When asked directly by the community "When is it expected Araluen Rd will be cleared of the blockage and regular maintenance carried out on drains, gutters and over hanging trees?" Council has failed to provide the community with any firm answer of when to expect the Araluen Road will reopen other than to say: "Our internal teams are working with external specialists and Transport for NSW to develop and implement progressive solutions to see Araluen Road restored. It is not a safe option to just remove the material from the roadway where the major landslip occurred in November 2020 near Knowles Creek. The materials on the steep embankment are heavily fractured and potentially unstable. Significant additional stabilisation works would be required on the steep cut face before the road could be opened. We are therefore investigating the possibility of re-routing the road around the landslip to provide a permanent solution and we are seeking financial assistance from the NSW and Australian Governments.
While we are working on solutions we are also trying to fend off the impacts of further flood events to sustain access for residents and emergency services. Maintenance crews are working on Araluen Road and will continue to do so for quite some time. A significant number of fire affected trees have already been removed from Araluen Road with more to be removed as secondary tree death becomes apparent.
The Infrastructure Services team are committed to obtaining permanent solutions to restore safe access to Araluen Road as soon as possible." Araluen Rd has over time had land slides and access problems for many years. It is a poorly engineered road, inherited by Council when they decided to switch the NSW State funding of maintenance and responsibility for the Main Road MR271 Araluen Road over to Hector McWilliam Drive at Tuross Head instead. Since then the Council has been the authority in control of the road that is now categorise as a local road demoting it from its once held Main Road status. Accordingly the maintenance funding has also diminished and the bulk of works on the road have been reactive rather than proactive, as is the example on the section of Araluen Road in Palarang Shire that begins at Pidgeon Gully. Council say "The fires, followed by six declared natural disaster floods/storms, have caused major structural problems along Araluen Road that will take time to resolve. There are many unstable roadside slopes that have to be individually rectified and the steep terrain adds further complexity to an already difficult situation." Locals comment on the above is simple "The demise of the Araluen Road and the road slide issues began long before the bushfires and recent rains." So when will the Araluen Road open? No-one knows. And while it remains closed the detour advised by Council remains substandard, dangerous and has a 10 tonne limit. It is understood that the councillors were briefed on April 27th on the Araluen Rd matter with an alternate route being discussed and funding sought. They heard that as early as 2007 an alternate route had been talked about and the identified cost were significant. At the time Council received minor funding for the slip and localised repair
With extensive previous reports and consultations it is surprising to learn that Councillors have not been in receipt of those studies and findings and have little, if any, knowledge of what was was identified by consultant Geo-technicians fourteen years ago and the experts opinions of that time. Instead it appears that the determination is to focus on a new route and have a consultant scope the works so that Council can then go cap in hand to the State or Federal Government with their cost estimates to seek a grant.
The downside is that projections indicate that State and Federal grant monies will soon begin to dry up. That being the case there is little in the way of any answer to the residents and the thousands who traverse the Araluen Road annually.
Above: Forest trails around Knowles Creek have been cleared and connected to create a temporary access road to Moruya for residents north of the landslip on Araluen Road. Photo ESC