'Trapped' farmers' fury over damaged roads
NSW farmers are demanding action to fix flood-damaged roads, with properties still cut off in parts of the state.
Farmers Sandra Mitchell and husband Steven live between the regional centres of Armidale and Kempsey on the mid-north coast of NSW.
But for more than eight hours a day they're unable to travel in either direction because of damage to the road and roadworks.
It's not the first time they've been isolated. In November 2019 the couple was cut off for six weeks in both directions because of bushfires and then again in early 2020 due to floods.
"It's been nothing but disaster, after disaster, after disaster ... and now we've got a good season but we can't access anything," Ms Mitchell said.
She says the "dangerous" road between Kempsey and Armidale has been in a state of disrepair for several years since it was declassified from a regional road to a local road in 2009.
Before the 2019 state election, then roads minister Melinda Pavey promised local residents in a letter the Kempsey-Armidale Rd "will be re-classified as a State Road under a re-elected NSW Nationals and Liberals Government".
But it is still the responsibility of the local Armidale Council, which is carrying out roadworks that are expected to wrap up around early May.
The council says more than a million dollars has been spent improving the safety grade of the road since November 2020, with further gravel re-sheeting completed in April 2021.
Ms Mitchell says even when the road is open, it's not safe for the 40 or so families who regularly use it, especially after rain.
"It has deteriorated year, after year - to the point it's falling into the river," she tells AAP.
Xavier Martin from NSW Farmers says regional roads have been badly damaged in the north of the state due to the recent heavy rains, with roads aggressively undermined in some places.
Mr Martin says that while the Armidale-Kempsey road is "a stand out" there are many others across regional NSW that have been impacted.
"Many regional and rural roads are either closed or so badly damaged that they're really not fit for purpose, and damage the vehicles," he tells AAP.
"The flooding and very extreme rainfall over recent times, is producing potholes and damage all over the place."
NSW Farmers are welcoming this week's renewed commitment by the NSW and federal governments to pour $312 million into rebuilding and improving roads in the state's north impacted by successive serious floods.
It's not clear whether this funding will be used for the Armidale-Kempsey road.
But Mr Martin says more needs to be done and funding alone is not enough to repair flood-damaged roads.
Ms Mitchell says a 4.3 tonne load limit has seen agriculture and tourism forced to wind back in the area, while emergency services also won't attend her property.
"Police won't come, I rang the SES in the last flood because my horses were stuck on a flood plain and they basically said, 'we can't come, the road's closed'."
"We've got farmers here who are going to be overstocked going into winter because they couldn't get their cattle to market ... so they'll need to be feeding them all winter and they can't access the feed."
"We've had all these promises and we're going back years ... and in the meantime no work's been done, the rain has come, it's washing our road into the river.
"It's anxiety-producing to be trapped."
NSW Regional Transport and Roads Minister Sam Farraway has been contacted for comment.
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