Many Jamberoo businesses were feeling the pinch as the town was cut off from passersby and tourist traffic when work was underway on Jamberoo Mountain Road but while others were on the brink of closing down, one new venue started from scratch and opened in the middle of the deserted stretch.
The Lodge was launched at the start of 2023 as a country resort in the Jamberoo escarpment, with function spaces, leisure facilities and a restaurant that could seat hundreds and while the site’s food and beverage manager Ben Shephard said the road closure did limit drop-ins, it also gave the venue time to find its feet.
“It’s been nice to open slowly and build into it and work through teething problems in the early months as any new venue would have,” Ben said.
When the road reopened a fortnight ago, the restaurant, which is called Lulu’s at the Lodge, ramped up operations and added an extra day to its opening hours.
“At the same time that the road opened we opened seven days a week and with that we’re seeing around 30 people every lunch and every dinner through the midweek which is great,” Ben said. “And whether that’s attributed to the fact that we’re open or that the road is open we’re not sure but we’re just happy people are coming.”
With the improved accessibility, the restaurant has become a popular place for people from different suburbs to get together, located less than twenty minutes from Robertson, Kiama and Albion Park.
“We find it’s actually a nice middle meeting ground if you’ve got people in the Highlands and people on the coast coming in,” Ben said.
He said many tourists used Jamberoo Mountain Road as part of a round trip on weekends and the road reopening had allowed a whole new market for the business.
“You take it for granted when it’s open and then you realise how important it is when it’s closed.”
But future closures are still a very real possibility, with Kiama Municipal Council unable to invest the massive sums required to maintain the road.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward has been pushing for the reclassification of the road and last month he presented the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison with nine questions regarding the project including why the reclassification report was being withheld from the public, whether the Minister had any plans to transfer regional roads to the NSW network and whether the Minister would meet with Mr Ward and the Kiama Mayor to discuss the transfer.
In the Minister’s response, she said that the former premier had given permission for the reclassification report to be provided to the NSW Government, but did not clarify whether the document would ever be accessible publicly.
The Minister said $193 million from the road reclassification program would be allocated to the new Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund.
“The NSW Government will invest in road repairs that are urgently needed across our regions. A new, two-year Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund will be created – a $670 million fund to ensure the roads people rely on every single day across Regional NSW are up to scratch.
“The NSW Government is working on the framework for this grant funding with details to be provided to councils in the coming months.”
Mr Ward was not satisfied with the Minister’s response.
“She hasn’t allocated any money, she lied about accessing the report, she won’t meet with me and the Mayor and she won’t even answer the questions,” he said.
He was determined to know what further evidence the Minister needed to see the need to reclassify this road, and criticised the lack of investment in the key pathway.
“What’s clear is that Labor have a slush fund that they want to spend on Labor electorates,” Mr Ward said. “By keeping the fund pooled they get to pick and choose rather than have it based on an assessment.”
And he will not be backing down until the community gets what they deserve.
“I’ll be launching a petition and will continue to apply pressure to the Government.”