UPDATE 14 July
Jamberoo Mountain Road has reopened today ahead of Monday’s scheduled date, but motorists are warned that reduced speed limits are in place with short closures expected in coming weeks.
The community is also being urged to watch out for wildlife which are unaccustomed to vehicles in the area.
10 JULY The Kiama community has suffered through the year-long closure of Jamberoo Mountain Road. Ahead of its reopening on 17 July, Mayor Neil Reilly wants to acknowledge the patience and persistence of the town’s people in pushing through the hardship the project created.
“I know the difficulty this has presented the community of Jamberoo with in regards to people’s workplaces, schools, visiting, it’s been just dreadful,” Mayor Reilly said. “And I know it’s had a devastating effect on business.”
The council is hosting a community barbeque to show its appreciation, with residents given the opportunity to discuss the project with the engineers and the Mayor himself.
“I’m wanting to have this event to congratulate them for having the forbearance to bare with council and the state and federal governments in repairing this thing,” Mayor Reilly said.
“I’m also there to offer a shoulder to cry on and an ear to yell at,” he added. “I think that these people deserve to have their say and be heard.”
Mayor Reilly said that while he would’ve liked the project to be completed a lot quicker, it was important that it was done properly.
“It’s a bit of a lifeline to places like Jamberoo,” he said. “I’ve spoken to our CEO about this, it needs to be a very very high priority for our community to have those east-west, west-east linkages upgraded to a point where if we do have heavy weather events we can either fix them quickly or they won’t fail.”
But for a council that is struggling financially, there are growing calls suggesting expensive roads could be in better hands managed by the state.
“I stand shoulder to shoulder with our local member Gareth Ward in seeking the state to resume responsibility for that road. It’s more than just a local track, it’s an important thoroughfare for Kiama and places like the Southern Highlands, it’s a two-way street.”
Kiama MP Gareth Ward is currently seeking clarification from the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison about a reclassification report and any plans to transfer the road to the state network, with multiple questions on notice requiring answers by 27 July.
In a statement to Region, Minister Aitchison said “the Liberals and Nationals promised to reclassify and transfer up to 15,000 km of roads to help lift the burden on Councils despite four years of dithering, very little done.”
“NSW Labor went to the 2023 NSW State Election promising to defer the failed Regional Road Transfer and Road Reclassification program in favour of creating a new, two-year Emergency Road Repair Fund – a $670 million fund to ensure that the roads people rely on every single day across Regional NSW are up to scratch,” she added.
Mr Ward called the response “disappointing” and questioned what that deferral would mean for the future of the road and the local community.
“If the Minister doesn’t want to transfer the road then I want to know will Jamberoo Mountain Road be getting a slice of this Road Repair Fund on an ongoing basis?”
A spokesperson for the Minister said that all regional local councils will receive an allocation as part of the State Budget in September, which can then allocate the funding according to local priorities.
But Mr Ward was determined that he would not let the project, or the region, be forgotten throughout this process.
“If the minister thinks she can bully her way out of this and I’m going to be a pushover then she can think again because I will not be backing down and I will not put our community through this again.”
Kiama Council’s community BBQ will be held at Jamberoo RSL on 15 July, before the road reopens on the following Monday.