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Prioritising Community Needs Re-opening Buloke’s Closed Roads

Prioritising Community Needs Re-opening Buloke’s Closed Roads

Publish date: 28 November 2022

The Buloke community’s prioritisation for urgent assessment and emergency repairs of roads closed, due to flooding, has been paramount to Council’s flood recovery effort.
Buloke Shire Council conducted community drop-in information sessions mid-November at Birchip, Charlton, Donald, Sea Lake and Wycheproof, to outline the scale of impact and flood recovery process, and to seek local knowledge to ensure emergency mitigation measures included community needs.
Information was provided about available grants and support for affected individuals, families and businesses.
Council staff outlined the intensive process required to be eligible for government flood recovery funding, including: the principle of ‘no betterment’; and onus on rural Councils to use external contractors and to draw roadwork teams from other areas to prop-up resources.
The ‘no betterment’ ideology imposes the view that roads are to be restored to the specification they were prior to the flooding event, potentially leaving the community with inferior road assets, or assets way beyond intervention level.
The Mayor, Cr Alan Getley said it was unacceptable that roadworks would be carried out on any road and there not be an approach to achieve the best outcome for all road users to drive safely.
“It is not the best use of taxpayer’s money, as upgrades at the point of damage would otherwise negate or significantly decrease future flood related damage.
“As a rural shire it is difficult to attract external engineers and works contractors from other areas, particularly after floods where there is a significant draw on this expertise – but that is fundamentally the situation we are dealing with,” he explained.
Community members were asked to identify and highlight their preferred and alternative travel routes on individual focus maps, and what roads could be shared with neighbours to reduce impacts on other roads, while they were assessed for repair.
This included bus and essential routes needed to keep the wheels turning for businesses, including intensive industries and farmers during harvest.
Access for emergency services and impending hazards such as the need to slash roadside firebreaks (currently prohibited due to roads being closed) and other known road hazards were also noted.
After the sessions Council received numerous calls from the community who could not attend and this information was added to the list of priorities.
Council staff worked through the weekend to update and re-prioritise the closed road list ready for external engineers to undertake impact assessments the following week.
The closed road list is now over 110 roads following recent rain, requiring reassessment of some roads.
Approximately 550km of Buloke’s road network was identified by the community during the drop-in sessions as needing urgent assessment.
At close of business on Thursday, last week, 71 out of the approximately 110 closed roads identified had been inspected as part of the prioritisation strategy, covering 329km.
“Having local eyes on this has been vital to helping Council respond to community needs, given the enormity of this assessment task, and we thank the community for working so closely with us,” said the Mayor.
“We also cannot overstate how important these interventions will be in reducing the cumulative social and economic impacts on our community.”
“Seldom do we see this level of proactive consultation anywhere with regards to road traffic planning, which are usually based on objective indicators and ‘road experts’, without direct input from the affected communities.”
“It reinforces the importance of not separating the framework from community activities, and how ignorance of these matters can potentially suppress these, community safety and well-being.”
The Mayor said Council staff are also under enormous pressure.
“Council needs to do its due diligence and capture the data needed to satisfy government funding claims,” he added.
“We are asking for people not to drive around closed roads signs potentially causing thousands of dollars of damage, which we as a shire have no means to claim back funding for repair.”

Caption 1 Maps

At the drop-in sessions community members were presented with tables filled with large-scale reference maps of closed roads and road classifications (sealed, gravel, earthen), which had been prepared following initial road impact assessments of more than 90 closed roads, conducted by Council staff.

The community drop-in sessions were attended by 75 members of the community.

Donald Roads Prioritisation meetingBirchip Roads Prioritation meeting

Sea Lake Road Prioritisation MeetingCharlton Road Prioritisation Meeting 3