Local roads threat to business

Councillor Russell Fitzpatrick has warned the shire could risk losing Bega Cheese if roads are not upgraded to be suitable for B-double trucks.

His comments came during discussion about the future NSW Transport Strategy at the recent council meeting.

“If we don’t have B-doubles in this area, Bega Cheese risks having to move elsewhere because the economics of scale will not be there,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

An employee of local transport company Bobbin Transport, which does work for Bega Cheese, Cr Fitzpatrick declared a non-pecuniary interest and stayed to debate and vote.

“B-double operators are getting smarter. B-doubles are considered a safer option than a single trailer and so instead of six trucks there are three B-doubles,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

However he pointed to issues around the area which prevented such economies of scale.

“It’s impossible to come from Sydney because of the pinch points at Brogo Bridge and Narooma Bridge currently,” he added.

Talking about the east/west route Cr Fitzpatrick said Brown Mountain added an extra hour to the journey because of decoupling.

“Large rainfalls can close it at anytime. We need something better than Brown Mountain and if we want to be serious we need to push hard for the realignment of Brown Mountain,” he said.

Mayor Kristy McBain said it was prudent to submit comments to the draft transport strategy “given we are such a large shire”. 

Councillor Sharon Tapscott has been advocating to have Imlay Rd incorporated as an east/west route and pointed out that if B-doubles used it, it would keep them off the tourist routes.

But the problem is that Imlay Rd is not an RMS road.

“It’s not a NSW government road. It is an option for Eden, but the ownership needs to be sorted out and it needs to be significantly upgraded [by another government department – Forestry] before it could be taken on,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

The staff report to council raised points relating to the Eden port and its future.

“Further development is needed for the supporting infrastructure to capitalise on this investment. The plan recognises the benefits of the cruise ship tourism however, neglects to mention the opportunities that exist for the Port of Eden for commercial activities such as exportation/importation of agricultural products, fisheries, consumer goods, and manufacturing products. The Port of Eden has the potential to be a hub for commercial activities for producers in the Southern NSW/Monaro region rather than them having to freight to Melbourne or Sydney,” the report said.

Staff also supported the idea of an intermodal terminal in Fyshwick (ACT) which could encourage a long-term strategy to link  with the Port of Eden.

The report also pointed out that if a key focus for NSW is to ensure that inland rail optimises the movement of freight in Regional NSW through efficient linkages to NSW Ports, there should be an investigation of the potential for a rail line from Canberra and Albury to the Port of Eden.

Council agreed a number of responses to the draft NSW Transport Strategy, including:

a)      East-West connections must include the Brown Mountain upgrade on the Snowy Mountain Highway;

b)     Addressing pinch points in the road network through the Bega Valley Shire for both passengers and freight including the Brogo River Bridge on the Princes Highway;

c)      Providing improvements to the connection south into Victoria from Bega Valley Shire and recognition and development of the Sydney - Melbourne Coastal Drive;

d)     Planning for future transport development to and from the Port of Eden;

e)     Potential for linkage between the Inland Rail, Canberra and the Port of Eden;

f)       That the Princes Highway should be listed as a road of national importance;

g)      That much of the Princes Highway is currently not B-double accessible and this should be addressed.

Bega Cheese was asked for a comment but due to Thursday’s release of half year results, executives were unavailable.