'Repetitive' council emails slammed as residents still seek action 100 days after floods
Another week goes by and another Hawkesbury council email arrives for Lower Portland and Upper Colo residents with little new to say and no timetable for repairs to the flood damaged Greens Road and Upper Colo bridge.
It's been 100 days since the flood damage split two communities.
Meanwhile residents continue to drive hundreds of extra kilometres a week to get around flood damage which occurred over three months ago.
Residents point to a stark milestone - 100 days since the floods swept through and caused the major infrastructure damage.
Hawkesbury Council is only engaging with residents via weekly emails to update them on developments - rather than face-to-face meetings - a decision taken after Mayor Patrick Conolly put the email approach to a vote through a Mayoral Minute at a council meeting over a month ago.
Part of the flood-damaged Greens Road
Since then the weekly emails have disappointed and increasingly angered residents who see little or no movement to sort out their road and bridge issues.
The only obvious practical move has been to seal 700m of Wheelbarrow Ridge Road which is being used as a workaround route for Greens Rd residents – but the two damaged sections of Greens Rd have still not been repaired and three months after the flood damage, residents say there is no timetable for repairs to even start.
“Updates are repetitive,” says Greens Rd resident and local spokesperson Rochelle Miller.
“The communication is appalling.
“There’s no real movement from each week’s update and there are no short term solutions to residents’ welfare," she says.
“After 15 weeks the council update states ‘drafting a interim works plan’. The interim plan has no timeline, or not one we know of.
“One week we are being told geo tests are complete, the next week we are being told they are still engaging geo testing for further long term and short term designs. It’s basically still in planning.”
Most of the Upper Colo bridge was swept away in the March floods
And at Upper Colo where the old 1936 heritage wooden bridge was mostly washed away in the March floods there is still no news on even a temporary bridge.
Hawkesbury Council has been in talks with the Defence Department about a temporary bridge since at least the middle of June and still there is no news and no update or information about those discussions. No-one even knows if talks are still taking place, such is the lack of information given to residents.
“These [email] updates are becoming very repetitive with little to no actual information added,” says Upper Colo’s Alice Voigt who speaks for that area’s residents.
“Over 100 days and this community still has no bridge,” she says.
“Isolated families are becoming even more isolated, farmers cannot attend their cattle and support services are suffering. All we ask for is answers.”
Getting answers led Ms Voigt to Hawkesbury Council’s Facebook page where she asked some pertinent questions – they didn’t reply.
“Can council confirm if a grant application has been sent off yet for the replacement bridge?” she asked.
“Can council confirm if the surveying and geo testing has been completed on the remaining part of the bridge?
“Can council confirm if they have started communication with TRS [one of the recommended bridge builders], and at what stage this is up to?”
She has not received any answers, either via council’s social media page, or from council directly.
Over at Lower Portland, Rochelle Miller says the story is much the same.
“No timeline has been provided on the reconstruction of the road,” she says.
“Infrastructure all over NSW continues to operate despite Covid, under planned project objectives, but no commitment can be made to Greens Road by Hawkesbury City Council,” she says.
“I will highlight again - there has been a declared flood disaster with a lack of disaster response.
Five of the 12 Hawkesbury councillors have made one visit to talk to residents face-to-face
“It’s hard not to recognise that other councils in flood-affected areas have processed requests through bureaucratic levels to respond to much larger areas of landslide damage. I refer to the Oxley Highway, for example. Kilometres of passable road have been promised by the end of July and full repairs expected by September, says Paul Toole, NSW regional minister for transport and roads.
“There is 600m of damage on Greens Road. Why can’t residents receive the same kind of reassurance on time frames, or even get a time frame?”
Mrs Miller said there seemed to be no plan in place at all to relieve residents in an emergency.
“This is of great concern. And despite discussion at council meetings, northern end Greens Road residents have no bin collection at their properties and the update for the water service states ‘No further updates at this stage’. The communication is appalling.”
“People need to get on with their lives, they need to have informed knowledge on how long their livelihoods are suspended,” Mrs Miller said.
She also pointed to promises of a temporary water taxi service to get around the shattered road.
“Residents have discussed this and I’ve been told that no-one has been contacted about pick up and access points for the temporary water taxi service.
“Rate payers of Greens Road have had no passable section of road since March 22.”
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