East Gippsland Shire Council and members of the Wairewa community officially opened the Hospital Creek Bridge at Wairewa last Friday afternoon, April 30.
The opening of the bridge was important milestone in celebrating the strength of the community and the recovery after the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires. The celebration also marked the successful completion of Council’s bushfire impacted timber road bridge replacement program.
During the 2019/2020 fires Council had 13 timber road bridges and two heritage listed pedestrian bridges either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Many other bridges managed by Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Regional Roads Victoria were also damaged or lost.
The first bridge replacement – the Waterholes Creek bridge in Deptford – was replaced within six weeks of the fire impacting the area. The remaining 12 bridges have been completed over the last 12 months at a combined value of more than $4.5 million.
Local contractors Tambo Constructions and Jarvis Norwood Constructions were the successful tenderers for all the impacted bridge replacements.
Although some delays were caused by COVID-19, Mayor Cr Mendy Urie said the bridges were able to be replaced quickly due to pre-planning by Council.
“We were able to action the replacement of such a large number of timber bridges relatively quickly due to the pre-planning work our team has done over recent years to ensure that all our bridges in need of replacement were designed and ready to tender for replacement, and the fast and efficient work of our local contractors,” Cr Urie said.
The Hospital Creek Bridge provides vital all-weather access for eight farming and lifestyle properties in the valley. The bridge is an alternative road to Buchan and Orbost when the Wairewa Road is flooded and inaccessible. The bridge also enables essential links for the community and its visitors, such as access to the recently reopened waste transfer station, the old school memorial plaque and hundreds of kilometres of back tracks in the bush for bird watchers, flora and fauna seeks and other recreational users.
The reinstatement of the bridge is an important milestone in Wairewa’s recovery. The completion of the timber bridge replacement program is also a milestone is the recovery for East Gippsland and all the impacted communities.
“I wish to thank the Wairewa community and all the other communities impacted by damaged bridges for their patience and understanding while the rebuilds took place,” Cr Urie said.
“The Wairewa Hall Committee, Community Recovery Committee and the wider community have worked tireless over the past 14 months. A ‘can-do’ community, no time was wasted in setting up a recovery committee after the fires which gave access to resources to start the rebuild. It is a credit to your resilience and community spirit to see how you have banded together during this time”.
Following the opening of the Hospital Creek Bridge, Councillors and staff joined the Wairewa community at the hall, where the community declared its new playground open.