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Peter Cormick - 22 September 2015

Peter Cormick made the following comments in the Public Access Session at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 22 September 2015.

Non-agenda item: Logging trucks on Araluen Road

1. A large sign at the Moruya end of Araluen Road advises that the road is narrow and is unsuitable for caravans, large vehicles and long loads.

2. Anyone familiar with the road needs no convincing of this advice. In places, the road is just a few metres wide and throughout much of it, with its sharp narrow bends, is cracking and crumbling away at the western edge, high above the steep drop to the river.

3. So why is it okay for logging trucks that weigh around 40 tonnes when laden, to use the road? I ask because that’s what the NSW Forestry Corporation is intending to do from October to December - day in, day out. Sustained use by trucks of that size and weight will quite clearly significantly degrade the road, including at least one timber bridge. As well, and even more importantly, such trucks substantially increase the risk of injury or death to other road users. I know a number of people who have had the frightening experience of being dangerously forced onto the edge of the river side of the road by logging trucks in the past. I too have had close shaves with these trucks. On one occasion I was forced to a complete stop on a bend, with a car behind me, when an oncoming logging truck created an impenetrable blanket of dust that removed all vision for about two minutes.

4. It is no answer for council to say that it is a public road and is therefore available to all vehicles. Yes, it is a public road but it is a local public road – under the control of council. Council has the authority to impose load limits, in the same way that a 10 tonne load limit has been placed on the road that joins Bungendore to the Federal Highway, for example. This is one way in which community assets – not to mention lives - are protected and expenses avoided.

5. The question of whether to impose a load limit on Araluen Road was addressed by council five years ago, on 12 October 2010 (at page 15 of the attached copy of the agenda), in the context of a report by the Traffic Committee to council and a deputation to the Committee by Martyn Phillips, another Araluen Road resident. In his submission to the Committee, Mr Phillips said, in part, that “Residents and other road users have for some time been very concerned about the effects of heavy vehicles on the road. There is a widely held view that the present warnings about the road’s capacity should be changed from being purely advisory to regulatory. The passage of heavy vehicles should be controlled and limited so as to improve safety for all road users, including heavy vehicle operators and reduce the damage to the road and the likelihood of further road closures”. His reference to road closures is one that councillors need to heed. You might recall that in February 2010, after heavy rain, a section of road located at about 20 km from town, fell into the river. And it was not until late in the year that residents beyond the slip could resume normal access to their homes: an inexcusably protracted delay. In the meantime residents on the wrong side of the slip had to travel a very long and tortuous route of forestry tracks to get to and from their homes. There were several medical emergencies during this period that were seriously compromised by this road closure.

6. The Maintenance Services Manager at the time addressed the Traffic Committee on the matter of the requested load limit and advised that council had “conducted an inspection of the road some time ago. As a result of this three areas of concern were identified and geo-technicians Coffeys (sic) & Partners, were engaged to inspect these sites. Coffeys (sic) did not indicate any immediate threat and suggested interim measures such as inspections and sealing in some locations”.

7. The Coffey report that the staff member referred to is attached. It is dated 9 June 2009 – a good year before the matter of a load limit came before council. At the bottom of page 7 of the report Coffey recommended that “Council should consider imposing load restrictions” on the specified sections of Araluen Road. But, according to the report of 12 October 2010 to council (Item FS10/47) the staff member made no mention of this crucially relevant information to the committee. As a result, councillors, who relied on the content of the Committee’s report, did not support Mr Phillip’s request for the imposition of a load limit on the road. Nor did a majority of councillors support a subsequent motion by Councillor Kowal, seconded by Councillor Scobie, “That Council undertake a report on the risk of heavy vehicles using Araluen Road”. Had councillors been advised of the Coffey recommendation on load restrictions, as they should have been, the outcome would very likely have been quite different.

8. Coffey also recommended a “regular monitoring program ... at a minimum of monthly, but should also include inspections following or during periods of heavy rainfall”.

Council Reply:

Further to your representations to Council in non-agenda items on 22 September and 8 December 2015, the following information is provided.

The large sign at the Moruya end of Araluen Road advising that the road is narrow and is unsuitable for caravans, large vehicles and long loads is provided to discourage drivers of such vehicles from travelling along the unsealed section of Araluen Road.

Araluen Road is suitable to take the low volume of trucks including Council’s own trucks.

Your concerns relating to use of the road by vehicles working for Forestry NSW as part of the logging operations are noted.  Council has discussed the movement of vehicles associated with the logging operation with Forestry NSW who have taken a cooperative approach.  Forestry NSW has agreed at its own volition to the following additional measures:

  • Truck movements will not take place from 7.00-9.00am and 2.00-4.00pm, to ensure that trucks and the school bus are not travelling in opposite direction whilst the school bus is doing its round.
  • Truck movements utilising Araluen Road to travel back towards Moruya will go via Larrys Mountain Road, rather than using Araluen Road from the intersection of Larrys Mountain Road back to Moruya.
  • The speed of logging trucks on Araluen Road will be voluntarily limited to a maximum of 50km/hr with drivers advised to drive to the prevailing road conditions.
  • Forestry will implement appropriate signage to advise the community and road users when operations are taking place.
  • Forestry has voluntarily decided to implement additional traffic control measures to protect road users in the form of temporary traffic lights as identified on their Traffic Management Plan.

In relation to the issues you have raised regarding the stability of the road and the report by Coffey & Partners, the following information is provided.

The two sections of the road to the west of Badgerys Creek suffered damage in the February 2010 floods and was subsequently rebuilt.

All three sections of the road continue to be monitored by our maintenance team.  These sections continue to perform satisfactorily with routine maintenance undertaken as required.

It should be noted that Council did consider imposing a load restriction on this section of road but determined that to be impractical given the number of heavy vehicles using the road is very small, any reduction in risk is insignificant, there is no practical alternative for vehicles of this kind to access most of the properties along the road.

We also considered that the heaviest vehicles using this road, are in fact vehicles that Council itself uses to move plant, equipment and materials such as gravel to undertake works to maintain Araluen Road.

The load limit was further considered by our Local Traffic Committee (LTC) again in 2010.  The LTC consists of a representative of the local Member of Parliament, Police, the Roads and Maritime Services and Council.  The Coffey & Partners report was referenced in the material provided to the Local Traffic Committee and the Committee agreed not to impose a load limit on the road.  The outcome from the LTC was subsequently reported to and endorsed by Council. Therefore we confirm that Council does not support the imposition of a load limit on Araluen Road.

Council is happy to provide you with the following information on the traffic counts for Araluen Road, but not the entire record for the shire.

  • Near I-Ridge turnoff – approx. 150vpd
  • West of Larrys Mountain Road – 95vpd
  • West of McGregors Creek – 55vpd

The traffic counts of Tilba Punkally Road (at previous end of seal, now sealed) – 260vpd.

Council has an ongoing program of works to progressively improve Araluen Road over time and this year we have allocated $168,000 for gravel resheeting and other safety improvements which will be undertaken in early 2016.

Council has also made a claim under the Natural Disaster Relief Fund for approximately a further quarter of a million dollars to rectify damage caused during the August flood event and hope to hear back on this soon so we can also instigate these repair works in 2016.

Council will continue to monitor the performance of Araluen Road and to manage the risks to the community as it does with all of its road network commensurate with the use of the road.