Ross Rolfe and Howard Smith at the Panorama Creek crossing. It’s open now, but a downpour could quickly close it again.
Ross Rolfe and Howard Smith at the Panorama Creek crossing. It’s open now, but a downpour could quickly close it again.

Rolleston fed up with Panorama

WHEN south-east Queensland kids can't get to school for a week, politicians flock to fix the issue.

But Rolleston parents feel the State Government has, for decades, ignored the predicament of their children who are isolated from school for weeks at a time, and are calling for urgent action on the notoriously flood-prone Panorama Creek.

RSS teacher aide and mother-of-two Gail Godwin-Smith said about a quarter of the school missed out on vital education, forcing parents to enrol their children in Distance Education to ensure they didn't fall behind.

"2010 was probably the worst impacted because about a quarter of the kids couldn't get to school in Term 1," Mrs Godwin-Smith said.

"That's a significant amount of work they were missing out on."

When the creek is impassable, teachers ferry work home to students with the help of the SES, but concerns are paramount about what lasting impact it will have on students.

Rolleston farmer and Central Highlands councillor Ross Rolfe said Panorama Creek deprived local businesses of up to four months of vital commerce during heavier wet seasons.

"They (businesses) are surviving on nine months income virtually," Cr Rolfe said.

"They still have to try and turn a quid, too, and it's tough enough at the best of times without having to forego three months' income."

He said it wasn't unusual for farmers to truck livestock more than 300km to get just 40km away in order to take advantage of good sale prices.

"Last year, it (Panorama Creek) was out 103 days in a 14-month period and then there was another 27 days with load restrictions," Cr Rolfe said.

"That has a big impact on the rural economy because at that time of the year (December-March), you're trying to get seed and fertiliser through for different crops."

Cr Rolfe and Mrs Godwin-Smith said residents were forced to rely on the SES to ferry passengers across the floodway.

"We've even been on a hovercraft once to get across," Mrs Godwin-Smith said.

"I've even been flown in on White Knuckle Airlines, as the owner called it."

Rolleston Coal owner Xstrata donated a high clearance vehicle to ferry locals and its workers across Panorama Creek, but the Department of Main Roads and Transport close the road when waters reach 200mm across the bitumen.

"I can see their thinking. But you can understand the frustration of locals because they can see the white line on the road but they aren't allowed drive through it. Not even allowed walk through it," Cr Rolfe said.

Xstrata commissioned a pre-feasibility study into fixing Panorama Creek which found $16 million would fix the crossing, but residents were yet to hear of a funding commitment.

State Roads Minister Craig Wallace pledged $5 million for the Blackwater-Rolleston Rd to give residents an all-weather route, but more than 30km remains unsealed.

"It's not good enough for this day and age," Cr Rolfe said.