The Beagle Editor, Readers may be interested in the following correspondence between myself, Eurobodalla Council and the Minister for local Government, Shelley Hancock – regarding the Araluen Road.
WHO GIVES A STUFF?
NOT ESC, NOT MINISTER SHELLEY HANCOCK
It is now abundantly clear that residents of Araluen Road must wear the cost resulting from ESC neglect.
Council cannot excuse itself from responsibility for the disastrous failures along Araluen Road. The recent bushfires and floods simply induced the inevitable, as the road has been deteriorating for years due to lack of adequate/proper repair and maintenance work.
8 months after the first landslide closed our road, and after 8 months of residents having to traverse steep rocky fire trails to get to work, shops etc, we were finally granted an audience with ESC senior management on 19 June ‘21.
The day after completion of grading and resheeting of the fire trails, ESC’s General Manager and Infrastructure Director saw fit to utilise these trails to meet with residents at our fire shed.
We explained that the use of fire trails had, and would continue to, imposed a financial burden on residents.
Due to these costs we asked the General Manager for a 12 month rates waiver for effected residents.
The GM explained that only the Local Government Minister could approve such a waiver. The Infrastructure Director volunteered to write to Minister Shelley Hancock seeking this approval.
The Director notified residents of Minister Hancock’s decision on 12th Oct(attached) – 4 months later.
Please note there is no mention of the financial impost on residents due to the road closure – it all relates to bushfire support.
As a result of Minister Hancock’s response to the Director, refusing to grant a waiver, I wrote to Minister Hancock myself seeking reconsideration of her decision.
I did this as the Director refused to provide me with a copy of the letter he had sent, and I knew he was unaware of impact the road closure was having on residents, as council kept telling us to go to the Bushfire Recovery Centre if we had problems.
(The state govt website explains that there could be 20 working day wait for responses – hence a reminder was sent.)
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2021 11:35 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Request for response to email 20/10/21
Minister Shelley Hancock, I contacted your office with the following plea for assistance on 20th Oct. I have been eagerly awaiting(as have other residents) your reconsideration of the matter for 27 working days, but have received no response. I do hope you can provide myself and fellow residents with some good news before Christmas. Regards Patricia Gardiner
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2021 7:33 PM To: email@example.com Subject: ATTENTION: The Hon. Shelley Hancock
Minister Shelley Hancock, I understand that you recently responded to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s(ESC) Infrastructure Director, Warren Sharpe, in regard to his request for a rates waiver for residents impacted by 2 landslides on Araluen Road. I have lived on Araluen Road for 41 years. My home is situated in the 20 km stretch that lies between the 2 major landslides that have closed the road.. In his advice to residents regarding your response(attached), Mr Sharpe states, ”Araluen Road residents requested Council write to the NSW Government seeking additional rates relief “beyond that already supplied by the NSW Government following the Black Summer bushfires.” This statement is incorrect. We did not seek “additional rates relief,” as many of us have not received any previous rate relief. The Black Summer rates waiver was for those who lost their homes in those fires. Those of us who were lucky enough not to lose our homes, still lost sheds, water tanks, fences etc and we did not receive a rates waiver. However, the rates waiver Araluen Road residents seek has nothing to do with the Bushfires. I am concerned about the accuracy and adequacy of the information provided to you, in order for you to understand the cause and full impact of the road failure on residents. CAUSE In all media releases and updates to residents, the Infrastructure Director, professes that the ‘2019/2020 bushfires and subsequent 6 natural disasters;(floods), were the cause of the numerous Araluen Road failures. This is a gross misrepresentation of the truth, as any long term resident can attest. In reality, the Araluen Road has been falling into a state of disrepair over the last few decades, since ESC took over responsibility for the road from the RTA. The first 28km(school bus run) is graded 2X per year, with the remaining 17km(to shire boundary) once per year. Any resilience work to repair drainage after heavy rain could be described as ‘rare to non existent’. Consequently, the road pavement and structure have continued to deteriorate over the years. Evidence of council’s totally inadequate efforts to rectify problem areas(once they appear) and hold the road together are apparent where road edges are collapsing - the use of steel droppers, thin boards and bits of weldmesh have become visible. Why they have not applied to reclassify and transfer the road to the state govt is unknown, particularly since Araluen Road is actually an ‘arterial’ road linking inland to the coast. The truth of the matter is, the floods(which were only minor to medium in nature) and bushfires simply acted as, ‘the straw that broke the camels back’ – exacerbating what was already occurring until the inevitable occurred. Council has been well aware of all the problem sites for many years – some still await for the ‘inevitable’. IMPACT ON RESIDENTS Due to the landslides the only access to Moruya or Braidwood/Canberra was via a network of steep, rugged fire trails that lead to the coast. The reason the Director was asked about a rates waiver for residents situated between the 2 landslides(20km stretch) was due to the financial impact the road closure was having. I doubt the Director elaborated on these impacts as he refused to meet with residents to discuss such matters until 8 months later, just as the grading of the fire trails was completed and he could report on the intended bypass road. The following list comprises impacts that residents have shared with each other: * wear and tear on vehicles/tyres * increased fuel consumption * some 2WD vehicles unable to cope with rough terrain * some residents too fearful of competing with log trucks, * some residents taking the risk of walking across the landslide to get to a vehicle on the other side * emergency services – 4WD ambulance had to come from Braidwood(prior to 2nd landslide) got lost * council said they would mow a few open areas for emergency helicopter landing site – didn’t happen * produce from local orchard destined for Sydney markets had to be ferried in ute loads to town, rather than truck due to load restrictions * rebuilding of homes/infrastructure stopped due to load limits for materials and access to/for tradespeople * general tradespeople refuse/reluctant to access properties via fire trails eg plumbers, electricians, deliveries etc * no access for septic pump-out truck or concrete truck due to load limits * residents needing to access Braidwood for work, school, appointments etc must travel daily via the coast – a 260km round trip rather than 80km * 3 National Park campgrounds closed – local contractor loses work * gas delivery business by resident must go via coast to deliver to other side of landslide – 63 km as opposed to dropping them off on the way to town. * one resident sacrificing 2 hour work shifts in town due to economic viability * a couple of residents staying in town during working week rather than driving in every day * one resident lost respite care - partner with dementia. This was restored after distraught carer broke down in Director’s office. * if a fire starts to the east of ‘trapped’ properties, there is no way out. * fire shed and truck between the 2 landslides – most volunteers on the other side – impacts on training, maintenance and callouts. * visits by family and friends limited due to safety concerns * social outings limited * not to mention emotional, social and psychological impact of being isolated, and a close knit community split in half There would be approximately 50 households situated between the 2 landslides. I consider it is most appropriate that these Araluen Road ratepayers receive a 12 month rates waiver due to the additional financial burden they have borne as a result of their road closure. Residents have been advised that the new bypass road around the first landslide should be completed by Christmas, nearly 14 months since the landslide. As for the 2nd landslide, we are advised that it won’t be until Christmas 2022 that access may be restored. This means that residents who have to access Braidwood/Canberra for work, school, kids sport etc will still have to travel via Moruya, Batemans Bay to Braidwood/Canberra. These ratepayers deserve a further 12 month rates waiver due to continued extra travel costs and time wasted. I appeal to you to reconsider your decision to deny a rates waiver to Araluen Road ratepayers impacted by the closure of their road. I ask this as I believe it unfair that ratepayers should be impacted financially because of ESC’s inability to finance the proper maintenance, repair and mitigation of risks along Araluen Road. I will forward this letter on to other residents and hope for a positive response which I can also share. (Also attached: 2 photos of the now graded fire trail) Yours Sincerely Patricia Gardiner
Above: Minister Shelley Hancock’s response to me Please note that to qualify for ‘rates hardship’ the applicant must reveal all their personal financial information to council. With the millions of dollars in disaster and bushfire funding being lavished on ESC, one would think there would be something in the kitty to compensate residents suffering the financial impact of council’s ‘stuff up’ of our road.
It would appear that Araluen road residents impacted by the fires and our road closure, as well as every other ratepayer still trying to recover after the fires, are an extremely low priority to our council. This is in contrast to council spending $6 million of bushfire recovery funding on a coastal walking trail and $8 million on a mountain bike trail. How can such an incongruity be applied if council wishes to, “restore confidence and strengthen resilience?” (from Eurobodalla Recovery Action Plan) NOTE: after 14 months, residents are now permitted to use the new bypass road around the 23 km landslide – purely because the Wandera fire trail collapsed. The 43 km landslide blocking access to Araluen/Braidwood/Canberra remains in situ for the foreseeable future. Council has done nothing to help people who need access to these places for school, work etc. Patricia Gardiner Deua River Valley