Big costs coming for local road treatments

Concerned: Residents Shannon Graham and Charlie Dickson fear for the state of Ballarat's road network, with more heavy rainfall predicted this week. Picture: Kate Healy

Concerned: Residents Shannon Graham and Charlie Dickson fear for the state of Ballarat's road network, with more heavy rainfall predicted this week. Picture: Kate Healy

The aftermath of last week’s flooding will likely require tens of millions of dollars worth of repair works, with local councils still determining the extent of damage to roads and infrastructure.

Ballarat, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Moorabool and Pyrenees councils have all been included in the federal and state funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement (NDRRA) program.

Road repairs are expected to take up a bulk of the NDRRA allocations, with veteran road engineer David Eltringham fearful flooded roads will be severely damaged if not left to dry properly before taking traffic.

Mr Eltringham, who has worked for several regional councils, said the flooding was reminiscent of the 2010-11 disaster that caused serious damage across much of Victoria.

“The problem is if the road gets wet or inundated with water, it has to be dried properly before people start using it again,” he said.

“The material under the seal gets wet, then it loses all its baring. That’s the biggest issue rural engineers have.

“We’re talking both sealed and unsealed roads.”

Mr Eltringham said the floods also impacted the make-up of the roads and washed away key binding compounds.

“A lot of fine material that bonds road pavement together gets washed away,” he said.

“You need a certain amount of clay materials or sand to keep the bigger particles together."

He said the NDRRA fund would be crucial for maintaining local networks.

The 2011 floods saw Moorabool Shire Council receive more than $20 million in financial assistance over a two-year period, while Pyrenees Shire Council spent more than $32 million to repair a range of public assets.

City of Ballarat reported just $1,223,000 in funding. 

Golden Plains Shire Council secured approximately $1.6 million in funding assistance following the three floods that affected it in 2010-11 through the National Disaster Recovery Program and Local Government Victoria.

Golden Plains chief executive Rod Nicholls said he expects required road repairs to be “significant” this year.

“Funding like this (the NDRRA) is extremely helpful at times like these as it means we can afford to do more for our residents,” Mr Nicholls said.

“Council officers are still determining the extend of the damage but have already started addressing issues wherever possible. As we are still scoping the extent of the damage, we cannot estimate the cost for repairs to local roads but expect it to be significant.”

Pyrenees Shire Council chief executive Jim Nolan said council has so far carried out 650 inspections of road damage.

“Typical damage includes gravel roads (that) have lost gravel and will need re-sheeting, sealed roads (which) have broken or lifted and there’s been some damage to culverts and other road infrastructure,” he said.

To receive NDRRA funding, councils must prove evidence of the impact of the disaster, as well as evidence of the condition of the asset before and the flood.

Ballarat locals say local roads are verging on unsafe, due to the large number of potholes. Resident Charlie Dickson said last week he was forced to swerve a series of large potholes on Main Road, fearing they would cause costly damage. 

Shannon Graham, administrator of ‘The Road Ahead’ Facebook page, said he was inspired to create the page to help the community identify local hazards. Now the page has more than 6000 followers and is used to help identify problematic stretches.

“We had quite a boost in numbers this week because of the flooding,” Mr Graham said.

“It’s about getting people alert to what’s happening on our roads.”