IS this the worst section of road in Lake Macquarie?
Wangi Wangi residents, including Jenny Hill, reckon the 250-metre stretch of Reserve Road has to be experienced to be believed.
And they’re right.
The Lakes Mail walked the site this week, and was shocked by the depth and proliferation of pot holes, and the extent of erosion on the road’s edges.
But not as shocked as the four unsuspecting motorists in sedans who we witnessed crash down into pot holes at about 50km/h after leaving the sealed section at the southern end of the road.
Even four-wheel-drives driven by locals who know the area slowed to walking speed to zig zag their way through the minefield.
One four-wheel-drive was towing a boat on a trailer. The driver slowed to a near halt then began to inch his way left and right, but it was not enough to stop the trailer lunging and the boat crashing and clanging.
So it was no surprise to learn that Hunter Valley Buses, which has about 70 bus movements along the section of road every week – including school buses – is considering abandoning the route.
The bus company has serious concerns about the threat the road poses to the safety of its drivers and passengers, and the potential damage caused to its vehicles.
The section of road links Watkins Road, on the northern side of Wangi Point, with Dobell Drive, on the southern side of the peninsula.
Ms Hill said the condition of the road had been an issue for the 18 months that she’d lived in the area.
“And every time it’s rained, it’s got worse,” Ms Hill said.
If motorists were surprised by the depth of the pot holes in dry weather, it was nothing compared to the shock they felt when they plunged into the pot holes filled with water after rain, she said.
“And if you came through here at night and weren’t aware of the road conditions it could be very dangerous,” Ms Hill said.
So why hasn’t Lake Macquarie City Council sealed or repaired the road?
It turns out this section of road occurs within Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area, and is therefore the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
A spokesperson for the Office of Environment and Heritage said NPWS “manages roads on a priority basis”.
When asked if NPWS was aware that motorists now veered off the driving surface and into bushland to avoid the pot holes, the spokesperson said: “The road is wider than a normal road.”
Ms Hill said it was important for authorities to understand that this section of Reserve Road was not the exclusive domain of 4WDs.
“Everyone uses it. Buses use it from both ends. You’ve got people out on afternoon drives. And in school holidays there’s even more people on this part of the road,” she said.
“Just the other day I saw a car drive to the edge of the road, stop, have a look at the state it was in, and then turn around.”
Ms Hill said it was more than a matter of convenience that locals be able to travel around Wangi Point on this section of road: it was a safety issue, as well.
“We don’t want an environment here where there is just one way in, and one way out of the area,” she said.
The community would reject any plan by NPWS to close the road, or block it with gates, she said.
The section of road is close to the popular Wangi Point Lakeside Holiday Park, which is operated by Lake Macquarie City Council.
A spokesperson for the council confirmed that maintenance of the road was the responsibility of NPWS.
“Council spent more than $80,000 in 2016 resurfacing the section of the road that runs through council’s Wangi Point Holiday Park leased area to improve its condition,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Hill said her correspondence with council and NPWS requesting repairs to the road had come to naught.
“No one has been prepared to do anything about it,” she said.
Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, has inspected the road and liaised with Ms Hill and Hunter Valley Buses about their concerns. He has subsequently written to council and Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton seeking a resolution.
Mr Piper said there appeared to be some “jurisdictional considerations” about who should or could maintain the road, but “these are not matters that will assist the residents, school children, bus drivers or emergency services if they need to make use of this road”.