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Primary producers in Central Queensland plead for infrastructure upgrade over flood-prone May Downs Road

By Meg Bolton, Wednesday April 1, 2020 - 10:33 EDT
Audience submitted image
The Isaac River Bridge underwater after flooding washed through and closed May Downs Road. - Audience submitted

Fed up primary producers in central Queensland are demanding the upgrade of a key road that is regularly ravaged by floods.

May Downs Road connects the small community of Clarke Creek with its nearest town, Middlemount, but residents said it is cut off by floodwater for weeks every year.

Lotus Park Feedlot owner Harry Kemp said he would be thousands of dollars out of pocket if he did not organise his deliveries around weather forecasts.

"As an economical decision, you have to get it through when the road is open," he said.

"We work our business around that road."

May Downs road had already been closed four times this year due to flooding for more than 20 days, and the detour added 200 kilometres to the distance between Clarke Creek and Middlemount.

Mr Kemp said his property had been in the family for three decades and road conditions were not any better now than they were when his grandfather ran the business.

"Every year, without fail, the road goes under," he said.

Council records showed that the road was closed for 164 days from January 6, 2017 to May 2, 2019.

"On certain months of the year we try and buy grain from more the Clermont area rather than the Capella area, so we don't have to use that road," Mr Kemp said.

The Clarke Creek Community Reference Group had been calling for a sealed road and a new, higher bridge since 2009.

The group's president, Amelia Rea, said it was time for the State Government to step up and take responsibility for the failed infrastructure.

"We aren't asking for a football stadium, we are asking for basic road access," she said.

In a statement, the Department of Transport and Main Roads said a planning project for the road was due to be finalised by mid-2021.

"There is a planning project underway to investigate upgrading sections of the May Downs Road, including sealing and upgrading the Isaac River Bridge," a spokesperson said.

But Ms Rea said flood levels in the area often exceeded five metres, well above the 1.2-metre height of the bridge.

"There is absolutely no chance that the current bridge is going to maintain access for our community," she said.

"This is a main east-west vital link connector road, not just for the mining sector [but also for] local commodities, feedlots and producers.

"It's actually a very busy road and it's not even once a year, it can be multiple times a year it can be cut off."

Ms Rea said road closures were driving business out of small towns by forcing residents to travel to Rockhampton or Mackay instead of Middlemount.

"To go to town it's two hours to Mackay or Rockhampton each way, so it's literally doubling our time to access essential services like groceries [and] health care," she said.


© ABC 2020

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