They cre­ate a sense of place that lets us know we’re not on the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge or the West­ern Distrib­u­tor...

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion & analysis - Yvette Aubus­son­fo­ley

IF the Ghosts of Govern­ments Past had built coun­try roads right in the first place, we too could be driv­ing on bil­lion-dol­lar rip­ple-free rib­bons of as­phalt re­splen­dent with cross city tun­nels and a great swanky sports arena (with a pur­pose built bike track) right along­side.

But be­cause they didn’t, coun­try road pot holes have been with us for decades and are now wo­ven into the fab­ric of ru­ral life; as Aus­tralian as emus, yab­bies and po­lice radar de­tec­tors.

It’s shame­ful.

Want­ing good coun­try roads that are safe to drive on is a threat to the very iden­tity of those of us liv­ing in the bush.

Pot­holes are not to be lamented, de­spised or deemed po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect.

They’re our north­ern star; guid­ing lights to the next road­side re­pair work­shop and that, dear reader, gives back to re­gional economies. So, it’s true, the road to eco­nomic re­cov­ery is full of pot­holes!

You can hang your hat on a pot­hole – with your fill­ings and ex­haust pipe – be­cause they’re a sign, you’re home.

They cre­ate a sense of place that lets us know we’re not on the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge or the West­ern Distrib­u­tor.

Without pot­holes, how would we even know we’re in the coun­try any­more?

Drop­ping kids to footy in a coun­try town street, tak­ing a back road from a mate’s place who lives a few k’s out, or even head­ing to the big smoke on a ma­jor high­way are all just hol­low, in­com­plete ex­pe­ri­ences if you can’t leave a lit­tle piece of your car on the front teeth of a pot­hole as you drive out of it be­fore you re­alise you drove in.

On the up­side, pot­holes of­fer wheel un-align­ments and full sus­pen­sion tests for free.

And what of the sleep­ing pas­sen­ger?

Lulled by that uniquely ru­ral mus­cle re­lax­ant – ‘the long drive’ – where their neck folds back­ward and slack jaw opens their mouth into a crude frozen yawn, then – “Ka-bang!” – the wake-up call snaps them back to re­al­ity, with the crack of a gun­shot but in fact it’s the un­der­car­riage of a car un­der­belly smack-scrap­ing a pot­hole un­ex­pect­edly at speed.

Would you like a side of whiplash with that?

Oh pot­holes, pot­holes, doth hath re­vealed poor work­man­ship on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Like a lot of things which have been around for a long time, it’s easy to for­get they weren’t al­ways there, or, that they have a past.

Yes, they’re his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant. Their name is from Scan­di­navia.

But that’s not im­por­tant. So much un­der threat, is this species of his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant road fea­ture; there are “re­port a pot­hole” help lines in the UK and it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore they ar­rive here too.

As if that’s not bad enough. Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices put out a call just last week to “in­dus­try part­ners, in­no­va­tors and de­vel­op­ers to pitch their in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions in road main­te­nance to help make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of peo­ple liv­ing, work­ing and trav­el­ling on re­gional and ru­ral NSW roads”.

They’re ac­tu­ally think­ing it will take innovation to rid coun­try roads of pot­holes, and it’s 2018.

So, here’s your chance. If you are an in­dus­try part­ner, in­no­va­tor or de­vel­oper with an in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion in road main­te­nance, the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Re­gional and Freight, Roy Wake­lin-king, wants to hear from you.

Roads and Mar­itime is ac­cept­ing sub­mis­sions for their “Innovation Net­work: In­no­vat­ing re­gional road main­te­nance” and is en­cour­ag­ing those al­ready in­no­vat­ing in the area of re­gional or ru­ral road main­te­nance to ap­ply.

I pro­pose driv­ing through and sur­viv­ing a pot­hole is some­what of an innovation which takes a cer­tain amount of ex­per­tise which coun­try driv­ers can eas­ily claim.

Mr Wake­lin-king has said: “We’re look­ing for sub­mis­sions to ad­dress a num­ber of core ar­eas – such as in­spec­tions, sur­vey­ing, safety, veg­e­ta­tion clear­ance and more – but most im­por­tantly, they must of­fer ef­fi­ciency sav­ings and more value for our cus­tomers.”

Sounds like they want to do it on the cheap. A bucket of as­phalt tipped into a pot­hole’s pretty cheap... but that’s not in­no­va­tive, it’s been done be­fore.

There must be a way to build the road right in the first place?

Any­way, the ‘Top 10’ sub­mis­sions will be in­vited to present their in­no­va­tions to an ex­pert panel com­pris­ing top in­dus­try thought-lead­ers, a well-known aca­demic and in­ven­tor (how in­trigu­ing), and Roads and Mar­itime ex­ec­u­tives. Roads and Mar­itime will fund and sup­port the trial and pos­si­ble roll out of win­ning in­no­va­tions.

So, what are you wait­ing for? Send your anti-pot­hole in­no­va­tions to busi­ness-in­dus­try/innovation-net­work-ini­tia­tive.html to­day and if you when, tell Roy, we sent you. ■

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