Article by: Hari Yellina
Farmers in New South Wales are calling for action to repair flood-damaged roads, with some areas of the state still cut off. Sandra Mitchell and her husband Steven live on the mid-north coast of NSW, between the small towns of Armidale and Kempsey. However, they are unable to go in either direction for even more than eight hours each day due to road damage and roadworks. This isn’t the first time they’ve been separated from their friends. Due to bushfires in November 2019, the pair was shut off in both directions for six weeks, and then again in early 2020 due to floods. “It’s been disaster after disaster after disaster,” Ms Mitchell said. “Now we’ve achieved a solid season but we can’t even access anything.”
She claims the “hazardous” route between Kempsey and Armidale has been in disarray for some years, having been downgraded from a regional to a local road in 2009. The Kempsey-Armidale Rd “would be re-classified as a State Road under a re-elected NSW Nationals and Liberals Government,” then-roads minister Melinda Pavey assured local residents in a letter before the 2019 state election. However, the regional Armidale Council is still responsible for the roadworks, which are anticipated to be completed in early May. Since November 2020, the council claims it has spent over than a million dollars enhancing the road’s safety grade, with additional gravel re-sheeting finished in April 2021.
Ms Mitchell claims that even when the route is open, it is dangerous for the 40 or so households that use it on a regular basis, particularly after rain. “Year after year, it’s degraded to the point where it’s collapsing into the river,” she says AAP. Regional roadways have been heavily affected in the north of the state, according to Xavier Martin of NSW Farmers, with roadways forcefully undermined in some parts. While the Armidale-Kempsey route is “a standout,” Mr Martin believes there are numerous others in regional NSW that have been impacted. “Many regional and rural routes are either closed or severely damaged, making them unfit for purpose and causing car damage,” he told the Associated Press.
“Recent flooding and extremely heavy rainfall have resulted in craters all over the area.” Farmers in NSW are applauding the NSW and federal governments’ repeated promise this week to invest $312 million in restoring and strengthening roads in the state’s north, which has been ravaged by severe flooding. It’s unclear whether this money will go toward the Armidale-Kempsey highway. Mr Martin, though, believes that more steps need to be taken, and that financing alone will not be sufficient to rebuild flood-damaged roads. Ms Mitchell claims that a 4.3 tonne load limit has drove agricultural and tourists out of the area, and that emergency services are refusing to come to her home.
“Police won’t come; during the previous flood, I called the SES because my horses were caught on a flood zone, and they essentially stated, ‘we can’t come, the route is closed.'” “We’ve had farmers who are going to be overstocked this winter as they couldn’t even get their cattle to the market, so they’ll have to feed them all winter and won’t be able to acquire feed.” “We’ve had all these promises for years and no work has been done in the interim, the rain has arrived, and it’s sweeping our road into the river.”