10 March 2023

Fifteen years on, lifesaving pathway is still a road to nowhere

| Zoe Cartwright
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MPs Fiona Phillips and Dr Michael Holland, and Danielle Brice at a 1.6km stretch of unfinished pathway between Moruya and Moruya Heads. Photo: Supplied.

Despite fifteen years and almost a million dollars in funding, no one has been able to complete a six-kilometre footpath from Moruya to Moruya Heads.

It’s not as though the project is frivolous – the stretch of road is the only direct connection Heads residents have to town, and has already proven fatal to pedestrians.

On August 8, 2008, Moruya teen Chris Brice was walking to a party.

He didn’t want his friends, young girls, to walk in alone, so he offered to walk with them, instead of accepting a lift from a friend.

Instead of arriving at the party he was hit by a car while walking along the side of South Head Road, and died.

His mum, Danielle, was determined to prevent another needless death in the same area.

After Chris’ friends launched the 08/08/08 campaign to push for a pathway along the treacherous stretch of road that connects South Head to Moruya, Danielle threw herself into advocating for the project.

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A private person, she has since served a term on council, met countless politicians and shared the story of her family’s loss over and over again.

Despite her efforts, despite bipartisan support from local politicians, despite many local volunteers and despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds, fifteen years later the six-kilometre footpath remains incomplete.

Teens still walk along the side of the road after school; mums can often be seen pushing prams home from town.

In 2012 the Eurobodalla Shire Council put $50,000 towards the project, with the then-RTA kicking in another $50,000.

Eurobodalla roads and recreation manager Warren Sharpe said at the time about $700,000 worth of work would be needed to complete the first kilometre of path from the Princes Highway to Keightley Street.

After some initial work the project languished again, until September 2017, when then-Bega MP and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance pledged $750,000 for the pathway.

Mr Constance said at the time the NSW Government would work with Eurobodalla Shire Council and “this is going to get done”.

“I have costed it out, it is about $288 per square metre, so I will be making sure that council hopefully has some change,” he said.

However, after another two and a half years of work, and with about 1.6km of path to go, the money ran out, according to the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s website.

Regular updates on the pathway’s progress were posted until May 2021.

The only update after that reads: “Construction works will resume when more funds are allocated to the project.”

Last year, days before the Bega by-election, Active Transport and Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes joined local Liberal candidates to announce that Eurobodalla Shire Council would submit an application for $2.5 million to fund the Moruya pathway link under the 2022-23 Get NSW Active Program.

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At the time, Minister Stokes said he was “confident” the project would be funded, however, the application was unsuccessful.

Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, has demanded an explanation from the minister.

“The Liberals were happy to go to Moruya during an election to make flashy announcements, but as we have seen far too many times, once the speeches were over, and the photos taken, the money never came through,” she said.

Bega MP Dr Michael Holland said he hoped the NSW Government would change their tune.

“A lot of focus is put on road infrastructure but projects like these benefit so many people in our community who may not be able to drive a car,” he said.

The MPs met with Danielle Brice at the unfinished pathway. Fifteen years on, she’s still campaigning, still pushing, for the pathway that could have saved her son’s life.

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