ON Thursday, October 27 at 4pm, Murrindindi Shire Council held a meeting at Glenburn Hall with residents concerned about the upcoming replacement of the bridge on Break O’Day Road in Glenburn, 400 metres west of the Melba Highway. It was estimated that over 100 people attended, a large number given the time and the short notice, as well as a tree over the Melba Highway at 3.30pm.
Construction of the bridge was set to commence on November 14, with preliminary works to start on October 31, however residents and road users were surprised by the announcement that a temporary bridge would not be used during the build, expected to take a minimum of five weeks. The temporary bridge would cost a minimum of $300,000 and council was concerned about the environmental impacts.
David Carabott, selected at the meeting as one of the members of the community representatives to liaise with council said that there were two main categories of concern.
One is the economic impact. This includes extra travel, with a lot of people saying that the bridge closure could add an extra hour each way to a trip to Melbourne. A number of people work in suburban Melbourne and use the road every day. There were also a number of people at the meeting from Strath Creek and Flowerdale, who also use the road every day. The bridge closure would also have an impact on people’s businesses, such as staff travel time, and contractor and customer travel. Instead of getting fuel at the Glenburn Roadhouse, people would need to travel to Yea each time fuel was required. There are also a lot of working farms which need the bridge, particularly coming up to hay season and requiring cutters and hay balers.
The other area of concern is health and safety, including access for emergency services and access to metropolitan hospitals and health services. There were concerns that during fire season, the ability to go only one way out of Break O’Day Road may be dangerous.
David added, “There are elderly people who have regular visits to Melbourne for hospitals. There were people there who were on cancer treatment.”
He said that people were also concerned about going via Kinglake, along a windy road with more wildlife, particularly at night.
He added that “I think people are happy to have the bridge rebuilt, but it’s been promised to the community on the basis that a temporary bridge would be put in place. That promise was made to the community very early on in the year.”
He felt that there was a lot of shock in the community when they received the letter “literally 48 hours before the meeting.”
He said that reading the letter it was easy to assume that it was fait accompli with no negotiation, however the sentiment from council at the meeting was different. He added that council have had a lot to deal with in recent weeks due to flooding, and that they held the meeting in good faith. The availability of the contractors and the window for spending on the bridge was also relevant to council’s actions.
There was an informal vote at the meeting. When people were asked whether they wanted the bridge built in January to March (the best time to build a bridge) on the basis of having a temporary bridge in place, the response was pretty much a unanimous ‘yes’.
Council committed at the meeting to do no further construction until they come back to the community, and Mayor Sue Carpenter is said to have chaired the meeting very well, giving everyone the opportunity to have their say.
Contacted about the issue following the meeting, Murrindindi Shire Council said that they “would like to thank community members who attended the community meeting about the proposed replacement of Break O’Day Road Bridge on October 27, and all community members who have contacted council to express their concerns about the proposed five-week bridge closure.
“The purpose of the meeting was to hear from affected residents and listen to their concerns. Following feedback we received during the meeting regarding the bridge closure, we have decided to postpone the project until next year and no further works will take place before Christmas.
“We will re-evaluate all the options available to us to safely replace the bridge, taking into consideration the needs of the community, environmental impacts, and the possibility of providing temporary access for residents during the construction phase.
“When delivering important projects like this, council must balance impacts on the environment, residents and businesses, contractor availability, safety concerns, costs, and weather conditions. We understand residents did not have the opportunity to be better engaged in the process. Council is now committed to working with the community moving forward and we will be back in touch after Christmas to present the options available for the replacement of Break O’Day Road Bridge.”