After further conversations with the community and taking the highly unusual step of consulting with all candidates standing in this election, I’ve summarised a fresh approach that is needed to address the road safety hazards in the Roughead Street intersection area.

Even though the western section of the GSRT is not yet officially opened, in my conversations with so many during this election campaign, the problems of Kamikaze Corner – Leongatha’s Roughead Street intersection area – have been raised time and time again.

Readers will remember that the Friends of the GSRT recently submitted a petition signed by over 900 people at the Administrators’ last meeting.

Danny O’Brien, the local Member, has formed his own “solution” which he is now championing in Parliament.

So far, these well-intentioned efforts have not elevated the safety hazards in Kamikaze Corner for the specific attention of the two Victorian Ministers who have direct responsibility: the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and the Minister for Regional Development.

There are so many different opinions about how to “solve the problem”, but really when you delve into it, there are quite a few problems here; and there has been a very long history of ad hoc funding and changes that have led to the current hazardous state of the Roughead Street Intersection Area and channelled heavy vehicle traffic through the heart of Leongatha.

Given that there are many problems to fix in the Roughead Street intersection area, the short and long-term solution/s are also likely to need a multi-layered approach:
1. Newly elected councillors need to be urgently and fully briefed about the problems in the Roughead Street intersection area, about council’s and VicRoads’ work programs; about the project scope and obligations under various state and federal funds underway and newly secured for South Gippsland; and about the shire’s efforts to date in advocating on behalf of the community for their wellbeing now and in the future.
2. Newly elected councillors will need to take a helicopter view of complex problems such as Kamikaze Corner and reframe the narrative.

The type of dialogue that is needed is not suited to the motion-driven, constrained debate of a formal council meeting.

Rather, a strategic view is needed by council, with some open-ended dialogue that is more exploratory, inquisitive and takes a fresh approach to listening to both the public and the professionals.

So, perhaps a panel hearing approach might be adopted by the new council, to help councillors and professionals to listen, deliberate with open-minds, and, giving careful attention to budgets and duties of care, find solutions that do not create more problems than they solve.

3. That’s all good, but community safety is at risk right now, and the problem will grow as pandemic lockdowns lift.

So, a long-drawn-out process is inadequate.

An immediate advocacy the newly elected council can take is to draw the safety issues in the Roughead Street intersection area to the attention of the Minister for Regional Development and the Minister for Roads and Road Safety and advocate for VicRoads to immediately change the speed limits for all traffic in the heart of Leongatha to 40km/h (retaining the 20km left hand bend restriction at Roughead Street) and install much more extensive and better placed directional signage.

Slower speed limits and clearer road traffic directions is a low cost-immediate action that can vastly help reduce safety hazards while effective longer-term solutions can be found.

Rosemary Cousin, Tarwin Valley Ward candidate endorsed by the Greens, Allambee South.