“If you can’t get anything done by council, you’ve got to do it yourself.”
This statement from David Ruttley is borne from frustrations over the state of the unsealed, gravel Glenthorne Road on which he resides and what residents feel is a lack of action on the part of MidCoast Council in maintaining it.
It also refers to the actions of fellow resident Chris Tate who took it upon himself to grade the road with his tractor a week before a visit from the Manning River Times.
The residents are calling for council to seal the road, citing how dangerous the road can become when the state of it deteriorates, the high traffic load it carries, the damage driving on the road is causing to vehicles, that they feel it is too dangerous to walk along the road, and the amount of dust that travels into houses and lands on freshly washed clothes on the clothesline.
Residents said the road can get so bad vehicles have lost control and ended up in a paddock or hitting a tree.
At other times vehicles travel at a couple of kilometres an hour as well as onto the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes.
Although less than three kilometres from the centre of Taree, Glenthorne Road is a rural area with traffic in addition to cars including the school bus (residents said the bus company has at different times in the past threatened to stop its run due to the state of the road), milk trucks, garbage trucks, hay trucks, produce trucks, horse floats and horse trucks.
In cases where Manning River Drive cannot be used due to a traffic matter, vehicles are detoured via Glenthorne Road.
David said that a couple of times council has repaired the road, workers filled potholes with clay, which then washes away in the rain and makes the potholes worse.
The residents said they have made numerous calls to council over the state of the road and each time are told it is on the list to be graded.
Mid Coast Council’s manager Operations North Dan Park said that based on council’s most recent assessment of Glenthorne Road, it has programmed extra gravel to be provided at the worst sections when the grading crew arrive.
“And in regards to people using their own equipment on public roads, we don’t encourage, recommend or endorse this approach. To construct a driveway, for example, which requires a landowner to work on public land, approval and a permit is required.
Mr Park said that although Glenthorne Road was due for grading, in its current condition has been assessed as being adequate to cater for vehicles driving at up to 60 km/hr, and as a gravel road, people should be driving to the prevailing conditions.
He has received six customer requests this year in relation to the poor condition of the unsealed section of Glenthorne Road, with the majority of these received in the past month.
“Council had recently completed gravel potholing activity on Glenthorne Road, which is a method to temporarily intervene in a timely manner when council can’t get its grading team on site as they are attending to higher risk roads.
“The road was last graded in September 2015, and is due again in about a month.
“It’s fair to note that progress of our grading program on all gravel roads in the network has been delayed compared with our normal rotation due to poor weather conditions. Based on our most recent assessment of Glenthorne Road, we’ve programmed extra gravel to be provided at the worst sections when the grading crew arrive.”
The MidCoast Council grading program
“Gravel roads by their very nature can often be dusty, slippery, rough, corrugated or even potholed,” said Mid Coast Council’s manager Operations North Dan Park.
“Without doubt the best solution to these problems would be to seal the most problematic sections, but of course this would require an injection of capital funds.
“With a network of over 1800kms of unsealed roads across the MidCoast Council region, all requiring attention when subjected to inclement weather, a risk-based approach is the only cost effective way to provide maintenance and that’s what we do.
“What that means is that our gravel roads are assessed individually and prioritised on a needs basis (eg traffic volumes) across the entire network, within the available budget.
“There are three levels of attention a gravel road may receive.
“For maintenance (ie grading) priority is based on a combination of a) our cyclical program, and b) needs assessment based on customer requests.
“Consideration for renewal (ie gravel resheet), or upgrade (ie seal a gravel road) is only ever based on critical needs assessment, given the former Greater Taree City Council’s philosophy was to “look after what we have”.
“This philosophy may differ as we move forward under the MidCoast banner, but for roads currently in the GTCC maintenance program, upgrade of gravel roads would be unlikely unless the works were funded by development.
“For the financial year 2016/17 there are no planned gravel road upgrades within the former GTCC area, though we understand Gloucester Shire Council and Great Lakes Council have undertaken limited upgrades, concentrated on higher use gravel roads.
“MidCoast Council will be harmonising its approach (and funding) in its forward Capital Works Program, part of next year’s Operational Plan development,” said Mr Park.