22 June 2023

Communities to reconnect as Jamberoo Mountain Road finally reopens, but future closures not ruled out

| Keeli Royle
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Road closed sign on north side of Jamberoo Mountain Road.

Jamberoo Mountain Road has been closed off for almost a year, which has had a significant impact on residents and businesses. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Jamberoo Mountain Road is set to reopen in coming weeks after undergoing a massive reconstruction, but more closures have not been ruled out due to the unpredictability of the stretch.

The key connection between Kiama and Robertson has been closed for almost a year after severe weather caused dangerous landslips.

Kiama Municipal Council has invested millions in fixing the damage and is calling on the NSW Government to reclassify it as a state road and take over responsibility for maintaining it.

Council’s Director of Infrastructure and Liveability Michael Malone said Jamberoo Mountain Rd was an inter-council connector, not a local road in the middle of Kiama.

“Our preference is for the state to take over this road,” he said.

“This connects two different parts of the state and we feel it is better represented as a state road.”

Kiama MP Gareth Ward has backed the council’s request and called on the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison to “stop stalling and release the Regional Road Transfer and Road Classification report and get on with transferring Jamberoo Mountain Road to state management”.

“Jamberoo Mountain Road is a vital link for our region and when we experience extreme weather events the road can be closed for months while council struggles to get on top of the maintenance backlog,” he said.

“Council has been asking for the transfer of Jamberoo Mountain Road to the state government for years so the necessary resources and funding are provided to address safety concerns adequately.

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“The Minister needs to stop the blame game and stop stalling and release the report. She has been a fierce advocate for the road transfer and reclassification program so she should make this a priority.”

Mr Malone said repairs to get the road open had required patience and determination due to the difficult environment.

“We’re working on stuff that is already mobile,” he said. “The work we’re doing includes putting new drainage facilities around the elements that we’re constructing and putting soil nails and geotechnical material to hold things in place.”

He said wet weather has also created challenges and delays for construction workers.

“It might only rain for a couple of hours,” he said. “But the site might be unusable for a day or two after that because what you’re risking is having more of the side of the hill sliding down on top of you.”

Residents and businesses have been feeling the impact of being cut off from adjoining communities.

Robert Pallin has a property just above the road closure.

A trip into Jamberoo’s town centre would usually take him just 10 minutes but the new route brings that travel time closer to an hour.

He’s also a shareholder in Ben Ricketts Environmental Preserve, which has holiday cabins at the same location, and said that since the road has been closed bookings have been down around 90 per cent.

“The cream is really people who are going to events in Kiama or Jamberoo or want to take their kids to the waterpark,” Robert said. “It’s really dropped Ben Ricketts’s income dramatically and had a major effect.”

Robert Pallin outside of Ben Ricketts Preservation cabin in Jamberoo.

Robert Pallin has seen businesses struggling during the closure and hopes tourism will get a boost from the road reopening. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Renting out the cabins is vital for helping finance the organisation and support its conservation efforts.

“Here we rely on that income to pay for things like electricity,” Robert said.

And he said many other businesses in the area are in the same boat.

“They’ve been suffering with COVID and then the road collapsing so people are just hanging on.”

He is hopeful that tourism will increase once the road reopens and the wider community will come back and support the businesses.

“I think it’s very important to encourage people back to this area,” Robert said.

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But even after the road reopens, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way.

“That whole run of Jamberoo Mountain Road is an extremely mobile part of the escarpment area,” Mr Malone said.

“It is quite possible that if we get the same kind of storms again next year that there could be another failure down from where we’ve done the work.”

Kiama Municipal Council continues to undertake maintenance like clearing vegetation debris and drainage, but managing the area is an expensive venture.

“It’s hard to get enough resources when you’re a small council to do that stuff all the time,” he said.

According to Transport for NSW, more than 500 submissions were made by councils to the independent Regional Road Transfer and Road Classification Review, with a final report provided to the previous NSW government last November.

A spokesperson for the agency told Region: “Transport for NSW has not seen the report and is not in a position to advise or comment on its content or recommendations,” and that it is “seeking to obtain a copy of the final report”.

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