Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 16:44 :03 ): It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak on an adjournment debate. Tonight, I want to talk about some of the issues confronting some of my residents caused as a result of the floods last week—in particular, those impacted by the extraordinary damage done to Montacute Road. For anybody who has not had the chance to see some of the footage that is quite easily available on the internet of the way that road has been washed away, it is a healthy reminder to anyone of the power of nature over our human constructions.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mother Nature.
Mr GARDNER: The power of Mother Nature, as the Deputy Speaker correctly advises, over our human frailties. The fact is that we, with our human frailties, must do what we can with our ingenuity and our endeavours to look after our community. We have a community of some several hundred people living in Montacute—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is a lot of noise on my right.
Mr GARDNER: —Cherryville, Castambul , Marble Hill and surrounding districts who rely very heavily on Montacute Road for their everyday business, their work, their play, their leisure activities and, critically and importantly in the months ahead, their safety. We are probably only a matter of weeks—six to 10 weeks, depending on where the delineation is—from fire danger season.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! There is too much noise in the chamber and I cannot hear a single word the member for Morialta is saying. If you have conversations, take them outside the chamber, please. That means the members to your left as well.
Mr GARDNER: The simple fact is that, with that fire danger season so rapidly approaching, we have a situation where the main arterial road for these communities is currently completely out of action, and the early reports were that it could be out of action for several months. This is a serious concern if a fire were to take place in the Adelaide Hills, for example in the month of November, as we have seen in recent years, of course, last year we saw the Pinery fire in November.
If a fire was to occur south of Marble Hill or Cherryville so that the Norton Summit Road was inaccessible for residents to get out, Montacute Road out of action means we are talking about potentially dozens of cars trying to escape down the Corkscrew Road, a road that everybody would be familiar with from the Tour Down Under cycling race. Members may remember that extraordinary footage of cyclists trying to get around it, but imagine trying to get three or four dozen cars around it an emergency.
Obviously, we want our residents not to be in their homes in the case of a fire. On a catastrophic fire danger day, obviously we want people to have made other arrangements and not be present, but we must prepare for the worst, and preparing for the worst means doing everything we can to ensure that Montacute Road is open in time for the fire danger season. I will go a step further than that.
We have a series of important businesses for Adelaide and South Australia's Christmas season, that is, our cherry growers. These businesses rely on their sales starting on 1 November. They make the overwhelming majority of their profits in those months of November and December, and there are several cherry growers, of course, whose businesses are located on Montacute Road. Those businesses are inaccessible through Montacute Road at the moment, and to get to them, it is a long way around. Of course, it is a long way around up Norton Summit Road, which takes you past a great number of other cherry growers. So, obviously those cherry growers who are living and working in Montacute are very concerned at the moment that they have the opportunity for Montacute Road to be open by 1 November so they can sell their cherries. That is very important for those local businesses.
We understand that, for fire safety reasons in particular, the road must be opened as soon as possible, and for the local economy in Montacute the road must be opened as soon as possible, preferably by 1 November. That then leaves the practical question of: can it be done, how can it be done and who is responsible? This is a council road, it must be said. The Adelaide Hills Council owns the road as a result of a historical anomaly, it seems.
The department relinquished the road to the East Torrens council, which no longer exists, despite the fact that it was an arterial road of a nature that one would expect would normally be in state hands. There are other smaller roads in my electorate—for example, I am thinking of the road that goes along the top of the Morialta Conservation Park picnic area, which goes from a council area up to the entrance to the conservation park's walking trails. That is a state road, yet Montacute Road is not.
So the Adelaide Hills Council does have the legal responsibility for Montacute Road and they understand that, but it is odd that it is a council road. Because of the extraordinary nature of the devastation and the fact that this is an arterial road that is important to service several communities in the Hills in my electorate, it is important for the state government to help out. I spoke to the council's senior administration on the day after the floods and talked about the challenges they had ahead, and they were assessing the damage at the time.
I wrote to the Minister for Transport last week and was pleased that he got in touch with me on Monday to identify that he had had a look at it, and we started making arrangements for me to talk to some of his officers about it. He also, in the house, made some comments on Tuesday to the extent that, and I quote, 'the government is prepared to assist them where we can'. It is important that they do.
I met with senior engineers and officers from the transport department yesterday morning and had a talk about this and impressed on them the critical importance of finding a solution to get this done as quickly as possible and that there may need to be some state government support. They identified some suggestions, one of which was that there might be a two-stage solution where the road could be temporarily opened, at least with one lane but preferably with two lanes, with a quick job by November or December, but with longer term work to be done after Christmas and into next year in time for next year's floods to ensure that such an event would never again cause the same problem. It would potentially be some expensive work.
They have now agreed to sit down with the council, and that is taking place on Monday. I hope that, with the council and the Department of Transport working together, we can find a solution that gets that road open in time and that will provide the long-term fixes needed to improve the quality of the road. If there needs to be support from the state government, that support should be forthcoming. I look forward to keeping the house apprised of developments on this matter. We will be keeping a very close eye on it.