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Upper Colo locals look at forming group in bid to ensure voice is heard on damaged roads and bridge

Mar 26, 2022


Upper Colo residents are looking to form a group along the lines of the Macdonald Valley Association to ensure Hawkesbury Council listens and acts swiftly on their damaged roads, even as it’s revealed even more parts of the damaged and heritage Upper Colo bridge appear to have been swept away in the latest floods.


The move on forming an association comes after Upper Colo resident Laura Steele publicly asked Mayor Patrick Conolly to intervene and to give assurances work would begin on badly damaged Upper Colo Road after flood waters swept through earlier this month.


Cllr Conolly didn’t answer Mrs Steele’s main point on assurances on road repairs, instead replying with the timeline for the replacement of Upper Colo Bridge. Initial Council assessments are underway on damaged roads.


Paul Bryant an Upper Colo resident and also the respected Captain of the Upper Colo RFS, said on the community Facebook page that the information from the Mayor on the bridge replacement was, “the same timeline initially promised at the meeting and via emails that the bridge will be completed in the last half of the year, so nothing new there, but it’s great to have some actual months straight from [the Mayor’s] email to hold them to”.


Mr Bryant also floated the idea of a local group, or association.


“I agree to hold them [councillors] accountable is important but we need to look at also engaging positively with local government to try and achieve results.


“We could look at forming an association like the Macdonald Valley Association, as their model has worked well during a natural disaster and also for the pre and post disaster recovery work,” he said.


Upper Colo Bridge was mostly swept away a year ago in the 2021 floods and while tenders have now been awarded for its concrete replacement, it is unlikely to be finished and open until November, at the earliest, according to the Mayor’s timeline.


But that timeline could well blow out because of the damage to Upper Colo Rd in these latest floods, with one section only half useable and clearly not suitable for heavy machinery or trucks.


While still open, Upper Colo Rd is not passable for heavy traffic because of the under washing of sections of the road from this most recent flood event, with no less than 5 stretches of damaged road.


And on the bridge situation, the original plan was also to save parts of the heritage bridge so the wood could be used for local heritage projects, and while Council did take away a section in April or May last year, as many as 3 sections were left on the river bank for the last 12 months, according to locals.


“Unfortunately Council did not secure the old timber sections of the bridge which lay riverside for 12 months along the Colo River, and these have now been washed away, further broken, and covered in sand,”


…says resident Alice Voigt.


“That’s a huge amount of local heritage lost due to the comparative incompetence of council,” she adds.


Part of Comleroy Rd damaged by the rain water and flood runoff, making for treacherous driving conditions for locals


“Council have said that it could take up to 12 months for Hawkesbury roads to be fixed, and from past experience residents of Upper Colo are not at the top of that list, not unless the Mayor is doing a site visit.”


…Ms Voigt said.


Since the bridge was damaged, for the last 12 months Colo Heights Rd has been the only route in and out for many residents.


“That has never been a suitable road for heavy vehicles due to the blind corners, retaining walls and one lane access,” said Ms Voigt.


Get your bearings – both Hulbert Rd and Upper Colo Rd are damaged, while the bridge between them has been impassable for a year


“Sadly, residents of Hulbert Rd are almost completely cut off as huge sections of that road were completely washed away in the flood too. There is no way any emergency vehicles can help these people, as seen when one of the community’s locals broke three ribs during the recent rain and had to get taken by helicopter to Westmead,” says Ms Voigt.


She also points out that in a meeting with Council in 2021, residents were told Upper Colo Rd dirt sections would be sealed before any bridge work was started, and substantially that has not begun yet.


“So there seems like a hell of a lot of work to do even before construction on the Upper Colo bridge begins,” says Ms Voigt.


“I’d like to invite the Mayor to dinner at my house to see how myself and my two daughters have to travel each day.”


…she says.


Damage Alice Voigt says has been caused to her vehicle since having to take roads so flood damaged it’s “like driving over boulders and deep crevices”, she says


Hulbert Rd – a big repair job right there…


Mr Bryant has spoken to several Hawkesbury councillors to suggest another face-to-face meeting is held at Upper Colo, so they can see the situation for themselves. No news on that so far.


Last year, just 5 of the 12 Hawkesbury councillors took a trip out to the area to talk to residents about replacing Upper Colo Bridge.


“It would be great for the councillors to see all roads/infrastructure in the area,” Mr Bryant said.


“The adventure wears out when you have to 4WD each day to get your kids to school or go to the shops.”


The idea of an Association or group for Upper Colo has been welcomed by at least one Hawkesbury councillor, independent Mary Lyons-Buckett, who said on the Upper Colo Community Facebook page, “it would be great to have an Association in your area. Collective voice from a body (such as MacDonald Valley Association, BRAG at Bilpin, Pitt Town Progress Association) can assist advocacy and engagement with government, but also enable grants to be applied for so that community-driven resilience planning and projects etc. can be undertaken from the ground up.


“The biggest strengths come from the connections within the community, and building on those to capture local knowledge, experience and skills,” said Cllr Lyons-Buckett.


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