Due to the extent of flood damage to Barrington Tops Forest Road, it's not expected to be reopened until mid-2022.
Newly elected Member for Upper Hunter, Dave Layzell made a visit to the area on Friday, July 9 to have a look at the damage and get some information about the situation.
He was joined by members of the Upper Hunter council, representatives from Forestry Corporation and the engineering consultants involved in the road repair project.
"During the visit we discussed the failure of the road and the reasons why it has been deemed unsafe for any use," Mr Layzel explained.
Being an old forestry road built 50 years ago, it was never intended for public use, however it's currently maintained as a "community service obligation" by Forestry.
Since 2015, Forestry has been resheeting or laying new gravel on the road. The recent rain events have caused severe cracking in the road that indicate a future landslide is likely and probable.
"These cracks have been marked and it is obvious that they are widening since they were originally spray painted," Mr Layzell said.
It's estimated that the repair bill will be around $2 million, however Forestry has the funds and the process to getting the works completed is underway.
"As Forestry Corp is a government-owned organisation, they do not qualify for disaster funding from Resilience NSW. Instead the Deputy Premier has given them a two year respite from issuing any dividends to the NSW Government. This respite is due to the impact that the fires, floods and landslides have had on Forestry Corp," Mr Layzell said.
Some initial works have been completed including a site survey and defect investigation.
Douglas Partners have been engaged for the geotechnical work and have started taking core samples for a report which will enable an engineering design to be completed. Once the design is approved, it will go out for tender for a contractor to intake the work. The entire process is expected to be completed by June 2022.
In the meantime, the road will remain closed between Cobark Park and Honeysuckle picnic areas as it has been since March 25.
Alternate routes were also discussed, mainly in relation to a bypass track that runs below the road.
"Recently a couple became bogged in the track trying to bypass the blocked road. They became bogged for two days before authorities found them and pulled them out," Mr Layzell said.
Forestry looked at the option to upgrade the track to a gravel road, but unfortunately due to the width of the track, the gradient and the proximity to the edge, the track is not suitable.
"There is also a risk that any landslide from the failed road would fall onto the track below. Engineering advice has confirmed this," Mr Layzell said.
"Overall the temporary diversion would not provide a safe and suitable access through the area."
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