Kids ‘left to wade through croc cross­ing’

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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

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