BARRABA is a community “sick to death” of the Woodsreef Asbestos Mine drama, tired of having their town’s name associated with the deadly substance and of successive governments failing to provide any solutions for the derelict site.
The latest twist is the announcement Mine Rd, which runs past the site, was closed last week, after a brief reprieve during which options for an alternative route were discussed.
Those plans have now been shelved and the decision to close the road made due to health concerns, but debate continues to rage over not only the loss of access past the mine, but the rehabilitation of the site itself.
“A lot of the town is sick of the whole thing,” said Danny Ballard, a member of the Woodsreef Community Advisory Group.
Mr Ballard said he believed the road’s closure was inevitable and that the health concerns warranted the action.
He, along with other members of the advisory group, acknowledges that the options for an alternative route came at too high a price for the amount of traffic that uses Mine Rd.
The solution has already passed the town by, he says, an opportunity missed years ago when the former Barraba Shire Council had plans for another road drawn up, but state government funding never materialised.
Along with fellow advisory group member Paula McIver, he knows the closure of Mine Rd will make life difficult for farmers in the area and for the likes of the Rural Fire Service.
“There are four to five farmers ... whose only access to the bottom end of their properties is Mine Rd,” Ms McIver said.
“They have to drive an extra 60-odd kilometres twice a day. Who’s going to compensate them for their time and the cost?”
For residents along Ironbark Creek, too, Ms McIver says the closure of the road will leave them largely isolated when the watercourse floods.
For the Rural Fire Service, it will create problems in the event of a blaze in the rocky ridge country along the road and could cause them to take up to three times longer to respond.
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said he would take up the concerns of the fire brigade if need be and was willing to listen to representations from any residents adversely affected by the closure of the road.
Mr Ballard and Mrs McIver disagree over the safety concerns about the mine.
Ms McIver says there is no evidence to suggest the white asbestos that was mined at Woodsreef is dangerous, a view shared by others.
She thinks the road should be sealed and large concrete barriers erected between the mine site and the road – a much cheaper option, if asbestos fibres are considered an issue.