An unnatural disaster is following the nine natural disasters Gunnedah shire faced in 2021-22.

When the devastating drought finally ended, flood after flood left a scar not only on those whose homes and business were impacted, but on our shire’s infrastructure.

Like dozens of other shires around the state, the inundation of metres of water left Gunnedah’s roads and bridges broken and damaged.

Councils do not have the funds to meet the huge needs of wave after wave of natural disasters. Our shire took the only road available to it and applied for the money made available by the federal government and administered by the NSW government through its Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. And, in most cases, we are still waiting for that funding to be approved – years after the floods.

While the funds made available under the Emergency Works fund intended for immediate repairs such as clearance of slips and cleaning of bridge decks was approved, with the work rapidly carried out and long finished, the Essential Public Assets Restoration (EPAR) is a different story.

EPAR is the funding needed for major restoration – for critical projects such as Hunts Road, Black Stump Way, and causeways at Clifton, Grain Valley, Orange Grove, Kelvin, Bando, Marys Mount, Blue Vale, Pullaming and Bulunbulun roads, along with many other projects.

In fact, council has compiled cases for 50 sites across the shire that need restoration through EPAR at a cost of around $10.5 million. Only just over one-third of those projects have been approved. Some projects only receive partial approval.

This is not just its own brand of unnatural disaster for Gunnedah shire. As chair of the Country Mayors Association of NSW, I know that the unworkable state and federal disaster grant funding is impacting heavily on already stressed shires around the state. Early results from a call to member councils has so far revealed $730 million in applications for this disaster funding, with only $270 million approved to date.

Until councils have secured that funding, they cannot seek tenders and they cannot fix the infrastructure. The lived experience of this for our community is a situation such as Hunts Road, which has been closed since November 2022. These roads are our people’s lifelines.

We have received word of approval for EPAR funding for projects at Black Stump Way, including the Broken Dam Causeway, Goolhi Road, Bulunbulun Road, Maitland Street Bridge and Marys Mount Road. Council is, with great relief, working on restoring these roads. Competing priorities to fix all of these roads, other council-budgeted roadworks and works contracted to Transport for NSW has resulted in some delays. The Black Stump Broken Dam Causeway work, for example, is due to be completed by June 30 this year.

Unfortunately, along with councils around the state, we are still waiting for funding for many, many other projects that impact the daily lives of our residents. We will continue to pursue this funding, but this “disaster response” is in itself a systemic disaster.

To order photos from this page click here