Monday, April 22, 2024

Call to relax funding rules for Bega Valley bridge repairs

Bega Valley Shire Council is set to call on the NSW Government to relax funding conditions in the Fixing Country Bridges Program to allow for the costly repair of an ageing local heritage bridge.

Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick said significant community interest in the Cuttagee Bridge was reflected in a wide range of opinions discussed during Wednesday’s Council meeting.

“There was a lot of debate in the chamber about Cuttagee Bridge and I’d like to thank Councillors O’Neil, Wright and Porter for bringing forward their motions,” Mayor Fitzpatrick said.

“It was great to see our Councillors standing up for what they believe in and progressing their election commitments during a robust and respectful debate.

“Cuttagee Bridge is a very complex issue and we all acknowledged that we could have engaged more closely with the community earlier on.”

He said councillors agreed the bridge is nearing the end of its functional life and acknowledged there were varying community opinions about how it should be repaired or replaced.

“One of the main challenges we’re facing is that we don’t have any funding to restore or replace the bridge at all, regardless of what materials are used,” he said.

“Based on the planning work we did last year, we’d need more than $15 million to carry out the works at Cuttagee, including the proposed bridge replacement, which we just don’t have.

“Even the emergency repairs we undertook in January cost around $50,000 of our limited bridge maintenance budget that covers the 238 bridges across our shire.”

He said while no decision was made to replace the March 2021 resolution, Council agreed to call on the state government to broaden the eligibility criteria for bridge replacement funding.

“The current bridge funding available through the Fixing Country Bridges Program is very limited—it only allows for timber bridges to be replaced with concrete, any bridge with a heritage listing is excluded and the timeframe is too short,” Mayor Fitzpatrick said.

“We are calling on the state government to broaden the criteria to help address this issue and provide a pathway to ensure we can continue to have a safe and reliable Tathra to Bermagui route for the community and visitors alike.”

A report from the Cuttagee Bridge Community Advisory Group about the heritage aspects of the bridge will be presented to Councillors at their next meeting on 16 March.

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