13 September, 2022
Missing link in road to prosperity
CHILLAGOE is being held back because of a failure of the State Government to seal the final few kilometres of the Burke Development Road, according to some of the town’s tourist and accommodation operators.
Main Roads is currently sealing a 2.5km and a 5km section of the road between Almaden and Chillagoe but as yet has no plans to seal the final 3.5km of dirt road, frustrating business operators who say the town is missing out on critical visitation.
“We have people calling us up and asking whether the road is sealed and when we tell them part of it is dirt, it’s off-putting to them and they decide not to come to Chillagoe,” Chillagoe Observatory and Eco Lodge owner Ian Porter said.
“The classic car club won’t come out here because the risk to their vehicles, the bike groups won’t come and people who hire cars can often not come because they can’t drive them on dirt roads.
“We are just frustrated because Main Roads set up all the worksite and camp, bring all the machinery out here and all the workers, then why don’t they finish the job instead of having coming back to do such a small section?”
Mr Porter has been operating a daily bus service into Mareeba for the past 18 years and his own vehicles regularly become a victim of the road’s condition.
“The amount of damage to these vehicles over the years has been incredible,” he said.
“For example, some years ago, we had to replace three tyres because of a large pothole in the middle of the road.”
Chillagoe Cabins and Tours owner Wendy Wagner says when prospective visitors discover that part of the road has not been sealed, “it puts the fear of God into them”.
“There’s lot of people moving around the country right now including seniors and a lot of young people but when they find out there is a dirt road they actually get scared about driving on that,” she said.
“Many people have never even driven on a dirt road before and sometimes they don’t know how to handle corrugation and they fear what it will do to their vehicles.”
She said broken windscreens, damage to paintwork and to the undercarriage of vehicles were valid concerns of people travelling in expensive motorhomes or towing a caravan.
“Some say to us ‘we would love to come to Chillagoe but not on a dirt road,” Ms Wagner said.
“Chillagoe has so much to off er and when tourists get here, they love it but we need to seal all of the road to increase visitation.
“It doesn’t make sense to me why you would bring all that machinery and workers out here, then go away, then have to come back and set that up again to do that last little bit.”
Mareeba Shire Cr Kevin Davies, who chairs the council’s traffic advisory committee which includes representatives of Main Roads, said council had been pushing for the sealing to be finished for years.
“As far as I know, the section they haven’t done is because they say it needs to be re-aligned and that involves Queensland Rail as well because of the crossing there,” he said.
“We have been advocating for that road to be sealed for years and we will keep advocating until it’s done.
“I would like to know that at least the planning has been done so that when funds do become available it can be done.”
A Main Roads spokesperson confirmed the last 3.5km of unsealed road would remain that way “pending future funding and planning”.
“It is anticipated the topography and potential realignment of the road will be factors in any final cost estimates,” the spokesperson said.
Work currently underway to seal the other two sections of the road should be completed by December.
The annual average daily traffic figure for the Burke Developmental Road between Almaden and Chillagoe was recorded at 142 in 2020.
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui was asked why the government had failed to provide funding to get the rest of the road sealed but she did not address the question, only saying: “The delivery of these two sealed sections of highway near Chillagoe demonstrates our government’s commitment to investing in road infrastructure in our vast electorate of Cook.”