THE $50 million realignment of the South Gippsland Highway between Koonwarra and Meeniyan has hit a hurdle, with cultural heritage investigations uncovering more than what was bargained for.
Part of the site identified for the new section of highway – the Black Spur bypass – has been identified as of culturally high significance.
It will mean extra care and remedial works will be required at the site according to VicRoads Project Delivery manager David Gellion.
“It’s not surprising as we are working next to a river,” he said.
“Some artefacts that have been found are estimated to be 1000 years old.”
Mr Gellion said VicRoads has been working closely with Aboriginal Victoria and indigenous groups in the early stages of the project which has involved geological studies.
“There will be a large cutting so we’re studying the rocks and the fault-lines of the area.”
The area is known for its prehistoric fossils, but as yet, none have been spotted.
“(The potential location of fossils) was one of the key issues early on but a couple of other issues are in front of it now,” Mr Gellion said.
“The cultural heritage significance is bigger than we envisaged.”
The site is also home to a thriving population of Strzelecki Gums that will require extra attention.
It will mean more retaining walls will be put in place and Mr Gellion said VicRoads would also be pleased to be involved in a community education program on the species.
“About 50 years ago from aerial shots we’ve seen, there were hardly any trees in this area but they’ve regenerated very well.”
A small native fish known as the grayling is also present in the Tarwin River. This will mean further controls will be put in place when crews are working near the river.
The result is that works on the ground which were scheduled to begin mid year will be pushed back towards the summer.
The project is set to take three years to complete.
Mr Gellion said VicRoads would work closely with the rail trail committee of management and the Nerrena Landcare Group.
Three rail trail underpasses are part of the plans while significant replanting projects will be required.
Cr Lorraine Brunt said she hoped the process would be smooth from now on.
“We know the importance of this project and hope there are not too many more obstacles.
“I’m impressed with the amount of work that has already gone into the studies of the area. You seem to have covered everything.”