With the steep, twisting section of road that connects the East Coast and Fingal Valley closed for two months for repairs, the region's communities are driving for the issues of access and safety to be addressed, not detoured, as COREY MARTIN reports.
ST HELENS is arguably Tasmania's most remote town without St Marys Pass - more than two hours from Launceston and four hours to Hobart.
Since the 2006 East Coast bushfires, the historic seven- kilometre route has been closed to traffic 10 times, either for repair or due to common landslips.
In the past 12 months, torrential rain has hammered the region five times, taking its toll on the ailing road.
For the past four weeks and for the forthcoming month, the St Marys Pass is closed to all traffic, while government contractor Hazell Bros completes remedial works.
The closure has highlighted the social and economic value of the section of road to not only the East Coast but the Fingal Valley as well.
Break O'Day Mayor Robert Legge, like most community leaders, believes the St Marys Pass is invaluable to the municipality as it has been the main and quickest access route to and from the coast for decades.
St Helens and Districts Chamber of Commerce co- chairman Glenn McGuiness said employees and employers had suffered because of the unreliable pass over the years.
"A lot of people live in St Marys and work in St Helens and vice- versa, and the consistent closure of the pass just adds to people's costs," Mr McGuiness said.
"Our larger traders such as the supermarkets and hardware stores that require large trucks for the delivery of their products have suffered because of the increase of costs in freight.
"I believe we are suffering a downturn in tourist numbers without any shadow of doubt, but there is no reason for general tourists and holidaymakers to avoid the region."
St Helens Hilly's IGA Supermarket owner Chris Hill backed Mr McGuiness, saying his transport costs had increased significantly.
"The biggest issue for us is the transport costs because all of the semis are coming up through Lake Leake, which is adding costs to transport," Mr Hill said.
"We have not passed any of that cost on and we probably won't. However, the extra cost is high."
Scamander resident and Fingal Neighbourhood House volunteer Jan West said the pass had reduced her ability to be a reliable volunteer.
"The St Marys Pass is the link to the East Coast; St Marys is the gateway to the East Coast of Tasmania," Ms West said.
"Without the St Marys Pass, St Marys would become a ghost town and St Helens would miss out on its trade.
"It (the closure) has increased my expenses, it has increased the house's (Fingal Valley Neighbourhood House) expenses, it has made it harder for me to volunteer because of the expense of having so far to go - the extra time, the extra cost of petrol to go there and back to Fingal from Scamander.
"To get up to St Marys for two hours' work, which is a 40-minute drive via the back road, and then you have got the wear and tear on the car ... I have not got the money, as a volunteer with no regular income coming in, to think I can replace that car."
Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said last week that repair works were expected to be completed before the end of June.