Residents plea for action

By Kirra Grimes

BENA residents are frustrated with the South Gippsland Shire Council’s “slow progress” in addressing safety concerns on a now notorious stretch of Bena-Kongwak Road, saying lives are being put at risk with each day that goes by.
Council engineers, in conjunction with Bass Coast Highway Patrol, recently carried out an inspection of the straight between Fitzgeralds Road and Jeetho West Road, following a serious accident there in May in which a B-double carrying a load of hay ended up sideways in a drain, taking a power pole down with it.
It was the second serious truck crash at the site within the space of a few months, and police found that the truck driver was not at fault, but merely the victim of poor road design.
Pressured to act by mounting community concerns over recurrent accidents, Council has now acknowledged that this section of road will “likely” need to be widened and the drains running alongside it relocated, as the inspection confirmed “that a section of the sealed road surface narrows slightly through this area and the shoulder in front of the drain is also narrow,” according to Council’s Manager of Infrastructure Delivery, John Moylan.
But exactly when these works might take place remains up in the air, with a detailed design and costings yet to be completed.
When these are completed, they’ll be presented for budget consideration, but that could be years off, with Mr Moylan telling the Sentinel-Times last week: “It is not possible to predict what year’s budget will fund the works until the works are fully designed and costed and the administrators make a decision when the works can be funded, taking into account other demands on the budget.”
With the 2019/20 budget expected to be approved at the next council meeting, on July 24, it’s likely that any major works on Bena-Kongwak Road won’t be considered until mid-next year at the earliest. In the meantime, temporary warning signs along with more permanent cross winds and narrow road signs are in place, along with a temporary reduced speed limit of 60km/h through the site.
But Coral Haw and fellow Bena-Kongwak Road residents say that’s just not good enough.
“I’m absolutely disgusted with the time it’s taken them to do something,” Ms Haw said, describing the Council as “negligent”.
“Someone’s going to get killed. It’s only a matter of time,” she said.
Ms Haw is particularly close to the issue as both of the recent truck accidents happened at the entrance to her property.
Visibility is particularly poor for road users as they approach Ms Haw’s driveway, which sits at the crest of a hill, and the issue is compounded by thick fog that regularly envelops the area, she says.
“What if we’re poking our nose out of our driveway when the next crash happens? That’s what worries me,” Ms Haw said.
“I would just hate for anyone to be hurt.
“My seven-year-old grandson gets off the bus at our driveway every night – the same spot a B-double brought down a power pole!”
Ms Haw estimates in the 34 years she and her husband have lived on Bena-Kongwak Road, they’ve pulled 10-15 vehicles out of the deep roadside drains and have seen several other accidents where “people have been able to get themselves out”.
She says accidents are still occurring despite Council’s recently installed signage, with the latest one just last Monday, July 1.
“Traffic is not travelling at 60km/h, and the signs have fallen over multiple times,” she said.
“I’ve rung the Council; my husband’s rung; our neighbours have rung; and our phone calls have been ignored.
“I think they think I’m being a nuisance, but I only have road users and families’ safety at heart. I just want the road fixed.”