A COMMUNITY meeting in Aireys Inlet held to consider the “simple question” of whether a barricade on Anglesea’s Coalmine Road should stay there became a much wider discussion about roads in the Great Ocean Road region.
The Aireys Inlet and District Association (AIDA) convened the meeting in the Aireys Inlet Community Hall on Saturday, inviting Surf Coast Shire chief executive officer Keith Baillie and councillors Libby Coker and Margot Smith to discuss the possibility of restoring access to Coalmine Road, which has been limited to emergency vehicles only for the past decade.
Mr Baillie said Alcoa would re-align Coalmine Road as part of its rehabilitation of the south wall of the neighbouring mine, which would remove the barricade.
“So the question comes, and it’s actually quite a simple question resulting from the rehabilitation plan: do we put the barricade back?”
Despite the premise, questions from the audience quickly broadened the topic to amenity issues already being experienced by residents in Harvey Street in Anglesea and Bambra Road in Aireys Inlet, the existing connection via Harvey Street and Distillery Creek Road, tour buses, horse riders, the inland routes of Cape Otway Road and the Princes Highway, and mountain bike routes.
Mr Baillie stressed that “we (the council) did not bring this issue up and we have no grand plans for the road”, but said Alcoa was hoping to complete the rehabilitation by the end of this year.
“Were it to be opened, my view is that we would have to make it safe and acceptable for a low level of anticipated traffic.”
The subject of an Anglesea bypass is highly contentious, and some people at the meeting suggested a re-opened Coalmine Road would become such a route.
“Inevitably if you open Coalmine Road, it’s going to become a de facto ring road,” one resident said. “With the increased amounts of traffic, you’re going to have to start thinking about sealing it… how do you stop that? How are you not going to make it a sealed road?”
Cr Coker acknowledged the complexity of the situation.
“Council has looked at this particular issue and wants to deal with it on its own, and perhaps it can’t be,” she said.
The council will receive a report on its consultation plan about Coalmine Road at its meeting this month.