Blame game con­tin­ues on Wu­jal Wu­jal bridge

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Gizelle Ghidella

A ROW be­tween the Dou­glas Shire and the Depart­ment of Trans­port and Main Roads over re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Bloom­field Bridge took an­other turn this week when, in a let­ter to the the depart­ment ac­cused the shire of reneg­ing on an un­der­stand­ing.

The DTMR said coun­cil had gone back on a com­mit­ment to ap­ply for pre-ap­proved dis­as­ter re­lief fund­ing.

But Dou­glas Shire Mayor Ju­lia Leu said the DTMR had in­sisted Dou­glas try to ac­cess grant money and con­trib­ute al­most $1m to­wards build­ing the $12m bridge.

Coun­cil said the “very ex­pen­sive struc­ture” was out­side of the Nat­u­ral Dis­as­ter Re­lief and Re­cov­ery guide­lines and put the shire at risk of its fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing re­jected.

“The po­ten­tial for a mil­lion dol­lar debt for a small and new coun­cil, re­sult­ing from a bridge de­signed and built by the State, to serve a neigh­bour­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment com­mu­nity, was not a risk Dou­glas should take on,” Ms Leu told the

Since coun­cil didn’t ap­ply for fund­ing, the DTMR in­creased its own con­tri­bu­tion to the project.

But the DTMR said lo­cal gov­ern­ment was heav­ily in­volved in the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of the new bridge.

The DTMR in­sists, since the bridge is lo­cated on a lo­cal gov­ern­ment road, it is a lo­cal gov­ern­ment as­set.

“This was un­der­stood by all lev­els of gov­ern­ment through­out the plan­ning and de­liv­ery of the project,” said DTMR in its state­ment.

“DSC wrote to Trans­port and Main Roads on July 1 in 2014, to con­firm this and ad­vised they would take over re­spon­si­bil­ity for the new bridge when it was com­plete.”

But coun­cil has con­tin­ued to say “no” and show no signs of chang­ing its stance.

Ac­cord­ing to the DTMR the old cause­way was prone to flood­ing and dam­age which re­quired “ex­pen­sive re­pairs, lengthy road clo­sures and caused safety is­sues and iso­la­tion for lo­cal res­i­dents”.

The cause­way was also a con­cern as chil­dren were wad­ing across the river in croc­o­dile ter­ri­tory to get to school.

Ac­cord­ing to mod­el­ling by the DSC – fac­tor­ing in de­pre­ci­a­tion over 100 years, an­nual main­te­nance plus a re­seal ev­ery 15 years – the es­ti­mated cost to the DSC is $31.8 mil­lion for the bridge’s life­time.

In re­sponse, the DTMR said, “on­go­ing main­te­nance and man­age­ment of the struc­ture is un­likely to cost as much as fore­cast in the re­port en­dorsed by DSC, which con­tains in­ac­cu­ra­cies”.

“For ex­am­ple, the bridge has a con­crete deck, which does not re­quire re-seal­ing,” the DTMR said.

When the cause­way was de­stroyed by flood­ing in 2011, a project to con­struct a “much safer more flood-re­sis­tant bridge” was de­vel­oped by fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment with fund­ing com­mit­ted by all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to the DTMR.

Coun­cil said in­stead of re­new­ing the dam­aged $2 mil­lion cause­way, the State Gov­ern­ment chose to re­place the cause­way with the $12 mil­lion bridge.

“While the DSC is com­pletely sup­port­ive of the needs of the Wu­jal Wu­jal com­mu­nity and its coun­cil, meet­ing these needs is not the fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Dou­glas ratepayers,” it said.

The Shire said “the State Gov­ern­ment have strongly coun­selled lo­cal gov­ern­ments across Queens­land to not ac­cept in­fra­struc­ture from others that is not needed, not wanted and which they can­not af­ford”.

Pic­ture: SHANE NICHOLS

The con­tentious Bloom­field Bridge.

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