Items filtered by date: October 2019
Monday, 14 October 2019 15:54

Road failure – “told you so”

The opinions of experienced road builders that the old road shoulder on the Princes Highway would not stand up to heavy traffic loads have been proven correct with work having started on a large section of failed road surface, only months after it was re-sealed.
Gippsland East Nationals MP Tim Bull said earlier this year he raised concerns after experienced former road workers advised him the works would fail.
“I met with them on site about five kilometres east of the Billabong Roadhouse, exactly where the road is now failing, said Mr Bull.
“What they told me is that with the barriers being installed on the centre of the road, the east bound traffic lane was being pushed to the left and what was the old road shoulder, would now have to take regular traffic volumes.
“They said it was only built to shoulder standard and despite a seal over the top, the shoulder base would never hold up to regular traffic loads.
“However, the authorities formally advised us that geotechnical assessments had been done and indicated the road would be satisfactory. When I relayed this back to the former roads workers, they just laughed and said ‘you’ll see’.
“Now here we are with the road failing in a number of areas and an announcement that a large section will have to be replaced – and it is that very shoulder that was referred to.
“Road workers were critical of Regional Roads Victoria from the outset, describing this as a cheap band aid job, which is unfortunately symbolic of the fiasco that the Princes Highway road safety works have become.
“They were told, via my office, by respected and experienced road builders, but they just bulldozed ahead regardless.
“When every dollar of road funding is so hard to come by it is scandalous to see it wasted by having to undertake costly repairs that could have been avoided if the job had been done correctly in the first place.
“Road building standards, whether it is the width of pull over lanes or the depth of road construction pavement, are being ignored.
“The Andrews Labor Government and Roads Minister Jaala Pulford have a lot to answer for,” said Mr Bull.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, inspects one of the many failed sections of the “new” Princes Highway roadworks that Regional Roads Victoria was warned would not stand up to heavy traffic and is now being re built. 
Published in Media
Wednesday, 09 October 2019 16:31

Minister Pulford shows how out of touch she is

Roads Minister Jaala Pulford has shown just how out of touch she is with East Gippsland roadworks, describing concerns with the safety barriers between Sale and Bairnsdale as being a ‘very strange campaign’.
In relation to two new sections having to be removed after failing a safety audit, the Minister told ABC Gippsland ‘There have been some minor tweaks as there were always going to be’.
But Gippsland East Nationals MP Tim Bull said he can assure the Minister he was not having a fit, instead just passing on legitimate concerns from local residents who have raised safety issues with him.
“These same community concerns have triggered safety audits that have failed two sections of barrier which will now have to be remedied at significant cost - I don’t think she should be labelling these concerns a ‘very strange campaign’ – I think she should be thanking our community members,” said Mr Bull.
“The ‘minor tweaks’ she refers to include sections of 100m of barrier being removed just months after installation because they have been deemed unsafe. I would not call the removal of these sections ‘minor tweaks’.
“The Minister also said ‘Tim Bull writes me letters asking for bits of barrier to be taken down all the time’. This is not correct,” said Mr Bull.
“Of recent months I have continually requested a shoulder of four to six metres - which is the VicRoads standard to allow safety around broken down vehicles – not the three metres we have been given that stops a tyre being changed safely or a truck from being able to pull over.
“I have also requested on behalf of residents that some intersections be investigated for safety around line of sight and it has proved to be for good reason, as they have failed the safety audits.
“My most recent letter to the Minister actually requested she consider installing roadside barriers on sections of the Great Alpine Road where there is a sheer drop off. I am not opposed to barriers being installed in the right locations, in line with VicRoads guidelines and after community consultation – none of which has occurred on this job.”
“If the Minister thinks there have only been ‘minor tweaks’, I would ask her if these situations fall into that category:
• A backflip on the announcement to install centre of the road barriers on the Paynesville Road after community pressure.
• An agreement to remove 25kms of side barrier on the Princes Highway eastbound, where it had been planned to be installed, after community pressure.
• Removal of five sections of barrier months after installation, due to it failing safety audits.
• A last minute decision to install eight pull over areas not in the original plans after community complaints.
• Massive road failure on large stretches of new road surface requiring all the work to be done again at enormous cost.
“And this does not take into account the existing safety issues presented by the 3m shoulder.
“At a recent road safety forum in Sale the Minister heard from the community about the barrier concerns and that they were not being listened to. To have heard this and then label the community’s concerns a ‘very strange campaign’ is, well, very strange itself.”
Published in Media
Wednesday, 09 October 2019 08:18

Princes Highway barriers fail safety audit

Two more sections of safety barrier on the Princes Highway west of Bairnsdale will be removed after they failed recent safety audits, said Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“In what has become an acute embarrassment for the Andrews Labor Government, this now means that five sections of safety barrier will have been removed just months after installation, due to it not being safe.
“I can’t think of any better way of describing this work other than a complete stuff up.
“Barriers will now be removed at the intersections with Blandfords Lane and Swallow Lagoon Road after they failed an independent safety audit and this follows on from removal of barriers at 1150 Princes Highway, Farrells Lane and Providence Ponds.”
Mr Bull raised concerns over a number of intersections with the government in August and just last week received notification that at least two locations failed the safety audit.
“What I cannot understand is why these safety considerations were not covered off in the design stage, rather than have them installed, receive complaints, do an assessment and then say ‘oops we got that wrong let’s take them out’.
“I want to stress yet again that I am not opposed to barriers being installed in the right places, in line with the guidelines and after appropriate community consultation, but this is not what has occurred here.”
Mr Bull said the lack of planning and hasty implementation of these barriers had led to a litany of disasters and backflips that included:
• An about-face on the plan to install centre of the road barriers on the Paynesville Road after community pressure.
• An agreement to remove 25kms of side barrier on the Princes Highway eastbound, where it had been planned to be installed, after community pressure.
• Removal of five sections of barrier weeks after installation, due to it failing safety audits.
• The 3m shoulder not being in line with Regional Roads Victoria’s own standards of a 4-6m shoulder to cater for broken down vehicles.
• Excuse provided for the narrower unsafe shoulder being ‘vegetation impacts’ when the government says safety of road users is its priority, it cannot be both.
• Drivers of vehicles with flat tyres being unable to change them without being dangerously in the traffic lane due to lack of room. 
• Failure to remove old ripple strips in the carriageway, despite a promise to do so four months ago.
• Major road surface failure requiring ongoing patch up works as a result of the new traffic lane being built on the old shoulder.
• Failure to listen to former roads contractors who pre-warned the old shoulder would not stand up to heavy traffic loads and it is now collapsing.
• Installing steel barriers that impede line of sight, when all the public consultations exhibited less visually intrusive wire rope barriers.
“The fact so many changes have had to be made on the run, clearly indicates lack of planning and consultation and a failure of quality systems, there can be no other excuse for this level of incompetence.
“And now we also have a situation where we have had no work for almost two months. It has just stopped with no explanation. It seems Regional Roads Victoria might be finally realising what a self-imposed disaster they have on their hands,” said Mr Bull.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, at Swallow Lagoon Road intersection where a section of the recently installed safety barrier has failed an independent safety audit and will soon be removed.
Published in Media
Wednesday, 02 October 2019 14:26

Premier’s one hour visit ticks box but no rate relief

After five years as Premier, Daniel Andrews has finally made it to East Gippsland, but unfortunately only dropped in for an hour in what was clearly a box ticking visit, to make an underwhelming drought announcement before flying to Mildura.
“With the current drought package coming to a conclusion, farmers have been waiting for the new assistance measures to be announced and they had rate relief at the top of their list,” said Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“It’s the one thing they have pleaded for, but it is missing altogether in what is largely an extension of existing programs.
“The Minister constantly says she is ‘listening to farmers’, but clearly she is not. They have made it very clear on a number of occasions what they wanted.
“The Minister admitted on-air today she did not know how much local councils collected from farmers, but a quick phone call or email would have clarified it is $4.9m in East Gippsland and $10.1m in Wellington.
“The announcement today to provide payments to East Gippsland of $1.51m and Wellington of $3.31m is not the direct rates relief farmers have been calling for and, regardless, it does not cover one third of farm rates in either shire. While I look forward to discussions with councils on how they plan to utilise these funds, it’s well short of the mark.
“The Minister said earlier this year rate subsidies were ‘on the table’ but has now dismissed it as a ‘matter for councils’. She seems to forget that in 2008 and 2009 Labor provided direct rate subsidies to councils in the millennium drought.
“Reality is it is not a matter for councils as they cannot take that big a hit to their budgets. The only way to do this, as was done 10 years ago, is for the state to pay the rates on behalf of farmers to councils. That the Minister has ruled this out, will disappoint many.
“As much as she says she is listening to farmers, clearly she is not.
“Today’s $31m package, much of which is dependent on matching funding, pales in comparison to the support for farmers in NSW which just hit $1.8 billion.”
Mr Bull paid tribute to the Gippsland Agricultural Group for receiving funding support for their trial farm at Bengworden, an outcome he sought recently in Parliament with a question to the Minister to support the enterprise.
Published in Media
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 12:52

Roo control program hops the wrong path

The Andrews Labor Government’s Kangaroo Harvesting Program announced today with the aim of controlling spiralling kangaroo numbers, will be treated as a joke by East Gippsland farmers, according to Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“The commercial quota for all of the Gippsland region – which includes East Gippsland, Wellington, South Gippsland, Bass Coast, Latrobe, Baw Baw, Cardinia, Casey and Mornington Peninsula Shires – is 925 kangaroos,” said Mr Bull.
“If you break it down, it averages 103 kangaroos per Shire – as if that is going to make any difference whatsoever.
“I thought they must have left a number off this figure. For Agriculture Minister, Jaclyn Symes, to say this will ‘ensure farmers aren’t being overrun by roos that can eat crops, damage property, and compete with stock for feed and water’ must be some sort of bureaucratic joke.
“This will make minimal difference in an area like Meerlieu / Bengworden / Strathfieldsaye, which is heavily over-populated with roos, let alone the entire East Gippsland Shire, nor will it have any discernible impact across the 44,000 square kilometres of the nine shires outlined by the government.
“While the kangaroos harvested will go to pet food, kangaroos controlled with an Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) permit won’t be able to be processed as pet food. Why not use this meat, rather than leave it to rot in a paddock feeding feral animals?”
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the kangaroo pet food industry thrived when first set up by the former Liberal Nationals government in 2014, but it’s struggled through five years of delays and uncertainty under Daniel Andrews.
“A permanent program is long overdue and desperately-needed to control exploding kangaroo populations, it remains to be seen if the latest changes will work or if processors, hunters and farmers are just being wrapped up in more red tape,” he said.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, and Australian Landscape Trust Ecologist Madeline Watts at the Trust’s Strathfieldsaye Estate property last year where spiralling kangaroo numbers are threatening the survival of the Estate’s agricultural research and conservation programs.
Published in Media