What Merriwa Locals Say About Willow Tree Road Failure

Filed in Just In by June 12, 2020

MERRIWA residents are calling out Council for not properly executing the Willow Tree Road works after part of the road washed away in January this year, effectively closing the road.

The road upgrade which was supposed to include an added lane to support B-double trucks as part of a $9.6million government-funded project has since been barricaded and limited to a 5 tonne load.

See photos below.

Related story: Willow Tree Road Uninsured and Another Loan.

Scone.com.au spoke with Merriwa locals that use the Willow Tree Road on a regular basis who said they saw the road being mismanaged throughout the duration of the roadworks.

“It was common knowledge around town of how much of a joke this was, all the plans they were saying weren’t going to work, even the council fellas were saying they weren’t going to work,” said Richard Wilkinson.

“They said they spent more time waiting up here for instructions because they had no plans because they took them all away because they were disagreeing with them,” he said.

Liam Whalen and Richard Wilkinson standing at the deteriorating gravel edge of Willow Tree Road.

Residents Liam Whalen and Richard Wilkinson inspecting the extensive road damage.

“If they did disagree with them the boys got pulled off the job and were sent elsewhere in the Shire and they put other people up here on the works,” he said.

Locals explained they did not believe the contractors assigned to the works were at fault and that the issues were due to poor work management.

“A couple of the grader operators were following the plans and they were saying we need more gravel, we need more for compaction and in the end, they were told ‘Nah we don’t need any of that we’re wasting too much time and money just tip it over and it’ll be right,'” said Richard Wilkinson.

“It wasn’t the workman they were doing a great job, it was just inappropriate management on the part of the hierarchy that stopped them from doing things the way they really felt it needed to be done,” said Lois Wilkinson.

“This is about the mismanagement of a $9.6million grant given to this Council to build this road and checks and balances were just not there,” said David Alker.

“It’s like stepping stones, you do this much and check it’s up to spec and then you go the next step…there has to be checks and balances on a big project along the way so that these sort of failures don’t crop up at the end,” he said.

Residents said they could clearly identify the issues with the road and knew it would not be up to specification before works were completed.

“It’s just incompetence, all the engineers have papers but they’ve had no practical experience and that’s exactly what’s happened here because when you get up this steep, you’re always going to have soil running down the hill after rain,” said Colin Bates.

“It comes out of the bank and over the side and they’ve put a road over the top of it so it was always going to run down the hill after rain, it was always going to slump,” he said.

“And the rush to finish it…it should have never been sealed it should have just been built and graded for years, let it rain and let it settle,” he said.

“It’s not rocket science you just need some smart people who can design a road and the worst engineer in the world knows that you do not put a road on what was essentially loose-fill,” added David Alker.

“In a B-double when they first had it finished you’d nearly be rubbing your bull bar on the barriers on one side and your back trailer would still be cutting a meter and a half on the other side of the road,” said Richard Wilkinson.

After the new road fell away earlier this year, road barriers were put up, creating a lengthy detour for B-double vehicles with instructions to travel via Scone.

Barriers put in places forcing B-Double drivers to detour through Scone.

Detouring has caused a rise in local freight prices meaning residents are currently having to fork out more money to transport their goods and services in and out of town.

“There’s millions of dollar’s worth of livestock in the Merriwa valley and now there’s extra freight and none of those processes were ever considered during Council’s decision making regarding the cost-benefit of this project,” said David Alker.

“We sent cattle to Armidale and we had 4 B-double loads of cows that went and they had to come home via Scone,” he said.

“We used a different freight contractor to bring them home who was slightly less expensive but its 60km extra at $5.50 per km so it was an extra $1,300 I had to pay just to get those cows home,” he said.

Residents said they are not confident in the Council’s ability to rectify the issues and are now calling for the road to be reopened in order to ease their financial burden.

“We just need the road opened, that’s what we need, one lane,” said Linden Wilkinson. 

“There’s no reason why those barriers couldn’t be shifted tomorrow,” said Wally Martin.

“Get rid of this road closed thing so at least we can use the road because it could be a year until they get a machine up here to fix it and by the time all this who-ha goes through ill be an old man,” said David Alker.

“In all honesty, I don’t think Council should even have the option of doing the works, for the repair,” said Richard Wilkinson.

“My concern is that if they’re applying for funding to fix the Scone to Meriwa road, how can they get a grant for that when they can’t handle the grant money the got for here,” said Lois Wilkinson.

More details to come.

Related Stories: Willow Tree Road: Uninsured and Another Loan

Merriwa residents from Left to Right: Wally Martin, Colin Bates, David Alker, Linden Wilkinson, Rod Casben, Liam Whalen and Richard Wilkinson.

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