Mullaley’s Sheryl Martin said she feels “quietly hopeful” after a visit from local, state and federal government members.
New Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, Parkes MP Mark Coulton and Gunnedah shire deputy mayor Gae Swain travelled to Mullaley on Thursday to inspect the condition of the Grain Valley Road and talk to locals about their concerns.
Ms Martin is one of many locals who believe the remaining 17.4 kilometres of gravel road needs to be sealed as soon as possible. She was one of four residents who spoke to the group and said it was “quite positive”.
“Their response was as positive as the response we’ve ever had,” she said.
“They really seem keen to make things happen if they can, which is great, so fingers crossed it will happen.”
Ms Martin spoke up at the meet-and-greet to express her thoughts on the inland rail, which will connect Narrabri to North Star.
“The [Grain Valley] road has hit a whole new level of dangerous because of the level the traffic that’s travelling on it,” she said.
“It is a road in a district, which will be a main thoroughfare through to Narrabri if the inland rail goes ahead, so I think it shows a bit of foresight if we get that ready so we can get our produce to the railway.”
“It’s one of those roads in our district, which is dangerous but also sees way too much traffic to not be a bitumen road and sees more traffic each year and I think we’re waiting for a disaster to happen if we don’t get it upgraded.”
Ms Martin is part of the Mullaley Public School P&C and echoed the fears of fellow P&C member Lizzy Bell in regards to the safety of children travelling the school bus on the road.
“What I think is a concern, is parents are pulling their kids off the bus if there’s wet weather,” she said.
“Parents are really worried about their kids and the knock-on effects of that is that we might lose our bus out there if the kids aren’t going on it. It’s another vital service we might lose because of the state of that road.
“It’s clear it needs to be upgraded for our district to move forward. And for travellers coming through, you don’t want them to show up in Mullaley with bits of their cars hanging off, furious at the state of the road. You want them to have a good experience so they come back.”
Ms Martin said it had become a “standing joke” in the district that there are still signs on the road that say it would be sealed by 2010.
“There are signs on that road that identify it as as a north to south thoroughfare. It was an alternative to get people off the Newell Highway,” she said.
“It’s already been identified as long as 10 years ago as a major thoroughfare and needs to be upgraded. And it’s about time that something happened.”
This month, Gunnedah Shire Council has applied for funding under the federal government’s Heavy Vehicle and Productivity Program to finish sealing the road.
Mullaley Bus Service owner and driver Russell Keam said Thursday’s meeting was “excellent” and he had a chance to talk to all of the government representatives.
“They seem very enthusiastic and they’ll do what they can. I’m quite hopeful,” he said.
“I thought it was very good the deputy PM could get there and everybody including Gae Swain, they’re all on-side. We all want to fix it and I just hope we can get the money.
“It was very well coordinated and I thought it was a positive result.”
Mulalley farmer David Rose also met the politicians on Thursday and said it was good to see them come out and take a look for themselves.
“It sounds like they’re certainly going to prioritise it and get it done,” he said.
Mr Rose said he has concerns about his children’s safety on the school bus and regularly uses the Grain Valley Road to access his property. He currently lives 25 kilometres towards Coonabarabran but the family would like to relocate to a house on the Grain Valley Road property.
“Personally, it’s the dust that annoys me,” he said.
“We’d like to move down there but it’s just too dusty.”