BUSINESS people, transport operators, local farmers and others who have suffered delays and costs because of the state of the South Gippsland Highway should not be suffering in silence.
That’s the view of Meeniyan Progress Association president, Clive Hope, who took his group’s concerns to the South Gippsland Shire Council last week.
He said the state of local roads, especially the region’s main access route, was the “burning issue” for the community at the moment which was becoming increasingly frustrated with the bureaucratic, theoretical response to a practical problem.
“I’ve got some things I’d like to say,” he told the council.
“On June 16 I wrote to Sebastian Motta, the regional manager for VicRoads, about a significantly bad pothole near Meeniyan which was so bad it was forcing cars to go on the other side of the road.
“I got a letter back dated July 19 stating that the pothole had been fixed on July 15 but as we noted at our next meeting it was already starting to break again at that point.”
Mr Hope said his group had also written to local MP Peter Ryan, the Deputy Premier, making some scathing observations about the highway and roads in general and had received a visit from VicRoads officials to explain the situation.
“We learned quite a lot about roads maintenance. The highway is inspected by VicRoads weekly and potholes of a certain depth are identified for future repair. We thought this was a very bureaucratic approach to the problem.
“Potholes not considered as being deep enough to fix are left off the list but by the time the maintenance crew turns up, they might need to be fixed but they just leave them.
“We thought there was something wrong with looking at potholes as individual issues and not looking at the condition of the road as a whole.”
Mr Hope said the group also learned that the South Gippsland Highway wasn’t of sufficiently high status to be constructed properly in the first place.
He said he suspected the road broke up as often as it did because it was constructed as a seal on a rock base, rather than having a concrete base as many of the higher ranked routes had.
“We were amazed at that such an important road was constructed to that standard.
“We also queried the engineering used to develop a water proof road that clearly wasn’t.”
Mr Hope said the RACV had identified the South Gippsland Highway as the worst highway in the state, especially from Foster to Yarram, and the Meeniyan Progress Association agrees with them.
He also raised the issue of the Blackspur bends at Koonwarra where there had been no progress made on stages 2 and 3 of the realignment project, despite it being described as a ‘shovel ready’ project.
“It’s time we forced the issue and it’s apparent that action is required at a political level.
“We need to tie in the condition of the road to the economic viability of the area and combine that issue with safety. I believe a campaign is required on a political level.
“Just completing a survey isn’t enough. I wouldn’t like people and groups to think they have done their bit by doing the survey alone.”
Mr Hope encouraged those who had been adversely impacted by the state of the South Gippsland Highway in particular to make their views known.
Cr Bob Newton agreed.
“The maintenance of the road by VicRoads is appalling. The contractors would sooner put up a sign warning drivers of the danger ahead than fix it.
“The next thing they’ll be doing is putting traffic lights up on the pot holes,” Cr Newton said.
“They are getting worse. They’re bloody appalling. How we haven’t had more fatalities especially with motorbike riders is beyond me. I did a $275 tyre in my own car recently and there are many who’ve done a lot worse.
“The cost to people in terms of loss of property and time would be enormous. They are also school bus routes too, you know. Look at that hole on the way out to Koonwarra. It is getting worse and has been there for weeks.”
Mr Hope said Peter Ryan had replied saying there was more money for road maintenance but the Opposition disagreed.
He said an extra $4.5 million for the highway would be going into roadside barriers but noted that the community would prefer to see it going into road maintenance.
Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett said the council would be doing what the Meeniyan Progress Association had suggested; encouraging others to write letters of concern or post remarks on the government’s website while promising to continue advocating on the community’s behalf.
“People power can often do things that council cannot,” he said.