GRIGGS Road, Hallston will be repaired in six to eight months following the declaration of a natural disaster.
Although Griggs Road is South Gippsland Shire Council’s highest priority for landslip repair, council has confirmed the slip section will remain completely closed to traffic and an alternative route which would cut the length of the detour around the landslip was not an option.
South Gippsland Shire Council acting chief executive Bryan Sword said council had been evaluating or trying to identify possible temporary routes through private property.
“At this point they are not feasible or are unable to be secured,” he said.
The original estimate of one to two years to repair the slip angered concerned local residents who face extra travel times of more than an hour to detour around the closed section of road, however, South Gippsland Shire Council reined in the repair timeline last week.
Council received a geo-technical analysis on Friday which Mr Sword said would “inform the design for how we reconstruct that road [and] what the options or alternatives might be for reopening that bit of Griggs Road.”
“Is there an option to extract water out of the slip above, take some weight out of the slip, is there an ability to secure it? These are all the things that the geo-technical analysis will tell us.
“It’s going to be pretty technical from a specification, technical engineering point of view.”
The state government declaration means the costs of repairing the Griggs Road landslip and others across South Gippsland Shire caused by a storm event in August will be covered by the Commonwealth’s disaster recovery funding arrangements.
“There are other associated costs that council absorbs as part of this process that aren’t recoverable at all and that’s just a reality of dealing with natural disaster,” Mr Sword said.
He added the Griggs Road repair was council’s priority.
“At this stage, I am optimistic that we can get Griggs Road repaired and completely re-opened in the next six to eight months.
“I understand that the closure is a significant inconvenience and that up to eight months is still a long time, but it is better than our original estimate of 12 months.”
More than 30 people attended a hastily convened public meeting at the Hallston Hall last Wednesday where residents shared their concerns about the impact of the road closure.
One couple spoke about having to turn down removal and gardening jobs because they had to store their truck in Leongatha while another woman told how she was delivering milk to a neighbour.
Residents were angry the slip section was apparently completely closed to all traffic just hours before the meeting, however, Mr Sword said the slip section had always been fully closed.
According to Mr Sword, ‘local traffic only’ signs erected immediately following the landslip applied to the section of road between signs notifying of the closure ahead and the actual slip.
“One of the main reasons we needed to put local traffic only signs was from Australia Post. They wouldn’t deliver unless it had that but the signs clearly stated the road was clearly closed,” Mr Sword said.
“I’ve got a responsibility and onus to do everything in my capability to ensure that life is preserved.
“We’re not in a position to say it is safe to traverse that part of the road that is left so I must prioritise safety over convenience.”
Mr Sword said council would write to affected residents again this week and look into more immediate ways to communicate such as setting up a web page or Facebook page.
He also promised to meet individually with residents if requested.
“In the absence of information, people assume we’re doing nothing, which isn’t the case, but it’s highly distressing being in the situation that they’re in.”
Mr Sword also addressed community concerns about emergency access, saying all emergency services had been notified of the closure and alternative access.
Farmers and other business operators are unlikely to recoup lost costs through insurance.
The Insurance Council of Australia said interruption to business by landslip would not normally be covered by a business interruption policy and a specific policy that covered for loss of access or road closures was available but rarely purchased.