Rawdon Island bridge is temporarily closed to all vehicles in response to safety concerns.
The closure, which impacts 50 households, came into effect from midday on Monday [July 5]. The bridge, spanning the Hastings River, provides the only road access to Rawdon Island.
Only emergency vehicles and foot traffic will be permitted access under strict traffic control.
Following underwater inspections, which Port Macquarie-Hastings Council commissioned after the March floods, severe damage in the pile foundations has been identified above seabed level at a number of locations.
Investigations are continuing into the damage.
CEO Dr Clare Allen, mayor Peta Pinson and acting director of infrastructure Cameron Hawkins met with residents on Saturday [July 3] to talk in detail about the bridge closure and to listen and understand what the impact of this closure is on their lives.
Temporary measures will be put in place for the residents to help manage the immediate impacts caused by the closure.
A number of residents rely on the bridge for their livelihood - either on the island or require travel to the mainland.
Several residents are emergency and medical workers, and many are caring for children and relatives with high-care needs who require easy access to medical care on a daily basis.
The council worked with bus companies and residents over the weekend to find solutions for transport both on and off the island.
The main focus now is to reopen the bridge.
The bridge will only be reopened with a load limit of five TGVM when the following safety conditions are applied:
- Monitor the bridge using surveys and/or sensors on a daily basis and monitor during any weather event.
- Enforce the reduced traffic loading.
- Manage vessels on the river to avoid impact, particularly at piers three and four.
- Close the bridge during a weather event involving heavy rainfall and increases in river velocity.
- Once the council is satisfied its compliance obligations are met.
Mr Hawkins said: "Options for parking, ferrying large loads of feed and construction equipment for residents who are undertaking flood repairs is paramount for us - it is critical that we solve identified issues not just with the bridge but with ensuring people's stock can be fed and loads moved."
Dr Allen said this was a safety issue and the residents' safety was her priority.
"It is not going to be an easy fix," she said.
"But we are going to work as fast as we can but we are trying to come up with a solution."
Cr Pinson said this was such an awful situation for many residents who had told the council that they were still trying to undertake urgent repairs to their homes and farms following the floods.
"I am assured that our teams are working as fast as possible to minimise the inconvenience," she said.
"I have already been having discussions with members of parliament to make them aware of the situation, and will continue to be in close contact with them to help the residents impacted."
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