James Dobbin, Central Coast
I have been visiting the areas around Ballina/Bangalow/Lismore etc for the past 20 years. In that time I have seen many improvements to the main roads along the coastal fringe. However, as mentioned to the local councils this past week, it is disappointing that I cannot record the same progress in the hinterland where residential development and tourism have both increased dramatically in those years. In particular, little hamlets such as Clunes and Federal, which have developed into destinations for food, while Bangalow is popular for specialist shopping.
The major roads up from the coast are reasonable, however, once one deviates towards Dunoon, Rosebank, Repentence Creek and Minyon Falls the story is quite different. Just this past weekend I noted that potholes (read chasms) that were already there in mid-2020, have increased twofold in size. Many are as deep as 30cms with multiple holes as close together as 15cms. Right in the centre of Clunes, just above the shops, there is a massive hole between kerb and road. At this point I have been referring to the sealed roads, which also have hazardous slumps either side. Someone has ringed many of the offending potholes, but that does not help in the dark or in mottled sunlight.
Now let me move on to the gravel Nightcap Range Road up to Minyon Falls. Since my last visit there, almost 12 months ago, this road has become a nightmare. In the past year I gather that Parks and Wildlife have been spending large sums upgrading the falls with a new lookout and parking. It appears they have been proactive in upgrading that part of Nightcap Range Road that comes under their jurisdiction.
While open to clarification I believe that the remainder of that gravel road comes under the ownership of Lismore and/or Ballina/Byron councils. It seems that the cart has come before the horse here as the infrastructure for the anticipated increased tourist traffic for Minyon will be sadly deficient, rendering Parks good efforts wasted.
When I drew attention to the road condition a few years ago, I was informed that bitumen was proposed in the near future owing to the increase in visitors to the area. That has not happened, and Nightcap Range Road has now deteriorated to such an extent that small cars must find it almost impossible to traverse. I have an AWD vehicle and it bottomed out on many occasions despite taking it slowly. Two of the holes are currently full of water and are the size of a small car. Branches hang across the road and litter the road, while some trees look as if they are ready to fall across. There are many blind corners where the edges have subsided making for further danger. When was a grader and slasher last up there? With unemployment so high why not engage some of these able bodies to help clear the debris at least? Do we wait for a serious accident before action being taken?
Tourism is the lifeblood of this whole area, therefore the State and local governments should be doing everything in their power to encourage private investment in the districts and facilitate safe passage for the resulting growth in visitor numbers. Instead, I fear that some are sitting on their hands.
I thought that your newspaper might like to push the case for improvements.