8 June, 2023
Road seal critical for town’s future
RESIDENTS from the small community of Irvinebank are calling on Main Roads to seal more sections of the road that connects them to Herberton, saying the very survival of their town depends on it.
While there are only about 100 people living in and around the town, they have been passionately campaigning for the Herberton-Petford Road to be sealed for decades and say it is critical if the historic town is to attract more visitation.
According to Irvinebank Progress Association treasurer and long-time resident Di Delaney, without more visitation and money coming into the town, the important work a small band of people do to maintain historic buildings will be put in jeopardy.
“We have been campaigning for the road to be fully sealed for three decades but there’s just not enough people here to push them to seal the whole road – we get a little bit at a time,” she said.
“A few years back, the road had lost all its gravel and was down to hard rock in places and we thought maybe we might get some more parts sealed but that didn’t happen.
“The road is holding the town back – we don’t get the visitation we could get from grey nomads and other tourists because of the condition of the road
“It’s the first question anyone asks when they think about coming to our town – how’s the road?
“But we need more visitation so we can keep fund raising to look after our heritage buildings – we are the trustees of the buildings so we are basically responsible for the preservation of them.
“Our history here is amazing but people don’t come out here largely because of the road.”
Ms Delaney said the State-controlled road was only able to be graded once a year because that was all the funding provided to Mareeba Shire Council allowed for.
“It’s great now – it’s been graded a week or so ago, but when the wet seasons comes, it washes out something shocking and is very badly corrugated,” she said.
Ms Delaney said emergency vehicles could not reach the town during those times and people have to be transported to Atherton by helicopter.
“It is so dangerous at times, it’s even dangerous to go and get your shopping from Herberton or Atherton which is where we have to go,” she said.
“It also takes a major toll on your vehicle – the maintenance costs are shocking and a lot of people who live out here are retired or on a low income or government benefits so the cost is phenomenal for them.”
Ms Delaney said the cost to constantly maintain the road year after year, trucking in gravel and grading would add up and, in the long run, it might be cheaper for authorities to seal the remaining 14km.
She said even if Main Roads did specific sections, such as near the popular camping spot, Jumna Dam about 7km from the Irvine-bank township, it would help to encourage more people to come to the town.
“Even if they did a bit each year and concentrate on certain spots, it wouldn’t take long to finish it off,” Ms Delaney said.
Member for Hill Shane Knuth has taken up the fight on behalf of the Irvinebank community, raising the matter on the floor of State Parliament and asking Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey to fund the sealing of the road.
Mr Knuth’s said the road had been a long-standing issue that needed to be addressed.
“Before I was even the State Member, residents have been lobbying for the road to be fully sealed,” he said.
Mr Knuth said there had been numerous ongoing issues and it was the time for the government to seal the road.
“Not only would this benefit locals, but it would also have a flow-on effect as Irvinebank has a rich history and will encourage tourists and visitors to the region,” he said.
However, a spokesperson for DTMR has not given much hope anything will change anytime soon.
He said the department would be conducting gravel re-sheeting on a 5km section of the Herberton-Petford Road near Irvinebank in the next financial year.
“Mareeba Shire Council, through TMR’s Road Maintenance Performance Contract, recently completed 11.62km of gravel grading on sections of Herberton-Petford Road between Watsonville to Irvinebank,” he said.
“Further re-sheeting of a 1.2km section is planned for late next month.”
The last time the department undertook any sealing on the road was in 2020, but any further progress, such as widening and sealing, were considered for future works programs “on a priority basis against state-wide criteria, including factors like road environment, traffic volumes and crash statistics”.