More than six months after devastating flooding, thousands of kilometres of trashed Queensland roads are still awaiting repairs — and as harvests ramp up there are fears motorists are at risk.
Key points:Repairs are expected to take two years, but could be delayed by more wet weather Of the 77 Queensland council areas, 66 have been affected by road damageMotorists are being warned the large number of trucks travelling to collect a bumper harvest will make conditions worseAbout two-thirds of Queensland’s state roads are closed or restricted, including almost 5,000 kilometres affected by more than one weather event.
But shortages of materials and labour along with the sheer scale of the damage mean it could be years before some roads are fixed.
Producers trying to haul bumper crops to market are worried in the meantime the damage will get dangerously worse.
And with a third La Nina weather pattern now confirmed, there are fears any new flooding will only add to the reconstruction delays.
No way in, no mail and no school bus
The Warra Canaga Creek Road is so damaged Anthea Green hasn’t received mail for five weeks. (ABC Rural: Alys Marshall)All routes in and out of Queensland farmer Anthea Green’s Western Downs property were trashed by wet weather, the damage so bad the household has not received mail for weeks and the local school bus does not run.
“The potholes have been absolutely enormous,” she said.
“It’s been incredibly slippery, and there has been extended periods of time with water lying over the road.
“Because it is a main road it has a huge usage, we get a lot of travellers going through who are unaware of water height levels and the depth of potholes.”
She said hauling this year’s bumper wheat, sorghum and mung bean harvest had become a logistical and safety nightmare, even when the road dried out.
“When we have a huge amount of grain trucks driving the road, the dust is blinding and the visibility is zero and all the potholes are still there,” she said.
On one road in the neighbouring Balonne Shire heavy machinery has become bogged in the muddy conditions.
‘Massive’ repair task aheadA Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said nine natural disasters had affected Queensland roads during 2021-22, with 66 of 77 local government areas receiving financial relief measures.
“The damage assessment task is massive,” the spokesperson said.
“Due to the widespread and severe nature of the damage, a significant program of reconstruction works will be required over the next two years.”
The greatest damage was caused by the south-east Queensland floods in late February and March 2022, which included many major landslips.
Harvest havocWith the winter grain harvest just days away, there are concerns unsealed roads could deteriorate even further.
The main road in to Brendan Taylor’s property is now impassable for a two-wheel-drive. (ABC Rural: Alys Marshall)Agforce Grains president and farmer Brendan Taylor said the influx of B-double trucks and road trains added to the risk for motorists.
“We’re concerned that they’re going to totally break the road up into a condition worse than what it is,” he said.
Mr Taylor said locals had renamed some of the large potholes, known as inverts, “Wivenhoe and Somerset” after two of the state’s main dams.
“We could end up with one bogged to the eyeballs in the bottom of these inverts,” he said.
“They’re half a meter deep [and] it’s not running water, it’s just storm water.”
He said in his area alone, up to 5,000 tonnes of grain needed to be moved in the coming weeks on roads in “pretty ordinary shape”.
“If our cars and trucks and all machinery have to be roadworthy, we want our roads to be car-worthy,” he said.
Shortage of materials and contractorsAs authorities work through the massive backlog of repairs, shortages in reconstruction materials and workers have added to the delays.
Lockyer Valley Regional Councillor Janice Holstein said two floods had impacted 80 per cent of the region’s roads this year.
“We’re just trying to stabilise works and do what we can with the resources that we currently have available,” she said.
“There’s huge waits on concrete pipes and culverts, so everything I guess has a flow on effect.
“We’ve got about two years of repairs ahead of us as it is and obviously if there’s another flood event that will then get extended out.”