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Little victory on rough road

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The 22 kilometres of unsealed road that joins the two largest centres in the Murray River Council footprint will receive some much-needed maintenance through a recent $5.5 million investment in the Murray electorate from the NSW Government’s Fixing Local Roads program.

The Perricoota Road will receive $1,398,477 for gravel resheeting.

Murray River Council Mayor, Chris Bilkey, welcomed the additional funding which would resheet and reshape the existing unsealed section of Perricoota Road.

“Our local roads have copped a battering over the past year and the level of support from the state government has been helpful in ensuring our region moves forward,” Mr Bilkey said. 

“We now need the federal government to step in and match the funding so our families, farmers and freight can get from A to B quickly and safely.”

The announcement happens to fall on the 50th anniversary of the commitment of the former Wakool Shire to seal the road in 1973. At the time, local farmer Bob Hearn had committed to gift five acres of their front paddock to realign the road.

“They started to put the pegs in, it was all ready to go, and then the money was diverted elsewhere,” Bob’s daughter-in-law Jo explained.

“They were actually going to cut off the front gate and five acres, there was some corner they wanted to straighten. Dad was prepared to make the sacrifice to see it sealed.” 

The road has been plagued with accidents and damages vehicles and machinery on a regular basis. 

“Don’s (Jo’s husband) pulled cars out of our fences and gateways, people who have just slid off.

“One of our backpackers rolled her van just out from our place a few years ago.

“There’s been cars that have crashed on the road and abandoned, and the locals end up having to tow them away because nothing is done.”

The road has an estimated 3-4,000 trucks that use the road annually, and some drivers are refusing to use the road. Neighbouring farmer Dom Garden said truckies are asking for redirection to better roads and, he says, you can’t blame them.

“It’s to the point where we’ve had to start sending trucks round the other way. They have to go through our neighbour’s farm to get out on a different road. I feel bad bringing them on this road, to be honest.”

Dom also has witnessed the risks the road presents.

“We came across an accident on Boxing Day or Christmas Eve, it was pretty bad, it was an elderly couple who required an ambulance.”

Ten businesses operate along the unsealed section, with an additional 20 who rely on the road for produce, staff or commuting, including a school bus. In many instances, locals have had to cancel business deliveries, tourist visits and heavy vehicles all due to the impassable state of the road, costing time and money.

Murray River Council has identified the road as a priority for sealing, with a motion to bitumen Perricoota Road receiving Murray River Council councillors’ support, voting 8:1 in favour of the motion.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 16 February 2023

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 16 February 2023.

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