Aussies rage as 'small sinkhole' closes busy street for a year

Locals were told repairs would take six weeks but a long-term problem has led to traffic chaos for 12 months.

Fed-up locals living near a sinkhole that their local council told them would take just six weeks to repair say that a year down the track, the job remains unfinished, and the hole has now transformed into "a crater-sized roadblock".

Residents in Leonay, near Penrith in Sydney's west, say not only has the sinkhole not been filled in, it now consumes the entire street, which has resulted in a no-through road that's left just one route in and out of the suburb.

Back in 2022, Penrith City Council blocked off the then small sinkhole after it on formed River Road following flooding, advising residents at the time repairs would take between six to eight weeks to complete. Now, a year later, furious locals say traffic levels have drastically increased as a result of the road closure — and there's still no end in sight.

Traffic increased, street transformed into no-through road

The sinkhole in Leonay.
The sinkhole formed in 2022 and originally begun as just a small gape int the street. Source: A Current Affair.

"It's [been]12 months. We can't exit the street the way we normally go," local Kelly Rossetto told A Current Affair, explaining drivers are forced to travel a kilometre extra to get in and out.

"Incredible amounts of traffic up a very narrow street with quite a high crest. It's a real concern."

Sinkhole exposed 'much larger issue'

According to council, the sinkhole exposed "a much larger issue with critical Sydney Water infrastructure" underneath the road surface, but defiant residents argue that still doesn't explain the year-long wait.

"We've heard varying stories. One is that they couldn't get the piping and my question is how are they building Sydney Airport - they must have pipes for that," another local, Steve Percival said.

Others claim they haven't seen any workers in the area "in weeks".

The sinkhole in Leonay then and now.
Now, a year later, it's blown out to occupy the entire road, impacting traffic flow and residents' ability to come and go. Source: A Current Affair.

In letters sent to Leonay residents over the last year, Penrith Council has explained what they say has contributed to the blow out. In January, it blamed "industry wide supply constraints" on a wait for the pipes required. In May, locals were told work was due to start and take eight to 12 weeks.

In July, council said that Sydney Water burst water main was the reason for further delays making the site unsafe, but said completion was due in September. Now the completion date has been set for February — but locals said they "have little faith in that".

"We just want it fixed. We just want it opened," Josephine Braw said.

"It's been so long now that I've started thinking about forming a class action for the extra kilometres on my vehicle because it's an extra kilometre every time in and every time out.

"Judging from what the ATO tell me, I can charge back to council and that's about $1700 which I'd like to see come off my rates."

Local Kelly Rossetto.
Local Kelly Rossetto said the closed road has resulted in "incredible amounts of traffic". Source: A Current Affair.

Council responds

Penrith City Council said it "regrets" the time it's taken to repair the roadblock, saying there was "extensive damage" underground.

"The work to repair the sinkhole exposed a much larger issue with critical Sydney Water infrastructure that Council is required to protect while undertaking our own repairs. These works were not anticipated at the time and only came about as work commenced on repairing the sinkhole.

"Dependent on Sydney Water providing timely approval to the protection plans, it is anticipated that access will be reinstated for residents and users of River Road in February," the spokesperson said.

Responding, Sydney Water said it had "critical assets in the vicinity" that need protecting, saying it needed to approve all work.

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