A BOLD new direction for the management of shire roads is anticipated in a budget proposal to come before next week’s meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council.
Council plans to redistribute funding in hand from the VicRoads Roads and Bridges Program so that the money goes to where it is needed most – road maintenance – rather than bridges. It also plans to establish additional shire depots at Tarwin Lower and Korumburra and tender out capital works to the tune of $1 million.
To underline the seriousness of the situation and emphasise Council’s determination to act, Shire Director of Infrastructure Anthony Seabrook and shire mayor Cr Warren Raabe called a special meeting with local media last Thursday.
There they explained that the recent heavy rains which have wreaked such havoc on local roads have forced the issue of prioritising works to ensure long-term benefits for road users.
Currently, they said, crews at the Leongatha and Foster depots are stretched to the limit. Capital works worth $1m will therefore be tendered out, and it is anticipated that with an additional two depots at Tarwin Lower and Korumburra quicker response times will enable issues to be dealt with immediately and fully – rather than the ‘quick fix’ knee-jerk reaction which can often necessitate further maintenance later. The additional manpower will enable road workers to take advantage of breaks of good weather, as works of this type cannot be carried out in bad weather.
Roadworks listed in the budget for the eastern part of the shire include $383,177 to be spent on Stanley Street, Toora and $530,000 allocated to Stony Creek Road, Stony Creek.
Mr Seabrook said that the recent heavy rainfall had made it apparent that there needs to be a focus on making our roads safe. Hazards such as landslips and blocked culverts need to be dealt with quickly. Eighty-six emergency call-outs were received on Monday June 4 alone, highlighting the need for drastic measures to be taken.
The mayor expressed concern about the possibility of litigation because of the dire state of some roads and said the intention of the changes to the Road Management Plan was to focus on making shire roads safe.
Cr Raabe said that Council had not been addressing these concerns as it perhaps should have. He said that due to a combination of factors works carried out on roads recently have not been as effective as they were 10 to 15 years ago.
Having to deal with so many infrastructure issues at once – from roads, paths and bridges to spraying, weed control and tree trimming – shire workers have been unable to devote an adequate amount of time to any one task and are routinely moved on to another task that demands their attention.
Cr Raabe said that a proactive approach needs to be taken, with inspection regimes and response times stepped up to reduce the incidence of issues in the first place. These measures need to be implemented in time for the summer season.
It is anticipated that a large proportion of the budget allocation will be spent on upgrading unsealed roads. Drainage issues are paramount.
Members of the press were taken on a tour to see first-hand one of the problems created by heavy rain when the ground is already saturated.
On Old Leongatha Road, it was clear that with nowhere to go due to inadequate drainage, water had accumulated and made its own course, washing away the top layer of road and exposing the underlying bedrock. Further along, the flood water had run across the road, creating another hazard. Works on culverts and inverts are integral to diverting water away. Typical for an unmade road, rocks, sediment and vegetation – including noxious weeds – need to be removed from the culverts and an area allocated for disposal identified. Disposal of the built-up material presents its own dilemma as the total amount of material to be removed is enormous indeed, and it would not be feasible to have it dumped at a transfer station.
“Residents are asked to assist by ensuring that culverts and associated drains at the entrance to their properties are also kept clear to allow the clear flow of flood water,” Cr Raabe said.