Canberra Airport joins South West NSW push to seal Brindabella Road

15 May 2015 Brisbane Times

John Thistleton - Reporter for The Canberra Times

If a road rolled through the mountains as gracefully as the Goodradigbee River through the Brindabellas, Canberrans could head south west for more silver river scenery, all the way to the Murray River. 

That is the view of the 'Brindabella Road to the Future' group. They say sealing and re-aligning the Brindabella Road between Tumut and Canberra will revive economic and social growth from Batlow, Talbingo, Corryong, all the way down to Jingellic on the Murray River, and help the case for Canberra's international airport.

The road passes Brindabella Valley, where an elderly women broke her hip recently, and had to be taken by helicopter to hospital because of the road's rough surface. Brindabella Station's owner and lobby group member Brian Barlin said hundreds of people drove into the mountains at various times, and more would use it if upgraded and safer to get to snowfields. 

Drawing on the wider ACT region to build a case for direct international flights, Canberra Airport supports the campaign. Airport director of planning Noel McCann said although Brindabella Road closes occasionally in winter, for much of the year it is open and can shave up to 40 minutes off, compared to the Barton and Hume highways option.

"We've long supported this, but not just the south west slopes connection to Tumut. We also recognise the importance of more efficient routes from the Riverina and also from Tharwa south to Adaminaby, and we have had recent discussions with councils in those regions about opportunities for freight and export produce coming to the airport, as well as passengers," Mr McCann said.

Spokesman for the group, Australian Regional Tourism Network chairman David Sheldon said every decade since 1927 supporters of a better Brindabella Road had come close to success only to have other priorities knock them off.

Mr Sheldon said at least 32 NSW shires stood to gain from better access. "To be fair they [Tumut Shire] have done a fair whack of work on the road, credit where credit is due," he said.

But the shire could no longer rely on timber alone to drive its economy. "Over the last six to 10 years little economic and social growth, outside timber, has happened within the region,"  Mr Sheldon said.

The lobby group acknowledges environmental impacts and concerns about heavier traffic will lead to objections. Some people in remote areas liked their isolation.

Semi-retired real estate agent Bob Quarmby of Talbingo said tourism would flow to and from Canberra on a sealed road. "I think it has value when you look at it, what a great day's drive from Canberra through up to Talbingo, up to Batlow, on to Tumbarumba, Corryong and back through Cooma, what a fantastic drive."

Much of the road runs through the electorate of Member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire who says the group needs a feasibility study of the economic and social benefits to make a case for funding. 

"Roads don't just get sealed, there are engineering works that have to occur, some of the suggestions of 'lets stick a bit of tar on it and that'll be great' [were not enough] - roads are just not engineered that way now, they have to be done properly."

Mr Maguire said after the upgrade of the Gocup Road from Tumut to Gundagai, [which has attracted funding] the next priority was improvements on the Snowy Mountains Highway. He was prepared to work with Tumut Shire and the community on raising money for a study on Brindabella Road.