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Council pleads — stay off closed roads

River Road has been washed away at the Billabong near North Bourke twice this year. Photo Twh

Tricia Duffield

One of the biggest impacts of the relentless rain over the region has been the road damage, with the Bourke Council counting the cost of repairs.

Like most other rural councils, the bill is yet to be determined but with every new rainfall event, that cost goes up.

To make matters worse, drivers are still disregarding road closure signs, particularly on unsealed roads and Bourke Shire Council General Manager, Leonie Brown, is pleading with visitors and residents to avoid further damaging vital infrastructure.

“It’s been very difficult maintaining our roads with the recent rain, and the drought before that leaving many of them in a state of disrepair,” Mrs Brown said.

“We hear it from businesses and other road users that the roads need more care and Council is aware of the problems, but there is a limited bucket of money for that.

“We do have flood recovery money but there will be a lot of work for Council when things dry out.

“We also have an issue where Google Maps is sending people onto closed roads so my advice to travellers is, don’t use that app but call Council or check our website where we have notices out on what roads are closed.

“It’s important not just to reduce damage to the roads but so that people don’t get stuck on a closed rural road and need help getting out,” Mrs Brown said.

The situation regarding closures is regularly addressed by the Local Emergency Management Committee, which has been meeting twice a week to get the latest data on damage across the shire and how best to respond, as the Darling River rise above 12.5 metres.

The committee is made up of representatives from the State Emergency Service, NSW Police, Council, Regional NSW, and Local Lands Services.

Meanwhile, there have been calls for police to impose penalties on anyone using a closed road, but Member for Barwon Roy Butler says the issue is more complex than it first appears.

“It’s a tough question when people live on these unsealed roads and need them for access to get food and supplies and for animal welfare,” Mr Butler said.

“People who should be using them are only those who have no other choice, not for recreational purposes and in that instance perhaps that should not incur a penalty.

“Councils are looking at a massive amount of work to restore damage and with repeat floods there are concerns about costs, equipment, and the availability of work crews.

“But there are situations which make it more complicated - if sheep producers must get lambs off for example.

“If they don’t get them off at the right time it can be a cost of $20,000 per load so you can understand why they would make that choice rather than wait - it’s a complex and vexed question.

“There is now real time traffic information for our region with the Live Traffic NSW website now operating, but it has hits and misses and is sometimes it’s not updated for 12 hours, so if the data is there and refreshed regularly, it’s a positive step.

“But any system is only as good as the data, so we need to make sure we get the maximum value from that app and fingers crossed, that’s what it delivers.

“My advice is that you are better off calling police for the latest information,” Mr Butler said.


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