By Jess Baker
Last month’s widespread rain felt like a godsend to many in the Southern Downs region, but the damage it has caused local roads is anything but.
Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) Director of Infrastructure Services Seren McKenzie revealed the severity of the damage at last week’s ordinary meeting, telling councillors that roads already compromised by February 2020 flood events will require costly, timely repairs.
“The March (2021) flood event has put the 2020 (repair) works on hold,” she said.
“There are a number of areas that overlap between the two events so we have to assess them closely, work with (Queensland Recovery Authority) and come up with the best way to resolve those.”
A report tabled in last week’s ordinary meeting indicates that Restoration of Essential Public Assets (REPA) works for the region’s February 2020 flood event had only just commenced when the March 2021 flood event occurred.
As a result, the target date for completion of works for the 2020 event has now been pushed until March 2022, with repair works for the 2021 event not expected to be completed until March 2023.
“It’s still too wet … to get out there and make the roads safe,” said Ms McKenzie.
“Officers are keeping a very close eye on those (impacted) roads and as soon as we can get there we will.”
Ms McKenzie said starting repairs too soon could do more harm than good as machinery could fail and vehicles could become bogged, however some emergency repairs have commenced.
“We will continue to make safe any areas from the last month that were unsafe, under our emergent works which we have 90 days to do,” she said.
According to Council staff, the road damage sustained during last month’s flood event is still being assessed but will exceed SDRC’s “disaster trigger point” of $233,000.
Staff noted in their report to Council that the March 2021 flood event was more widespread, and had a greater impact, than last year’s event.
“There was more damage sustained to the sealed road network and typically to where flood waters crossed the road. Gravel roads were again damaged,” read the report.
“The differentiation between the 2020 and 2021 event will require some careful work and time.”
Killarney resident Paul Stumkat said damage to Condamine River Road is particularly severe and requires urgent repair.
The road has been closed to the public since mid-March due to “safety concerns” with recent rainfall, but residents of the road must still use it every day.
“I have to continually drive through water which is nearly one metre deep to drop the kids to school and go into town,” said Mr Stumkat.
“I’ve written to Council several times asking them to fix the damage but they say it’s too dangerous for them to come out.”
Mr Stumkat said he and other Condamine River Road residents were sent an email from SDRC staff in response to calls for maintenance, explaining the road has been closed due to the depth of water at its crossings which restricts officers from inspecting damage.
“Council’s ability to do works in the crossings without permits is restricted to minor maintenance, which we will continue to undertake when safe for us to bring in machinery, and when the road has dried out so we do not cause further damage after wet weather events,” read the email.
“Further to this, the last rainfall event is a declared event, meaning council needs to obtain good photographic evidence of any damages so repair works can be claimed through the (Queensland) and Federal Government Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.”
SDRC staff advised residents they will undertake works “to ensure the road remains safe once (they) are able to safely get into the area”.
The email, which was signed by SDRC Director of Infrastructure Services Seren McKenzie and Executive Assistant Barbara Fagan, also revealed that SDRC intends to form a working group to investigate options for the opening and closing of the road.
A Council spokesperson said Condamine River Road remains closed, as at 20 April 2021, following an inspection on 19 April 2021.
“Once the crossings are at a level deemed safe for staff to access them, Council will remove any large boulders or debris in the crossings,” said the spokesperson.
“At this time, Council has no plans to install concrete crossings, and will only be undertaking minor maintenance works.”