayor Liz Innes, If you and your voting bloc of Councillors Rob Pollock, Lindsay Brown, Jack Tait, Maureen Nathan and James Thomson believe that Eurobodalla ratepayers can afford to cover the cost blow out of $19 million for the Batemans Bay Aquatic and Arts Centre, as well as the $1-3 million pa for running/maintenance costs, why can’t council afford to fix our road – Araluen Road? The major landslide that occurred on 2nd November 2020 remains in situ, with residents none the wiser as to which option council intends to pursue: remove the debris and reinforce the rock face or construct an alternative route. Geotechnical advice has been provided, surveys have been completed and landowners(of alternative route) have been consulted. So what is the end result?

Whatever it is, the cost will be in the millions. And now, due to lack of maintenance and 400mm of rain in March, Araluen Road west of the landslide, is literally falling apart.

ESC senior management attribute this damage to the Bushfires and subsequent floods, but in reality these events simply acted as the ‘straw that broke the camels back’. Araluen Road has suffered years of willful neglect. Maintenance and repair consist of one grade per year for the section west of the school bus route/fire shed. Much of the damage is the result of either an insufficient number of drainage pipes under the road and/or blocked pipes that often remain so for months even years(that’s if they can be found).

This causes, not only surface erosion, but erosion on the outside edges eating into the road pavement, as well as softening these edges that eventually crack and slump away. For a vehicle to move over, allowing another vehicle to pass, is a risky manoeuvre.

Above: Multiple long tagged sections define new road width

Above: Hazard signs erected by locals One would think those employed for their expertise in such matters, would see the cost benefit of resolving drainage issues to unsealed roads as the need arises. To do otherwise only compounds the problem and escalates the financial burden on ratepayers. Council’s road workers/employees do their best, but they must comply with senior management directives – they can report their concerns regarding drainage, resheeting needs, emerging problems etc but senior management is responsible for deciding what work is and isn’t undertaken. Please note Council’s latest Newsletter: our unsealed road network ... has been set back about 15 years ..... There’s lots of damage to roads in really difficult terrain, especially the downhill sides where it will be diabolical to fix.” “................. and we’ll be talking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” It will be interesting to see how much is spent on Araluen Road. If all the flagged off sections and little white markings are any indication, it won’t be much – after all, how much does a white post cost?

Roads are essential infrastructure. Araluen Road is ESC’s only arterial road that links the coast with inland regions and provides access to the Deua National Park and its camp grounds(all currently booked out) which brings tourists to our shire, particularly those who enjoy the ‘nature coast’ aspect. Mayor Innes, why did you and your voting bloc see fit to commit Eurobodalla ratepayers to a financial debt of millions of dollars for a leisure centre, when our roads are in such dire need of maintenance, repair and upgrading?

Above: Slippery section reported to council – no action taken

How do you intend to ensure that services and vital infrastructure in our shire are not sacrificed in order to service the enormous debt you and your voting bloc have lumped us with? As my representative on council and due to your expressed concern(ABC radio 31 Mar) for Araluen Road residents forced to use 19 km of fire trails to get to town, how do you see yourself contributing to a resolution of this matter?

Above: Large rock towed out of the way by 4WD visitors. The Deua River Valley community have been split in half, rebuilding after the fires has come to a halt, some services can now not be accessed, the road diversion is costing us money in vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption, our fire shed is on western side (meetings, training, truck maintenance difficult), emergency services access questionable, business activities losing money; anxiety, emotional stress and frustration is growing. We need answers and we need a decent road! Patricia Gardiner Deua River Valley, 2537