HOLIDAYMAKERS visiting the Corner Inlet district face an extra challenge this summer – negotiating the numerous potholes on the roads.
It is a challenge locals have been up against for more months than they care to count, with the Promontory Road at Yanakie and the road between Meeniyan and Fish Creek especially hazardous.
Mike Heal, proprietor of the Yanakie General Store, is hopping mad about the state of the roads, and he says the holidaymakers who stop off at his store en route to Wilsons Promontory National Park are, too.
“The most common question we used to field here was ‘Where are your toilets?’ Now it’s ‘What’s going on with the roads?’” said Mr Heal.
He said he can’t understand how VicRoads can let the main route between Meeniyan and the Prom, which takes a huge amount of traffic over the summer, deteriorate to such a low standard at this time of year.
“Why are our roads left like this knowing that we’re coming into our peak holiday season?!” he exclaimed.
Some potholes require drivers to steer onto the other side of the road. In some particularly severe cases – there is an absolute doozy a few kilometres north of Yanakie township – drivers are forced off the bitumen entirely, with a warning sign the only protection from a cavernous pothole.
Much of the holiday traffic consists of drivers towing caravans and boats. For these drivers it is all the more difficult to run the gauntlet of potholes.
Mr Heal said that he knew of at least one driver whose boat sustained a shattered windscreen after it was towed through an especially bumpy pothole.
“In all my years here – and I’ve been at Yanakie for 26 years – I have never seen our roads left in such a poor condition in the lead-up to the peak summer holiday season,” he said.
Foster police sergeant Neil Coates said he shared Mr Heal’s concerns. He also pointed out the potential the potholes pose for accidents.
“The state of some sections of our roads is a disgrace and in my opinion poses a danger to unsuspecting road users, even though they are signposted with reduced speed limits,” he said. “You have to remember that at this time of year we have a huge influx of international tourists who may not be fully conversant with road regulations and signage.”
Sgt Coates said that photographs of the hole in the Promontory Road near Adams Road at Yanakie were emailed to VicRoads a week before Christmas with a request for urgent repairs. “To this date unfortunately nothing has been done,” he said.
‘The Mirror’ asked VicRoads when the Corner Inlet district can expect to see the roads managed by the road authority repaired. VicRoads Acting Regional Director Michael McCarthy responded:
“Three sections of the South Gippsland Highway will undergo longer term repair works in the Gelliondale area, as well as a 680 metre section near Ewans Road, west of Welshpool.
“A 2.54 kilometre section of the Meeniyan-Promontory Road near Yanakie will also undergo repairs.
“These works are expected to be completed in coming months and will strengthen the road as well as improve ride quality.”
This does not appear to include all the troublespots and it is unlikely to be much comfort to the many drivers whose vehicles have already come to grief. Clint Hilder, proprietor of Foster Tyres and Service Centre, has met several of these unfortunate drivers. They have fronted his workshop with popped tyres, buckled and smashed rims, and suspension damage, including ruined shock absorbers. This year he has seen more cases of damage as a result of the rotten roads than ever before. He estimated the number of cases to have risen threefold to one or two pothole-damaged vehicles every week.
“There have been some pretty cranky customers,” he said. “Ninety per cent of them have done the damage on sealed roads in the region.”