Araluen Road: The bottom line: enter State forest detours at your own risk

Due to a major landslide on the Araluen Road 2nd Nov 2020, Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) has advise the community that it has had discussions with Forestry about diverting traffic from council’s public road onto Forestry roads as a bypass. Those roads being Knowles, Wandera, Heffernans and Maulbrooks. Maulbrooks Road is currently being used as a haulage route.

This bypass is going to be used by general traffic for many months to come.

With concerns around the rapidly deteriorating conditions of these Forestry roads from heavy traffic and the fact that the level of maintenance of these roads is not comparable to the higher standards that are generally applied by Council to its own public road Forestry was asked this week: "Who takes responsibility in the event of an accident/damage due to the condition of the road, Forestry or ESC?" The response from Forestry on May 10th 2021was: "Sorry, this is a grey area, and would probably need to be determined by a Court of Law depending on the individual circumstances" Such a response to the residents of Araluen Road who will now be traversing the Forestry road detours, directed by Council, does little to put them at ease. Under the Roads Act 1993 No 33

public road means—

(a) any road that is opened or dedicated as a public road, whether under this or any other Act or law, and

(b) any road that is declared to be a public road for the purposes of this Act. To the average person driving along our inland gravel roads it would be difficult in many cases to know if you were on a Public Road or a Forestry Road. Transport NSW advise "if your car or other property has been damaged due to the condition of a NSW public road." Theoretically a driver, having consulted Google and now considering using the Forestry road detour might then do one more search to discover the statement "Forestry Corporation of NSW makes no guarantee as to the condition or trafficability of any road or track". It is widely known that Forest Permits are issued to authorise the conduct of various prescribed activities on State forests, timber or flora reserves such as research. The Permittee shall indemnify and hold indemnified Forestry Corporation of NSW, its officers, agents and employees against any claim by any person for damage to property or injury to persons arising out of or as a consequence of or incidental to the conduct of the specified activity. If such a clause exists for someone in a State Forest driving about looking at trees then surely the same might apply to anyone in a State Forest, for whatever reason. Presently Forestry warn on their website: There are still hazards, and people need to be aware of things such as dangerous trees, damaged roads and fallen branches as they move through the forest. Forests contain many unseen and unpredictable hazards that cannot be removed or controlled.

Because of this, you are entering State forest areas at your own risk. For the 48 families that now use the forestry road detours directed by Eurobodalla Council to circumnavigate the two slips on Araluen Road it appears that they do so at their own risk, are given no guidance by signage of road names or agency ownership, and, if they do damage their vehicles will have to fight it out in a "Court of Law, depending on the individual circumstances".

"Sorry, this is a grey area, and would probably need to be determined by a Court of Law depending on the individual circumstances" Forestry Corporation of NSW.