Pleas for upgrades on dangerous Kallista roads

Rivington Avenue is just one of three roads Kallista resident are calling for to be sealed. 407700_05

By Emma Xerri

In a fight for what many locals are rightfully calling the “bare minimum,” the Kallista Flood Watch Group are advocating for much needed funds and consideration from the Yarra Ranges Council to update the town’s “antiquated” and dangerous roads.

Turning their attention to Gleghorn Road, Emberson Street and Rivington Avenue, the group hope to achieve a commitment from the council that will go towards sealing a portion of the town’s 5.7 kilometres of unsealed road.

“All of the roads that we have here were cut by loggers in the 1860s, and over 90 per cent of our roads remain unsealed,” lead advocate Karen Kestigian said.

“So we came together and formed the Kallista Flood Watch Group because everybody was tired of the amount of water that we were getting, and the fact that we had to maintain and service the culvert drains ourselves.”

With the Yarra Ranges Council Budget decision fast approaching, residents are hoping the budget will go towards remedying the town’s “third world” roads, instilling residents with a renewed sense of optimism after the “Roads for Community” funding – which promised $150 million each to the Yarra Ranges and Cardinia Councils to drain and seal the unsealed roads – was withdrawn in May 2023.

“Last year we produced a 100-page report on Kallista, which explored the Yarra Ranges Council’s 10 year capital expenditure plan,” Ms Kestigian added.

“We were very interested to see where the money was being spent because we’re constantly being told the money has to be equitably distributed across the ranges and yet, we weren’t getting any.

“We found that 91 per cent of the money was being spent in Lilydale, Chirnside, Mount Evelyn, and all across that side of the Yarra Ranges, while Lyster Ward and Streeton Ward were only getting nine per cent.

“All we got was $119,000 for a footpath over the next 10 years.”

This advocacy has been backed by petitions that are to be presented to the council, providing an “absolutely incredible” show of support from “over 95 per cent of people [who] want the roads sealed.”

Among those locals who are passionately in favour of these upgrades is Rosemary, who has lived in the area for more than three decades, and who has experienced the danger of these roads first hand, after the gravel caused her to slip and break her ankle, and claiming she is “certainly not the only one.”

“I’ve been here 37 years, so I’ve seen a lot of things come and go, but one thing that is consistent is the state of the roads,” she said.

Originally built for horse and dray, Kallista’s unsealed roads are not only no longer fit-for-purpose, but increasingly dangerous given issues with access and flooding.

“I dread every fire season,” Rosemary added.

“Because we lose use of the road, and it’s very difficult to get out at any angle.

“If you put a fire truck or an ambulance on that road, there is no getting past it.

While Ms Kestigian noted that work has been done in recent weeks to put in “substantial drainage,” she maintains that more work is needed to “cut down the flow rate and try to manage the water, because we’ve got no water management.”

“Our floods are not on a floodplain, they are manmade. So, when you know that there’s a storm coming, it’s very hard to sleep, it’s very hard to relax, and people get really anxious.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, all residents are simply waiting for the impending tides, and asking themselves, ‘how bad is it going to be this time?’

“We’re only 45 minutes from Melbourne, and yet we’ve had many federal members and state members out here, as well as a number of independent engineers, and they all told us our roads are in third world condition.

“Our unsealed roads also lack any footpaths, which makes living in Kallista really hard for the 33 per cent of our population who are that bit older, making our town’s livability a very big question mark.

“So we’re certainly not asking for the world, we’re just asking, humbly, for what is apparent in every other suburb.

“And I can’t see that that’s an unreasonable ask.”

Advocates are hoping that this year’s budget will see their “reasonable” requests heard by the council, and commitments made to provide the community with a positive path forward.

“We just want the council to at least make a commitment to a schedule; for them to say that over so many years they are going to undertake the work needed to address these things.”

“I’d like to thank the shire for the road work that has already been done,” Rosemary added.

“But it is the same road work I have seen being done for 20 years, and the roads are only getting worse, not better.

“We don’t need anything elaborate. We don’t need any new street signs or poles.

“We just need to seal the roads and make them safe and stable for the future.

“Because it’s difficult to think that another 20 years might go by without any improvement.”