Bega Valley Shire Council will continue to plan for an upgrade to Cuttagee Bridge, while also investigating alternatives to the current proposal in response to community feedback.
Director of Assets and Operations, Anthony McMahon said Council is faced with a dilemma about how to manage the future of the bridge, with a number of complex constraints to consider, including cost and availability of funding.
“Ultimately we hope we can work with the community to resolve this challenge so we can achieve the best outcome possible within the constraints we have,” Mr McMahon said.
“We need to weigh up cost and funding against a number of competing values – risk and safety, durability, economics, heritage and tourism values, and environmental issues.”
Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said Council, as a public body and an agent of the community, has a duty to ensure the assets it provides and manages are safe, secure and fit for purpose.
“Cuttagee Bridge is failing and we need to secure safe access for the community into the future,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
“Council’s decision to push forward with the upgrade of the bridge came about when funding under the State Government’s Fixing Country Bridges program became available last year.
“However, the increased time we need to undertake all the necessary steps before construction can start including community consultation has led to the State Government withdrawing Cuttagee Bridge from the current funding round which has a strict two year delivery timeframe.
“This means we have an opportunity to re-engage with the community on the future of the bridge.”
Mr McMahon said that while load limits had been imposed and staff continue to undertake temporary maintenance, the bridge was continuing to deteriorate.
“We want to engage with the community, and we’re open to considering viable alternative solutions that we can take to Council to consider—but we need to move with urgency,” Mr McMahon said.
“The next steps are to gather assessments from coastal hazard, heritage and engineering experts, and to call for expressions of interest from community members to be part of a community advisory group to participate in assessing all the information available and to provide their input into what they consider to be the best way forward.”
“We are also getting the bridge load tested along with several other bridges along the Tathra-Bermagui Road to provide more confidence in the current load carrying capacity of the bridge and to help inform short term management priorities.”
“We will also be reaching out to a broad range of community groups to continue the conversation about this challenge.
“Tonight we will be attending the Bermagui Community Forum to explain the decision-making process that led to Council’s resolution on 31 March, as well as hear community feedback.”
Mr McMahon will also continue to hold discussions with the timber bridge specialists who recently completed the South Arm Bridge upgrade at Brunswick Heads, to understand that project and any parallels with Cuttagee Bridge.