OMINOUS: Storm clouds over Mount Sugarloaf in July, 2015. Picture: Darren PatemanTHE Mount Sugarloaf lookout is set to reopen more than nine months after it was shut in last year’s April super-storm.
The entrance to Mount Sugarloaf Road from George Booth Drive has been closed since the storm, with steel gates barring access to the general public.
Following questions from the Newcastle Herald, Lake Macquarie City Council said on Monday work had begun to repair the road to the lookout, one of the Hunter Region’s most popular tourist destinations.
But the previous around-the-clock access may be restricted with Lake Deputy Mayor Brian Adamthwaite saying that “national parks and the emergency services” wanted the road to stay shut at night.
Although the reopeningis welcome news, people familiar with the lookout and the SugarloafState Conservation Area say they still have concerns with the way the area is being managed.
Environmentalist Robert Bignell, whose Brunkerville property backs onto the bush running up to Mount Sugarloaf, said he was worried about the nearby Mount Vincent lookout, which he believed had been badly vandalised during the closure period.
“The whole thing is now overgrown with lantana and the views that you once had there are just gone,” Mr Bignell said.
Former Mulbring resident Dean Brown said the dirt roads and hadbecome so badly degraded that he had recently found it impossible to get through some sections, even in a four-wheel drive.
West Wallsend Workers Club president Bob Roulston said the Sugarloaf lookout was “the first place anyone from around here takes a visitor to”.
Mr Roulston said West Wallsend tended to be overlooked when it came to funding and the time it was taking to reopen the Sugarloaf road had been a source of concern.
Lake Macquarie Deputy Mayor Brian Adamthwaite said council had approved about $200,000 worth ofroadworks to repair and replace sections of Mount Sugarloaf Road between George Booth Drive and the lookout.
“Nothing is ever done as quickly as you’d like but I’d rather have the job done properly than take half measures,” Cr Adamthwaite said.
He said the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other agencies reported far less vandalism and “torching of cars” during the nine months the road has been closed, and various agencies were pushing to have the gates shut at night.
Lake council saidMount Sugarloaf Road had been damaged by “a landslip as a result of rain and extreme weather” during the April 2015 storm.It had nothing to do with the mine subsidence problems related to the West Wallsend colliery.
“There are no other landslips in the area likely to affect the road reopening,” the council said.
“There have been no delays to the project. The time frames so far are consistent with those involved to investigate, design, tender and construct work of this nature.”
A contract had been let and the council hoped the work would be “completed and the road reopened in the next month”.
In relation to concerns about lantana and the general state of the lookout, the council said its “maintenance crews will ensure that the recreation facilities are in a suitable condition for use prior to the road reopening”.
Cr Adamthwaite said the council had applied to the state government for disaster funding to cover the cost of the repairs, but the work would go ahead whether or not the government compensated the council.
Mr Brown said it was important to allow the public into wilderness areas becauseit was only through knowing that people used and valued an area that politicians could be convinced to provide funding.