RESIDENTS of The Hatch Road at Blackmans Point have celebrated a victory after securing $1.5 million in federal government funding to have their road rehabilitated and sealed.
The funding, announced by Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, will seal the 5km stretch of road and mitigate the health risks of excessive dust produced from the crushed concrete currently lining the surface of the thoroughfare.
The Hatch Road provides access to the homes of 80 residents at Blackmans Point with many of those ratepayers pushing Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for more than two years to commit to sealing the road.
Improving accessibility and safety were imperative but topping the list of serious concerns for residents are the airborne crystalline silica particles from the crushed concrete which was used to maintain the road's surface in 2018.
It was this issue that prompted residents to seek the help from Mr Conaghan when they concluded The Hatch Road was not a priority for council.
Resident Stuart Redman said the crushed concrete used in council's regular maintenance of The Hatch Road poses a significant health risk given all residents harvest their own water and road dust pours from their roof into their tanks every time it rains.
Debris including large lengths of wire, building materials, bits of steel and even a copper tap fitting can be found compressed into the road's surface. The ongoing repairs and replacement of tyres is proving costly, he said.
Mr Redman has coined crystalline silica, the by-product of crushed concrete, the "new asbestos". Air quality monitoring conducted by council produced unreliable results because information was gathered when it was raining and dust was suppressed, he said.
"It's such a relief to learn it will finally be sealed with bitumen and I thank the Federal Member for Cowper for not forgetting us and for not thinking our little road didn't matter," Mr Redman said.
He said residents have felt neglected by council on the issue despite a $370,000 boost following Mr Conaghan's election in 2019. That election commitment was to seal 1.8km of the road but in August 2019 council agreed it would proceed with detailed surveys and design to determine costs.
Mr Conaghan said the health risks were serious enough for him to rally for $1.5 million in federal budget funds to upgrade the full 5km stretch.
"This dusty dirt road has been a thorn in the side of local residents for about a decade," he said.
"Being on the outskirts of a regional city and the access point to some agricultural businesses, including Cassegrain's tea tree oil plantation, I think it is high time this road was sealed."
Works are expected to get underway in the early part of 2021 after council finalises the detailed design and gained works approvals, Mr Conaghan said.
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