Businesses from Batemans Bay to Braidwood have reacted with shock and dismay to news that the main road corridor from Canberra to the NSW South Coast will be closed during work hours four days a week from late August 2021.
Transport for NSW regional director, south, Sam Knight said closures from River Forest Road to Misty Mountain Road will be in place from Monday to Thursday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm from Monday, 30 August, to mid-November, weather permitting.
The move comes after an arborist identified about 400 trees on the Clyde Mountain section of Kings Highway are unstable and need to be removed after being burnt during the Black Summer bushfires and then weathering floods and storms.
But business owners say the timing could hardly be worse, coming off the back of drought, fires and COVID-19, and coinciding with the start of spring.
Secretary of the Braidwood and Villages Business Chamber, Nick Kemp, said his members are shocked and want the government to rethink its decision.
“We need the state government to listen to regional communities,” he said. “The community is united that this is a disaster for the town.
“The temporary closure at Clyde Mountain – the Southern Tablelands’ main access to the coast – is during the spring tourism season and this will greatly impact the town of Braidwood.
“We stumbled on the news on the Transport for NSW website … we are astonished there has been no community consultation, no supporting information and no community notification.
“How were we meant to find out? When we were turned back?”
Mr Kemp said Braidwood has been brought to its economic knees by the drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19 pandemic.
“Revenues are down around 75 per cent,” he said.
“This will be the last impact that many small businesses can cope with. Some will likely fold.
“We understand the works were originally scheduled for winter, which makes abundant sense. We understand there has been a resourcing issue within Transport for NSW and this has delayed the project. If this was such an important safety issue, it should have been done when they first thought about it more than 12 months ago.
“Our ask is straightforward. We want the works to be scheduled to reduce the impact on Braidwood and the surrounding villages.”
Mr Kemp has a background as a safety engineer and believes the planned works could be undertaken safely by closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only and working during a longer period of time, or scheduling nightworks.
Batemans Bay business owner, Corrigans Cove Resort operator Andrew Johns, agreed and also called on the NSW Government to bring forward the start date.
“If it has to be done, let’s get started next week and get it over with,” he said.
“We need to have shorter closures each week and an earlier start. They need to reconfigure their plans.”
Clyde River Houseboats owner Bob Hayes described the current plan as “absolute craziness”.
“We have basically lost everyone from Albion Park up, and our only lifeline has been people from Canberra, now they have cut us off at the knees,” he said.
“Our weekend hire boats come in at nine on Monday morning and then we load more people up on Monday. With these closures, people who get off can’t get out unless they get off early and the others can’t get in.
“We had known for months that this work had to be done and I don’t understand why they haven’t done it in the quieter season.
“It’s beyond me why they are not using the forestry crews, who would be cheaper and faster.”
Mr Hayes said he was only made aware of the closures on Friday, 30 July, and will now have to start the painstaking task of informing customers.
“We will lose all the daytrippers for our barbecue boats, plus the spur-of-the-moment visitors,” he said. “It remains to be seen how badly the houseboats will be affected, but I don’t think it will be good.”
A spokesperson for Murrays bus services said the company is still unsure how it will navigate the planned stoppages.
“We are still working on the Sydney and Queensland closures at the moment,” said the spokesperson.