East Gippsland Roads – Bemm River road access post 2020 bushfires

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:44): My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change in the other place. It relates to the maintenance of crucial roads in a fantastic part of my electorate in East Gippsland called Bemm River. Impacted by the 2019–20 fires in East Gippsland and in quick succession by the coronavirus lockdown, businesses of the wonderful community of Bemm River are only just starting to reopen. Tourism is the major asset and the major focus for that business community, nestled between the river, the inlet and the sea—and it is a most picturesque place indeed. Considered by fishing enthusiasts to be the bream capital of Gippsland—and I might say the bream capital of Australia—the town offers a general store, a caravan park, a hotel and a boat hire, with 10 businesses all collectively looking at tourism as their major income earner. Bemm River Holiday Accommodation and Boat Hire estimates that it has lost $140 000 in takings compared to this time last year. Although they are back up and running, they are still to get up on their feet, and it is great to see people coming into the area and booking out their accommodation.

Pearl Point Road is a major roadway and is approximately 9 kilometres long. It enables access to those beautiful, pristine waters, including Binn Beach, Gunnai Beach and Py-Yoot Bay, all the way through to Pearl Point, which is a popular whale watching area. In a very poor state of repair, it is an unsealed road and it desperately needs maintenance. It is basically only able to have a four-wheel drive cross it, and then there are so many potholes that even that four-wheel drive can be stuck. Also serving very much as a lifeline during the 2019 and 2020 horrendous bushfires in our area, the Old Coast Road connects right along the Gippsland coast and those small towns and hamlets. During that time, when we were diverting people off the Princes Highway, which was blocked due to the fires, the Old Coast Road was used by locals and emergency service vehicles. Indeed the timber harvesters, the CFA and local community did the most amazing job to really support that emergency effort, and they used the Old Coast Road. In order to support and protect these towns in the upcoming fire season I call on the minister and I ask the minister to schedule both roads for urgent maintenance during and prior to this year’s summer season but also provide that ongoing maintenance that these people deserve and that these roads badly need.