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Byron Shire
July 4, 2022

Is Ross Lane open?

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Ross Lane near Lennox Head, not quite underwater for a change. Photo David Lowe.

The perennial Lennox Head question moved a step closer to being permanently answered, after Ballina Council resolved to search for engineering solutions and funding to raise the low-lying section of Ross Lane which regularly floods.

As the only direct access route from Lennox Head to the west, Ross Lane has come under more pressure as development expands in and around the village. When the road floods, the only way in or out in that direction is via a long detour to the south, or an even longer detour to the north.

Bumper sticker. Photo supplied.

Brad Pollard from the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce told the last Ballina Council meeting that fixing Ross Lane’s flooding was a priority for parents, food suppliers, holiday-makers and emergency workers.

He said the question ‘Is Ross Lane open?’ had become a running joke as Lennox expanded in all directions.

Joke wearing thin?

‘There may have been a time when Lennox just wanted to be left alone,’ said Mr Pollard. ‘Well, those times have gone and that sentiment has changed. We now want to function as a town, not a village,’ he said, and that ‘required a reliable road network’.

Mr Pollard said the search for a solution needed much greater urgency.

Cr Jeff Johnson, who put up the motion with the support of Cr Eva Ramsey, told The Echo, ‘Council currently has over $4 million in grant funding for works on Ross Lane including widening the road. It’s important that the engineering designs for raising the road in the floodway section are completed and the work incorporated into the proposed upgrade.

‘Ross Lane is a major regional road that links Lennox Head and the Coast Road with the Pacific Motorway and our hinterland villages,’ he said.

Ross Lane underwater. Photo supplied.

‘When Ross Lane floods it causes major disruptions for our community to travel to and from work, and also prevents emergency service vehicles which could have serious health and safety implications.

‘The only other way is to go through Ballina, which is already struggling to cope with the traffic, particularly during peak hour periods.’

Whose responsibility?

Ross Lane is one of two regional roads which may be about to pass to the control of state government, which has a focus on safety rather than flood immunity (the other is Tintenbar Road to Rifle Range Road).

However there were stories mentioned in the debate about drivers new to the area hitting flood waters at speed, before barriers had been erected.

The troublesome section of Ross Lane, with nearby cane fields flooded. Photo David Lowe.

Councillors spoke about the need to get the flooding situation sorted while Ross Lane was still under council control, rather than leaving it to the vagaries of government.

In a separate motion, they voted unanimously not to let this handover be finalised until the Ross Lane flooding issue had been resolved.

Regarding Jeff Johnson’s motion, they voted to receive a report from staff on options to prevent Ross Lane from flooding, while also investigating funding options for the completion of the work, including grant funding opportunities. Cr Phil Meehan was absent for the vote.

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Jeff Johnson told The Echo, ‘It was pleasing to get unanimous support and I look forward to seeing this initiative progressed. I was a bit concerned with the proposal for these regional roads to be “handed back” to the state government that the much needed works would be delayed indefinitely.

‘Hopefully council can complete the upgrade with existing and additional grant funds,’ he said.

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