DEPUTY Premier Andrew Stoner has instructed the Woodsreef Taskforce to commence investigations into an alternative route around the abandoned Woodsreef asbestos mine.
Mr Stoner made the request to taskforce chairman Brad Mullard in an email on
Friday following representations from member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson.
The email from Mr Stoner requested the taskforce commence investigations into costing of alternate routes around the Woodsreef mine site and report back to him as soon as possible.
Mr Anderson appealed to the deputy premier to defer any decision to close Mine Rd, after a meeting with director of hazardous incidents Craig Lambert, NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Wayne Smith and a representative from the minister’s office of health while in parliament last week.
During that meeting it was indicated by the specialists that Mine Rd should be closed on the basis of risks to health.
Mr Anderson wrote to Mr Stoner seeking to defer any decision to close the road until an alternative could be found.
Using the taskforce objectives as the basis of his argument, Mr Anderson suggested finding an alternative route would be a solution to a number of the taskforce’s problems.
“The community has indicated repeatedly that there is a consistent, historical and ongoing need for a road there,” he said.
Mr Anderson said an original proposal for a road realignment, that would divert traffic around the mine site was put together by an Inverell-based company, in October 1999 at the request of the former Barraba Shire Council.
He said those drawings would be considered by the taskforce under the new directive.
An estimate at the time the plans were drawn up suggested the new road would cost about $1.065 million.
Mr Anderson said he believed an alternative access would provide the solution to the taskforce objectives and could be funded using the $6.3 million for the mine’s rehabilitation.
“This is a fantastic outcome,” Mr Anderson said.
“I think the Barraba community will finally feel like they are being heard and we’re no longer in a position where the attitude is ‘it’s too hard and too much’, because that’s been going on for too long.”
Mr Anderson said he wasn’t able to provide any timeline for when more about an alternative road would be known, but Mr Stoner said in his letter to the taskforce he expected them to report back “as soon as practicable”.
At Tamworth Regional Council’s business meeting at the end of February, the council decided to hand back authority over the road to the state government.
Council’s assistant general manager Peter Thompson said at the time the recommendation identified to the state government that because the impacts of the former asbestos mine meant that council could not maintain the road, nor was it insured, the council should not be the roads authority. He said:
“In the event the state government is not prepared to replace the council as the roads authority, the council has resolved that it would support the road closure given it was not able to maintain the road and has no insurance for the public liability risk it carries due to the mine.”