Death trap for people and wildlife
Lower speed limit as tourism and licensed venues grow, says Rosemary Sandford
THE newly opened wider, straighter, sealed road on The Neck at Bruny Island is a fine example of a major tourist highway constructed to aid the flow of the increasing number of tourists to Bruny. Many supported its construction and are happy to see it opened. A sealed road means fewer dirty cars for residents and for hire companies, and greater compliance with hire car insurance requirements. A sealed road also makes faster speeds possible for those timepoor, day trippers and others racing to catch a ferry off the island.
I have written about Bruny being loved to death by mass market tourism (Talking Point, February 3, 2016 and July 15, 2017). I highlighted the urgent need for more bird and wildlife protection, public toilets, rubbish and recycling facilities, and for local businesses to be self-sufficient in fresh water to meet their burgeoning customer needs without depleting the local aquifer on which residents and local firefighting and emergency services depend. Bruny still does not have these services, but we have a new road along the Neck.
In 2016-2017, Bruny will have 147,087 interstate and international visitors, up from 84,701 in 2013-14, without including intrastate visitors (Bruny Island Tourism Strategy 2017, Kingborough Council). The sealed Neck road and larger carpark have been built primarily to accommodate the wishes of the tourism industry and the Government’s reliance on tourism as the mainstay of the state’s economy.
What will this faster, wider, straighter road mean for the sustainability of appropriate, nature-based tourism and for the liveability of Bruny residents? Will it eliminate the Neck road ‘death trap’ as Nic Street, Liberal Member for Franklin, says, or will speed and the confusing proliferation of contradictory road signs create more problems for road-users?
The daytime speed limits on the new road are 80km/h with 60km/h in the ‘wildlife’ zone near the carpark. And a new 90km/h zone appears to have been created towards the southern end of the Neck road. Dusk to dawn speeds are 60km/h and 45 km/h respectively. Bruny Island Community Association, Bruny Island Environment Network and BirdLife Tasmania have expressed concern about these road speeds to the Department of State Growth. Why not reduce the daytime road safety risks by reducing the speed limit across the whole Neck to 60km/h, and 45km/h within the wildlife zone as requested?
Will the green painted strips across the road emblazoned with ‘Wildlife” in white near the carpark be understood by our nonEnglish speaking visitors? Why not traffic calmers such as road humps and rumble strips as elsewhere in Tasmania’s roadkill hot-spots? Use international symbols rather than English-language road signs and the ‘Wildlife’ sign which is not visible when driving in a line of traffic and at night, the worst time for wildlife.
CSIRO scientist and roadkill researcher Alistair Hobday has identified The Neck as one of Tasmania’s worst roadkill hot-spots. Why is Dr Hobday’s GPS app on roadkill not mandatory in every hire car and campervan? How about issuing all visitors to the state, by air and sea, with multi-lingual brochures advising them on how to drive with wildlife, as is part of driver training in the US and Scandinavia?
Road safety for humans, as well as wildlife, is a major issue on The Neck road and elsewhere on Bruny.
Bruny Island Cruises has applied for a liquor licence for its new 200-seater restaurant for patrons and the public at
Adventure Bay, just past the shop, the Adventure Bay hall and playground, the bowls club and the caravan park. Liquor licences are also held by a whisky outlet, a North Bruny cafe, the cheesery/ brewery, the vineyard, the hotel, and others.
The cumulative effect is likely to mean more potentially drunken drivers on Bruny roads, more accidents and more roadkill.
The Bruny ambulance and the SES are dependent on ageing volunteers; the community nurses are overworked; medical and the health centre services are woefully inadequate to attend to residents’ needs, let alone the deluge of summer visitors. What does the Government intend to do about this lack of essential services before the next major accident, or a fatality, occurs?
Policing on Bruny is inadequate. The island needs more full-time police onisland in peak tourist season (October to March), and the bureaucratic and political will to penalise driving offences. All those in breach of road safety rules must be treated equally, be they visitors or locals.
Building faster, sealed roads comes at a social cost to residents.
New roads alone will not enhance the liveability of Bruny. What will it take, beyond more tourism destination and ‘liveability’ studies, for the Government to hear and respond to the needs of Bruny residents, rather than treating the island as a cash cow for government? We hope it won’t take a major accident or fatality on the “road to the isles”.
Bruny is unique. We know this. The tourism brochures and government repeatedly tell us so. Bruny’s residents, its wildlife and its natural values, deserve respect. We are still waiting.