The announcement this week that the road at Testers Hollow will be fixed at last shows how effective persistent community campaigning can be.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, in a combined statement with NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey, announced on Wednesday that preliminary work to flood-proof Cessnock Road at Testers Hollow would begin in mid 2018, with construction to start the following year.
Lower Hunter residents have reacted with an understandable mix of excitement, relief and skepticism to news that the flood-prone stretch will finally be fixed.
Many residents’ comments in reaction to the news in recent days have been of excitement, initially, at the prospect the road will be raised.
But some then resort to words along the lines of “I’ll believe it when I see it”.
Given the ongoing debate about the Testers Hollow problem – one that has been evident for at least 90 years, as far as newspaper records show – and the fact that nothing meaningful has been done until now, it’s no wonder the community remains wary about promises.
The decades of inaction was the major catalyst behind Fairfax Media’s Raise the Road campaign to support residents and to stop the major road between Maitland and Cessnock being cut by floodwater again.
This week’s announcement is a huge step forward. It’s a tangible commitment to action and a win for the Lower Hunter community. It puts the government – at both the state and federal level – on the clock.
It shows that those in the halls of power at Macquarie Street and in Canberra are listening to residents in the Lower Hunter.
The region’s state and federal MPs should be commended on the work they have done on the issue and for continuing to bang the drum, particularly since the April super storm in 2015. Members of the community who have shared stories on social media, kept the conversation going and collected signatures on petitions have also been extremely helpful in complimenting the Raise the Road campaign.
But the journey isn’t finished with this week’s announcement.
We need to keep the state and federal government accountable to the timelines they have set out and ensure that the options they finally settle on to raise and realign the road will solve the problem at Testers Hollow once and for all.