Kids ‘left to wade through croc crossing’
CHILDREN will be left to wade through croc-infested waters to get to school due to further delays in the construction of the proposed Bloomfield River bridge at Wujal Wujal.
The State Government originally promised a new $5.5 million bridge to replace the existing crossing would be completed by the start of the next wet season, however, delays mean the project is unlikely to even start by then.
Long-suffering residents believe the situation has been made worse by a poorly designed patch-up job after last year’s Cyclone Yasi, which has led to many more enforced closures and created a deceptive and dangerous current.
To make matters worse, a five-metre crocodile moved in just 100m above the crossing last week.
Traditional owner Frances Walker said “every child has the right to education without the threat of being eaten by a crocodile”.
“Some of our kids have to wade daily to get to school with water up to their hips in the wet season,” she said.
“Travellers come all the way to Wujal Wujal and then find that they can’t get through and some of them take unnecessary risks and cross anyway.
“Last year and this year we had some near misses, with people and cars going under - it’s not safe and not good for tourism.”
Margaret Uptite from Degarra community and Kathleen Walker from Wujal Wujal are concerned the present crossing, which is the responsibility of Cairns Regional Council, has missing bolts and is being undermined by water.
“It now appears more a rollercoaster than a ford crossing,” Ms Walker said.
“Surely it won’t last another wet - we want the Cairns Council to share with us what’s going on.”
Council’s acting infrastructure services general manager Bruce Gardiner said the Department of Main Roads and Transport is yet to show council any plans for the bridge.
“But the council will continue to make any repairs to the causeway crossing after each wet season while the bridge is not in place,” he said.
Member for Cook and Assistant Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs David Kempton blamed the delays on a redesign following a route survey earlier this year which meant a wider and more sturdy bridge could be built.
“The new design will deliver a better technical and value-for-money project, making the new bridge easier to construct, safer and more durable,” he said.
“The department hopes to begin construction before the end of the year but the schedule for the delivery of the project depends on factors including weather, tender estimates, availability of qualified contractors, availability of resources and the remote location.
“I expect the bridge to be built by the middle of the year, weather permitting.”
Not good enough: residents Kathleen Walker and Margaret Upite