Brindabella roadblock – Confusion about grant opportunities

The narrow Bombowlee Creek Bridge has been slated for an upgrade as part of a $20m funding announcement for forestry roads in the region.

There’s been some confusion over whether proposed upgrades to the Brindabella Road should have been put forward in a recent round of state government grant funding for freight roads.

The Snowy Valleys Council said they didn’t apply, because the road isn’t for haulage, but members of the Brindabella Road – The Economic Link Group [BRTELG] say they attended a meeting where Paul Toole, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, said SVC should have applied anyway, and would likely have been successful.

“That’s a long bow to draw in his case,” said SVC Mayor James Hayes after hearing about the meeting, “But given what he said, we’ll certainly be applying in future, even though it’s not a freight route.”

Cr Hayes insists the council is doing everything it can to secure funding for the 125km artery which connects Canberra and Tumut through the Brindabella Range. 35kms of the road is currently unsealed, but Brian Nancarrow from BRTELG said their main concern is with the top 4.4 kms, just to the ACT side of the Brindabella Valley.

“There were four of us at the meeting [with Minister Toole], one I could describe as despondent, one I could describe as flabbergasted, one I could describe as bewildered and one I could describe as angry,” said Mr Nancarrow.

“I’m not going to tell you who was who.

“Council can do better.”

Aside from any economic concerns, the road project is an issue of safety, according to Mr Nancarrow.

“At the beginning of the first week in January, I was out with a rural fire brigade in the Brindabellas and a strike force was sent from the ACT to combat the possible approaching Dunns Road Fire,” said Mr Nancarrow.

“They would have had to crawl down that 4.4 kms with about 30-40 personnel on board.

“The road is so hazardous, single-lane, blind corners, sheer on one side and not suitable for large vehicles, like fire trucks.

“That needs fixing.”

The council was invited to the meeting with Minister Toole, but Mr Nancrarrow said they weren’t in attendance. The BRTELG’s reports from that meeting say that Minister Toole said under the fire recovery funds which are currently available, if the SVC applied for $7.5 million, that 4.4 km stretch of Brindabella Road could have been remedied.

“The minister was very happy to assist,” said Mr Nancarrow, “But he needs applications.”

Cr Hayes said Council remains committed to the project and will do everything it can to secure funding, which they believe is appropriate for the road upgrades. He said he was pleased with funding which has come in for the road so far.

“We were successful on the Tumut side with a Softwoods Working Group application and we were the lead Council on that,” said Mayor Hayes, “We’ve got about $10 million coming into the area, included in that is the Bombowlee Creek Bridge and the approaches to the bridge.”

Cr Hayes said he personally supports the road project. Although some residents have expressed concern that the Brindabella Road would draw people out of the SVC and into Canberra to do their shopping, he said the simple economics of scale will work in the SVC’s favour.

“There’s a portion of the 400,000 people from Canberra who will choose to come over this way,” said Mayor Hayes.

“There’s also the potential for international visitors from Canberra, with Qatar and Singapore flying into Canberra airport now, the potential for international visitors can only increase.”

The BRTLEG agrees with the economic potential of the road. Mr Nancarrow says the group presented Minister Toole with a Business Case which was funded by the SVC.

“It proves the case for the Brindabella Road upgrade to a value of $9 to 1,” said Mr Nancarrow.

“That means for every $1 spent, there would be a $9 return to the Snowy Valley LGA.

“I pointed that out to the Minister and he said, ‘I’m all ears’.”

Brindabella Road advocates say they intend to work with the council in alignment on the project, but this latest meeting with Minister Toole was a stumbling block in their relationship.

BRTELG will meet with Cr Hayes and SVC Chief Executive Officer Matthew Hyde in Batlow Tuesday to discuss their next steps. Mr Nancarrow pointed to two upcoming grant opportunities which he hopes the council will seize, the Fixing Country Roads grant and the Fixing Local Road Program.

Minister Toole has been contacted, but had not yet provided comment at the time of going to press.