For many the Berry Bypass has been a godsend, a great feat of engineering and infrastructure which makes traveling north and south on the Princes Highway a lot quicker.
It was a road many believed would never be built.
The $580 million bypass officially opened to traffic, 12 months ahead of schedule, at 8.30pm on Thursday, July 13, 2017.
But for a group of residents on the south western side of the township the bypass has turned their lives into a “living hell”.
Residents around Mark Radium Park, Windsor Drive, North Street and parts of The Arbour and Huntingdale Park say they are suffering relentless traffic noise 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They say residents’ happiness and general wellbeing is negatively impacted by the road, with inadequate or no noise mitigation meaning residents are unable to keep windows open, suffer sleep interruption resulting in sleep deprivation and are unable to “enjoy” normal outdoor living areas such as verandas and garden.
Resident spokesperson Tina Ballard said residents had taken their concerns to Kiama MP Gareth Ward in October last year. And almost 12-months on nothing had happened.
“Residents have had numerous meetings and correspondence with Mr Ward,” she said.
Roads and Maritime Services has undertaken noise monitoring in the area, while a separate independent monitoring of the ambient noise has also been carried out.
“We were told RMS’ testing results would be available in June. Then it changed to mid-August. Now it’s September and we still haven’t seen the outcome of that report.
We are unable to keep windows open, suffer sleep interruption resulting in sleep deprivation and are unable to enjoy normal outdoor living areas such as verandas and garden.South Berry residents
“Meanwhile, the independent acoustics consultants’ report showed the noise level at Windsor Drive and Mark Radium Park were outside acceptable RMS guidelines and projected forecasts.
“That report has been forwarded to Mr Ward.”
She said residents took their concerns to RMS and in July even to Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, but as yet had not received a reply.
“We have gone from two lanes of traffic to six lanes of elevated traffic - the noise is horrific,” Ms Ballard said.
“And it’s even worse when it rains - it’s unbelievable. When it’s windy it sounds like a airport.
“It’s like we are absorbing the noise for the rest of the village.”
She said despite the distress caused by the degradation of living conditions and environment, residents have “displayed an extremely high degree of restraint, tolerance and trust in elected representatives”.
“We just want something done,” she said.
“Why is it taking so long for the report to come out?
We have gone from two lanes of traffic to six lanes of elevated traffic - the noise is horrific. It’s even worse when it rains - it’s unbelievable. When it’s windy it sounds like a airport.South Berry residents
“We just want something constructed to try and buffer that noise. It’s happened in other areas.
“We need a proper barrier be it a wall, a mound or whatever - just something more than three or four trees being planted which aren’t going to do anything.”
As for any structure possibly blocking the view - “All we really see now is six lanes of highway traffic and houses being constructed in Huntingdale Park,” she said.
Read more: Kiama noise wall completed for Coryule Place
“In other areas they have even doubled glassed windows, we don’t want that and then in summer have to sit in our boxed-in rooms with the air conditioning running.”
Mr Ward said he was waiting on the outcome of the noise survey, which was currently with RMS.
“I haven’t been briefed yet,” he said “I will advised residents of the outcomes of that report when RMS releases it. The RMS is absorbing the report and I look forward to releasing that report to the public later this month.
It’s like we are absorbing the noise for the rest of the village.South Berry residents
“As we have done on all highway projects in the past, the highway noise is surveyed. I will advised residents of the outcomes of that report.
“I look forward to working with residents for the best possible outcome as I have done with all other highway projects.
“We will look at what the options are.”
He said noise mitigation works had been carried out on other highway upgrades at Kiama, Gerringong and further north at Berry, post monitoring reports
“I have met with people in their homes, I have stood in yards and heard for myself the levels of noise they are experiencing,” Mr Ward said.
“We used a new noise absorbing material for the road base and asphalt but I certainly acknowledge when you elevate a highway as has been done to improve flood immunity that can have impacts.
“We are waiting for the review and I look forward to working with the RMS and residents to get the best outcome we can.”