A $60 million investment to repair critical road infrastructure to allow campers, cyclists, hikers and timber harvesters to have improved access to flood-affected state forests has been announced by the NSW Government.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said Forestry Corporation maintains a network of forest roads and trails spanning 60000km which are critical for community use, forest management and fire protection.
Mr Toole said more than half of the road network is located within areas that were impacted by recent flooding, and early estimates indicate between 10000km and 15000km of roads have been damaged.
“This NSW government funding boost will go towards fixing flood-damaged roads, bridges and culverts to help restore access for the forest industry and the broader community,” he said.
“Locals and tourists use state forests for everything from four-wheel driving to timber harvesting, but recent floods have caused major damage to the two million-hectares of native and plantation forests, cutting access for thousands of users.
“This new funding will ensure these road repairs are prioritised, marking another step forward in getting our flood-affected communities moving again.”
Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the commitment will help address the critical timber shortage impacting wood processors on the North Coast.
“We have seen firsthand the impact the floods have had on the timber industry in the North Coast, which contributes significantly to the local economy and provides hundreds of local jobs,” he said.
“This funding will mean our timber producers will have access to more logs for processing, and also ensure community access for a range of activities like bee-keeping, four-wheel driving, camping and mountain biking.”
A majority of flood-affected roads are situated on the North Coast.
Several roads were in the process of being repaired following the devastating bushfires which tore across the region in 2019 and 2020 when the 2022 floods occurred.
The announcement has been welcomed by Newcastle resident Adam Brandon, who frequently travels to Northern NSW to camp and go bushwalking.
“The whole north-eastern corner of the state, including the Clarence Valley, has some awesome camping areas and bushwalking trails, but the recent wet weather has made accessing a lot of these areas really difficult, so I haven’t been able to visit as many places as I’d have liked this year,” he said.
“The repairs will allow more outdoor adventure seekers to come back to the area, and it’s also going to be very beneficial for a lot of local businesses like timber mills.
“It’s a win-win situation.”
Forestry Corporation will now undertake a comprehensive assessment of damage from the recent natural disasters to develop a priority schedule and plan for repair.