• Tony Bosworth

Anger at Lower Portland as residents struggle around road damaged by floods nine weeks ago

No timescale for repairs from Hawkesbury Council - locals say suggested workarounds ignored or dismissed

Over two months after the damaging floods hit them, Lower Portland residents are getting increasingly frustrated and angry at what they see as Hawkesbury Council dragging its feet over repairs to Greens Road.

Residents say the council are not giving any official timeline for repairs, and meanwhile the only detour is dangerous, dusty, and substantially extends driving times, putting locals and their families at risk.

Rochelle Miller, who lives on Greens Road has become the de facto spokesperson for the isolated community and organised a meeting on Monday which saw 30 residents and landowners come along to ask what exactly is being done and where Mrs Miller said they expressed their frustration.

The only alternative route is this - as many as 80 trucks and family vehicles jostle for room daily

The problem centres around two sections of Greens Road, damaged over two months ago when flood waters roared through the area. One part of the road is closed and just half of the roadway can be used in another section, but with a five tonne limit.

At the Monday meeting, solutions to the community’s situation were put forward by residents, Mrs Miller said.

“Residents were willing to let council excavate a road pass into private property on the first damaged section of road while repairs are done. Council have not approached the resident to do so.”

Since the road damage just over two months ago, Hawkesbury Council has been carrying out geo-tech surveys and yet aside from initial social media mentions by council on April 22 and May 13 outlining the issues, very little real information has been received or properly communicated, says Mrs Miller

“We have all sent emails to the council asking for action and asking what is happening and they have not provided anything of real substance,” Mrs Miller told the Post.

“I have met with the Mayor and offered solutions to support residents but have had no official information of how those requests are being processed.

The flood damaged Greens Road

“Residents pay rates for council to provide us with a road and services, such as bins. Yet we don’t have a useable road or bin collection from our properties, or any resolution. We are trying to work with our council but feel disconnected,” Mrs Miller said today – Thursday.

“We have had one meeting with council, and only councillors Danielle Wheeler, Mary Lyons-Buckett and Sarah Richards have checked in with me via email, concerned with residents’ welfare, but able to offer no solution to the situations we are experiencing,” Mrs Miller said.

“There should be teams of people working on this, getting this road open. There has been a flood they can’t control but they have an obligation at local government level to respond,

which is listed in the NSW response plan. State emergency funding was confirmed by the Mayor in our meeting to be readily available, why are they not creating a passable thoroughfare for residents now?”

Locals are forced to use this route, sharing with large trucks and semi-trailers. As night falls it is even more dangerous for drivers, which often include mothers with young children

Mrs Miller included all local, state and federal representatives in her communication and has been in touch with Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, who has agreed to meet with residents this coming weekend.

Mrs Miller said she also had a phone conversation with Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, but she says although supportive, what the community needs is action now.

Because of the road closure, residents are having to use unsealed Wheelbarrow Ridge track, a state forest trail which is seeing around 80 extra vehicles a day kicking up constant dust, getting into homes and making residents’ water supplies unusable.

“People living on Wheelbarrow Ridge Road are not getting support, they are literally being poisoned ” Mrs Miller said. “No one is addressing this concern with us.

“There is a type of oily dust in their gutters and water supplies as traffic passes, which includes double laden trucks, school buses and even semi-trailers.”

A 25 minute journey to Ebenezer is now a 60 minute trek over the rough forest trail which Mrs Miller says has seen several cracked windscreens and other damage to locals’ vehicles.

Wheelbarrow Ridge track is not in good condition but is the only useable route

“They have been grading the Wheelbarrow Ridge Track but it is still an unsafe, daily transit, especially in the dark and with wildlife,” Mrs Miller says.

“I’m concerned for my husband who leaves in the early hours and he is extremely concerned about the kids and I.”

She says there has also been a big hit to the local tourism industry which many residents depend on through local hotels and Airbnb holiday rentals, and she said the lack of visitors was having a knock-on effect on local employment too.

Mrs Miller says teams of people should be working on making Greens Road safe, at least by cutting the road back into the hillside as a temporary fix.

She points to a council sign put there in 2017 warning a compaction roller should not be run on the road, which she says means the local government body has known about the road’s potential weakness for over four years, well before the floods came along.

“We are paying rates for roads we cannot use. They [council] have to provide, they are obliged to provide, a road for emergency services.

"We have very sick people, heavy asthmatics living in the area, for example, and emergency services cannot get here quickly. It is literally life or death.

“We are not getting a bin service either. We have to take the bins to Colo Bridge – the council will not come and get them, so there’s 40 bins sitting in a row, it is a health and environmental issue.

“Hawkesbury Council have made no short term plan of assistance for Greens Road residents, other than grading Wheelbarrow Ridge Track,” Mrs Miller says.

“I have met with the mayor, infrastructure and roads manager Jeff Organ and councillor Richards and they clearly stated there was no further announcements on a commencement date for repairs, a estimated execution time for repairs and no short term plan to assist was provided.

“We have requested State Emergency Funding (SEF) to provide a two coat seal for a safer transit on Wheelbarrow Ridge Track and Wheelbarrow Ridge Road. The damage to our vehicles is irreversible. This has publicly been knocked back on the Hawkesbury City Council Facebook page.

“We have also asked for SEF to operate a water taxi/barge for students to get to public transport, workers to their vehicles and tourists to their venues to help ease the transit situation and get businesses running again. No response on how this request has been processed has been received.

“We requested the council pick up our garbage bins from our properties or a closer collection point, but that’s been denied by [Council] waste management.

“Elderly residents past the closure currently cannot get water haulage and one family has a daughter living elsewhere on lung dialysis treatment due to the lack of emergency response access. We don’t want to see families separated.

“The flood may have passed but Greens Road and Wheelbarrow Ridge Road residents need basic services and safety services provided. Our lifestyles need to be considered during this difficult recovery period. We understand this is a timely repair, but there is no short term assistance.”

Below are copies of Hawkesbury Council’s two Facebook posts, the only known source of information for residents.

There have been no media releases, updates or information given to media about the Greens Road situation.

Council Recovery update – May 3

The preliminary geotechnical site investigation phase of the project commenced last week and will be ongoing over the next two weeks.

Part of this phase is to undertake a detailed survey of the site which will be undertaken using a drone (UAV Lidar) to survey not only the surface details but also the shape of the ground below the waterline.

The outcomes from this investigation will be used to formulate testing and assessment strategies to undertake the next phase which is the detailed site investigation.

The detailed site investigation may include further exploration of the ground below the surface which will be used to provide strategies for remedial option works.

We will continue to update the community as new information is available.

Council Recovery update – May 13 - Due to inclement weather over the last week, the survey component of the geotechnical site investigation was delayed and commenced on Tuesday 11 May and will continue over the coming days.

Priority sites have been identified for the survey component in the worst affected parts of the road and the site investigation will include further exploration of the ground below the surface and underwater. This will capture imagery that can be used to provide strategies for remedial works. We will continue to update the community as new information is available.

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