Greens Road residents blast Hawkesbury Council over "beyond comprehension" response on road repairs
The road was closed after 10mm of rain fell
Lower Portland’s Greens Rd residents have suffered more than 8 months without a proper road after floodwaters ripped two sections of their main road clean away.
Since then Hawkesbury Council – led by Liberal Mayor Patrick Conolly - has been in charge of repairs and it has proved an extremely slow process, with the closed road putting daily - and rising - mental health and cost pressures on locals.
The despair amongst residents is clear. One resident, Charlene Manson, said on the area’s Facebook page this week, “I have no more words left. It somehow is just falling on deaf ears. They (Council) flit around the area doing photo shoots to look good, forgetting the disasters they have in the area to fix which we pay them to do.”
Given it’s election time – the local council poll is on December 4 – all councillors and aspiring councillors are boosting their presence on social media with numerous pictures of them out and about or at events, and making myriad promises – ironically often about repairing the region’s roads.
Another Greens Rd resident, Karen Crook, said, “Appalling behaviour from HCC [Hawkesbury City Council]. I was explaining to a River Rd resident last night about the Greens Rd situation and lack of response from HCC and couldn’t find the right words to express to this person how we actually feel. The entire situation and how council has dealt with it is beyond comprehension.”
A forest trail – Wheelbarrow Ridge Road which locals have said is dangerous and in poor condition, is the residents’ only lengthy workaround route.
The timetable for permanent repairs to Greens Road certainly stretches out. Full repairs to the so-called site 2 will not start properly until at least February next year and according to the council will take between 3 to 4 months to complete – so around June-July 2022 before that stretch of road may reopen properly.
No, not Greens Rd, but rather how the Japanese handled a similar situation - a new temporary road was put in, and the whole project was completed within 2 months....
“The council elections have already started and I have not found any standing councillor that has any interest in the dangerous conditions Greens Road residents are facing every day,” resident and local business owner Jeff Davis said on Lower Portland’s Facebook page this morning.
Mr Davis told the Post he’s been paying $100 a week to park his truck on someone else’s property – he can’t reach his own Greens Road property with his truck because of weight limits on the damaged road - and says he will have to pay another $200 per week to leave his trailers there too. He is already thousands of dollars out of pocket because of this arrangement.
“With having my machines off site means I have to travel an extra two hours each day just to get a machine and come back to the area to carry out my trade,” he says.
He is not the first to raise these concerns. Local Rochelle Miller has been leading the fight to get some action since the road sections were destroyed. While the Council has made some progress – with some temporary access over sections of the patched up road - locals cannot believe their road is still not repaired.
“Maybe they should look at getting a road building company that can repair a road properly in the first place,” says Mr Davis.
He is calling on all residents to think very carefully before placing their vote at the local council election on December 4.
“As I see it the majority of sitting councillors are not for a progressive Hawkesbury area but a regressive Hawkesbury district,” says Mr Davis.
“Can anyone reading this give me a person or group that will work for the Hawkesbury residents rather than be a mouth piece for a political party or a minority group?” he asks.
“I know this is a big ask, as to find such people you would have to be some sort of genius!”
Repairs have been made to make the road useable, but 10mm of rain is enough to get it closed once again
He also points to a post from aspiring council candidates Les Sheather and Warwick Mackay who have put a growing number of their own election Facebook posts up - the latest saying they will take action on poorly maintained Hawkesbury roads. In the picture on their social media post, the pair have a ladder and Mr Sheather has a sledge-hammer resting on his shoulder. It’s not clear how they would use either of those implements to repair potholes.
“There is a post come up regards two independents [Sheather and Mackay] going on about King and Sackville road pot holes,” says Mr Davis.
“Maybe they should drive along Greens Road and see which is in more urgent need of repair? No way, not enough votes for them in our area, let’s keep repairing King and Sackville road that has had more road works than most roads in the area and still stuffed!
“Come on people don't just give your vote away because a serving councillor decides to put a post on your Facebook site, look at their true motives and if they have done anything for the area while they have been on council.”
Ms Miller says, “the residents of Greens Road are essentially still living with flood. The road needs to be reconstructed now.”
This last week, Site 2 has been completely closed - it provides a temporary access point at the moment - because at least 10mm of rain fell. According to an email to residents from Council on November 10, “until permanent repairs are completed Site 2 will be subject to closure whenever 10mm of rain is recorded within a 24 hour time period”.
Ms Miller makes the point, "we don’t receive emails to say it is shut until after 9am, when the [Council] communications team get to work. Greens Road residents by then have already left to start their days.
"It is hard to see how it has been compromised at all to be shut. The question here is it’s either safe or it’s not and a rain gauge doesn't tell you that.
“Diverted trips, planning alternatives, and stocking essentials for being isolated, that’s what we face every day,” Ms Miller said.
“Land owners prepare the best they can to live the river lifestyle. Council are responsible, in this case, for the road. The lack of proactive planning demonstrated thus far is not an adequate response to a flood disaster.
“Get on with it council, this is people’s lives you are messing with while you drag your feet.”
A group of Hawkesbury councillors did visit the site back in June, and there have also been visits from our two local MPs, Labor’s federal member Susan Templeman and Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston.
Councillors who have visited are independent councillor and Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett, Greens’ Danielle Wheeler, independent John Ross and Liberals Patrick Conolly and Sarah Richards.
“Some of us have been advocating strongly,” says Cllr Lyons-Buckett.
“Cllr Wheeler and myself have been there several times, not only driving the track but visiting impacted residents and hearing what was needed.
“We have on multiple occasions in [council] meetings pushed for solutions around the road rebuild, temporary solutions, having garbage collection for all – that hasn’t happened which is disappointing but not through lack of trying.
“I have not been included or invited to any meetings about it by the Mayor and staff to discuss it so I, and some other councillors, don’t necessarily have all the knowledge of why delays have occurred.
“We met with the community a few times - in person and online - and promises were made. The community’s questions were clear.
"I understand the complexities of the road reconstruction and that it takes time, but there seemed to be a very long delay in getting to the stage of even having a design - I don’t really know why that took so long - and the initial delay has now expanded into a lengthy timeline before those residents will have suitable access.
“The issues aren’t fixed, and they should be and they should have had temporary solutions such as river access, but that was not supported by the State. They have been left disadvantaged and isolated and I feel their pain.”
Ms Miller says to her knowledge only one MP, Ms Templeman, and two councillors, Cllr Lyons-Buckett and Cllr Wheeler, have taken the Wheelbarrow Ridge detour to find out what it is like for residents to travel that way every day.
The Council expects State funding to be available for the permanent repairs but it appears that process is waiting on “procurement costs from local government” – in other words Council supplying a quote for the work, which still hasn’t happened.
If you are already a Hawkesbury Post supporter, thank you! Our site is free, relying on our supporters to operate. Independent journalism is more important than ever, please consider contributing.
Don't pay so you can read it. Pay so everybody can read it!