Council back-flip on Stingray Creek

A BACK-FLIP decision to repair, rather than replace, the bridge over Stingray Creek at North Haven could cost council $6 million worth of state government funds.

The surprise decision has caused uproar among the  Camden Haven community.

Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said the community had the right to feel betrayed after council abandoned its former plans 

Mrs Williams said Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay confirmed the state government made an election promise to the community to help fund a new bridge. Not to repair the existing one.

“Hence, the state government’s funding commitments will not be redirected to other council projects, of which the NSW Government has not received any  details,” Mrs Williams said.

But yesterday morning Port Macquarie mayor Peter Besseling said he was confident the NSW government would deliver the money.

“Council resolved last night to seek formal clarification from the state government regarding the status of funding to repair the bridge, which has not been received today. At such a time when this is clarified further funding evaluation will occur,” he said later.

Mrs Williams said she could not fathom council’s decision  when the project was set to be “shovel-ready” by mid-2013.

“Despite many years of planning, $6 million in state government funding, the approval of an $8.6 million low interest loan and countless meetings and community consultations, council has now decided to repair the 50-year-old bridge instead of the promised replacement,” Mrs Williams said.

It could be more than 20 years before a new bridge is built, after councillors unanimously agreed  to spend $3 to $5 million to upgrade the existing crossing Council’s director of infrastructure services Jeffery Sharp said a recent independent report revealed repairing the bridge could expand its life for another 20 years.

“It is fair to say the most recent independent report did not show the levels of degradation we assumed we would see,” Mr Sharp told the council.

This could be attributable to the 18,000 tonne load limit placed on the bridge back in 1999 and more rigorous testing undergone by the latest analysis. 

Cr Besseling believed the community would be pleased with the outcome.

“All the councillors heard the community loud and clearly when they said they wanted the council to be responsible with rate payer dollars,” Cr Besseling said.

“For us, this is a very cost effective option. Its going to provide everything we need in the Camden Haven community in terms of a wider bridge crossing, better pedestrian access, better mobility access for people across the bridge – and I think it’s a great result.”

Cr Besseling hoped any excess money from the estimated between $3-$5 million cost of replacing the bridge, versus the original promise of $6 million, would go directly to the Camden Haven community road infrastructure.

Mrs Williams said council’s forfeit of the low-interest loan, and $6 million funding was a missed opportunity.

“The money was allocated specifically for the replacement of Stingray Creek Bridge as part of an election promise,” she said. “It is now a very different scenario.” 

Repair works are estimated to take between four to six months. 

Council have committed to building a financial reserve to fund the inevitable replacement of the bridge in a 20 year timeframe.

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