Residents launch a petition calling for Nambucca Valley Council to take urgent action to repair the footbridge that allows beach access from Hyland Park

Hyland Park footbridge has been closed since July 21 and repairs are expected to be completed in late December. Photo: supplied by Johanna Morrison.

 

RESIDENTS have launched a petition calling for Nambucca Valley Council to take urgent action to repair the footbridge that allows beach access from Hyland Park.

Council closed public access to the bridge on July 21, citing safety concerns, and has advised locals it will not be reopened until repairs have been completed, which is slated for late December because of delays in sourcing materials.

At the time of going to print, 241 people had signed the Change.org petition, which notes that “many people are relying on this bridge to achieve their daily exercise, which is important for both their physical and mental well-being” during the statewide lockdown.

In a letter to Council shared with News Of The Area, Hyland Park resident Johanna Morrison described the decision to make the bridge inaccessible during a lockdown as “heartless” and “cruel”.

“There was absolutely no community consultation before the bridge was closed off to the public,” she said.

“If you knew the materials for the construction of the new bridge were going to take such a long time to arrive from overseas then you should’ve created a safe temporary solution to fix the issue.

“The bridge was by no means in a state of complete disrepair.

“A safe temporary fix would’ve been easily achievable and inexpensive.”

Nambucca Shire Council Manager of Infrastructure Services Matthew Leibrandt said Council’s original plans to repair the bridge before it became unsafe had been derailed by supply chain issues caused by the global pandemic.

“We are using Composite Fibre Technologies (CFT) for the structure, which is made in Australia, and FRP Grating coming from overseas for the deck – this is the material with the longest lead time,” he said.

“The pile driver was ready to be shipped from the USA around the first week of June, and was expected to be dispatched from Queensland mid to late June.

“The driver was sourced from a factory in the USA and they have had shutdowns from Covid and the winter storms.

“The driver was delivered in the last week of August, approximately two months late.”

Council considered alternative solutions for the repairs and ultimately decided waiting for the delayed materials to arrive was the best option.

“The site is constrained by access and environmental issues,” Leibrandt said.

“The site access is serviced by a soft-sand four-wheel-drive access for delivery of materials, equipment and staff, and the construction site is within a protected wetland area.

“These constraints make this project quite complicated to deliver and limit options.”

Temporary repairs were also considered and deemed too expensive.

“Temporary repairs to allow the footbridge to be opened for an extra month leading up to the commencement of works were estimated at $25,000 to $30,000 and, after considering the lead time on repairs and that reconstruction commencement was imminent, it was decided not to proceed with temporary repairs,” Leibrandt said.

In response to questions about why Council quickly dismantled temporary repairs that had been made by frustrated locals within a few weeks of the bridge being closed, Leibrandt shared photos showing what looks to be a stack of wood cuttings used to fill the gap between a decaying pier and the deck, and a single-plank walkway with a log handrail replacing a section of the bridge.

While noting that a small engineering team is currently “delivering the largest capital works program in the Council’s history, along with repairs to infrastructure damaged by recent natural disaster events” and routine maintenance and upgrades, Leibrandt said reinstating beach access from Hyland Park remained a priority.

“We know the footbridge is important to the residents of Hyland Park and we are working hard to complete repairs as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the work will be completed by a Council team of locals who will also be undertaking repairs to the stairs leading to the footbridge at the same time.

Nambucca Valley Council Mayor Rhonda Hoban said it was “disappointing that Council’s asset management processes did not identify early enough the poor structural condition of this footbridge” and that senior management will implement the necessary changes recommended by a recent independent audit to ensure that asset condition is monitored, maintenance requirements are identified and completed in a timely manner, and sufficient funding is set aside when replacement is required.

“When Council identifies an issue in our performance we do take it seriously and proceed to rectify it,” she said.

“I realise this is no consolation to residents of Hyland Park inconvenienced by the lack of access to the beach, particularly when they are so limited in outdoor activities due to Covid.

“Council will make every effort to restore access as quickly as possible.”

 

By Brooke LEWIS

 

Leave a Reply

Top