2 August, 2023
Too much money for a bridge to nowhere
A CONTRACT worth more than $16 million to build a bridge over the Mitchell River at Gamboola Crossing has been approved by Mareeba Shire Council despite the organisation believing too much money is being spent on the project.
Money for the new bridge at the crossing, which is around 140km west of Chillagoe, will come from the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA), but that didn’t stop councillors and chief executive officer Peter Franks expressing their views that such an expensive piece of infrastructure was not required for the remote location.
A report to council revealed that the significant cost of the bridge was a result of requirements from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and noted that the Queensland Reconstruction Authority would engage with DAF “in an attempt to modify the requirements which will potentially reduce costs significantly”.
It is understood that a similar crossing could have been constructed to the existing one, but because DAF says that fish need to be able to swim through the crossing area, it required a bridge.
“Under DRFA requirements, the reinstated civil infrastructure must meet current engineering and environmental standards. As a result, the existing river crossing comprising a short section of bridge, a short section of culverts and a large causeway has to be replaced by a single large bridge,” the council report stated.
Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Davies said while he did not agree with the expenditure, the crossing had been a “contentious issue” for many years.
“There is a lot of rules and regulations with DAF which we can’t do something to the creek bed and because of the fish crossings, this is the only solution they could come up with and agree on,” he said.
“I know it’s a big expenditure – one crossing – and I would prefer it to be spent somewhere else but this is DRFA work and they are paying for it, so it is what it is.”
Cr Locky Bensted agreed, saying the bridge was a “gold plate” solution.
“In the old commonsense days, we would have simply done a level crossing with some culverts and kept the place passable in the dry and still have water flow and it would be have been a lot cheaper,” he said.
“But they want to put the gold plate on this.”
Mr Franks said he had spoken to the CEO of the Queensland Reconstitution Authority and asked him to approach the State Government because there were “much cheaper alternatives”.
“However, those alternatives are not in line with DAF requirements. Hopefully he will be able to get some sense into the situation and it will save money – it’s not our money – but to save money across the board, it makes sense.”