22 February, 2023
Rain takes toll on shire roads
FIXING a multitude of roads badly damaged by heavy rain and flooding over the past two months poses a big challenge for Mareeba Shire Council, with around 100 already inspected by crews as they battle to undertake emergency repairs just to keep the roads open.
Council has applied for, and been successful, in activating Disaster Recovery Arrangements to enable it to access State and Federal Governments funding assistance to repair the damaged roads.
With the activation now approved, Infrastructure Services director Glenda Kirk said that in addition to emergency works undertaken on 10 roads around Mareeba, Paddy’s Green, Dimbulah and Almaden during January, another 86 roads had been inspected and work orders issued for more emergency repairs.
“Firstly, we undertake emergency repairs to get the road open and trafficable, and then either do immediate restoration or restoration to undertake permanent repairs,” she said.
Ms Kirk said there was “a whole bunch of requirements” that had to be adhered to so council could access the government funding, so that “we don’t burden the ratepayer with these repairs”.
“The money available immediately is to get roads open and accessible and we’ve got a crew stretched over 54,000 km so we try to keep every road open with this ongoing rain,” she said, adding crews had replaced the approaches to Sandy Tate River bridge already three times this year.
“We are trying to get to everywhere as quickly as we can – we’re aware that a lot of property own-ers are a bit frustrated or a bit distressed because they can’t get in and out of their properties.
“We just ask people to keep reporting damage so we’re aware of it because what we are finding is that we are having big events in isolated areas happening overnight and washing away the works that we’ve only just done.”
Cr Lenore Wyatt said given the amount of work that had to be done and constant bad weather playing havoc, people needed to take that into account before criticising council for being tardy in responding to customer requests.
“You look at the socials (media) and people are having a big gripe about the roads and so on – we can only physically do what we can do and a lot of time we are working on a Main Road system so we have permissions and we have rules that we have to follow for those roads,” she said.
“I think everyone thinks that in our sphere of influence that we look after all the roads and that’s where all their money goes – it’s not true and we try to get those facts out there.
“I just hope people understand that if their drain is blocked, yes, we will get there as soon as we can, if their road is smashed, we will get there as soon as we can – we only have so much capacity.”
Ms Kirk said while the immediate available government funding would restore the shire’s roads “like for like”, there would be an opportunity to apply for funding later in the year to potentially permanently improve some of the roads’ capacity to handle heavy rainfall.
“They do have a ‘betterment’ program where we can apply to have areas that are subject to repeated ongoing damage year after year to actually make those sites more resilient and we have had quite good success with some of those programs in the past,” she said.
“If there is damage anywhere in 2023, when they open that betterment program later in the year, we can put forward those sites that, we believe, we can get over the line from a benefit-cost assessment to get them improved.”
Mayor Angela Toppin said council was grateful for the disaster funding it received from both levels of government.
“I would like to thank residents for their pa-tience and understanding while council responds to customer requests across our vast road network. I also encourage residents to report any new damage to council,” she said.