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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3952..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

and is essentially directed at maintaining and supporting heritage in the territory, most specifically through the Tharwa bridge.

It is a very significant bridge. It is a very significant part of our heritage. It is important that we engage on the quite complex issue of the extent to which we can invest in heritage for the sake of preserving our heritage. On the basis of advice available to me and to the government, in order to ensure that we maintain the Tharwa bridge, we are looking at a minimum expenditure, we are advised, of the order of $10 million.

In relation to the options that we might pursue to ensure that we maintain the Tharwa bridge as an operating bridge capable of taking, say, a laden semi-trailer that might allow for 40 tonnes, the government is advised—and at this stage it is the best advice available to us—that, with the contingencies we would have to make in relation to the very complex technical and other aspects of the reconstruction of the Tharwa bridge, the ultimate cost could reach $25 million. This is a difficult issue for a government and for the community. Is the maintenance of the heritage values of the Tharwa bridge worth $25 million? It is a difficult question.

We understand, from the immediate responses of Mr Pratt, Mr Smyth and others, that the Liberal Party would not hesitate to spend $25 million to preserve the heritage values of the Tharwa bridge. That is the basis of the intervention that the Liberal Party have made at this stage. Why delay? Just do it. Just spend or commit possibly $25 million to ensure the restoration of the Tharwa bridge. That is a very difficult and complex decision to come to in the context of the preservation of heritage. Remember, of course, that it will continue to be a one-way bridge. Remember, of course, that it will require significant annual maintenance. Remember, of course, that it will suffer inevitably the same levels of degradation in its structure over time and will not perhaps survive or last for the duration of, say, a brand new, concrete-steel bridge.

These are complex issues. Does a government just commit $25 million potentially to the preservation of heritage or does a government actually decide that the heritage is, of course, very significant but that the utility that that heritage structure provides—namely, a crossing of the Murrumbidgee River—can be re-established in one-quarter of the time potentially, at, say, in the order of one-third of the cost. It is an interesting and difficult equation.

I must say I am encouraged by the level of bipartisan support that the government has now received immediately from the Liberal Party in relation to its preparedness—the preparedness of Mr Smyth and Mr Pratt—to immediately indicate in relation to the consultation which we have just indicated that the position of the Liberal Party is yes, just do it. Do it, even if the cost is $25 million. Do it, even if the time to complete the project is four years. It does give a framework now within which to work. The Liberal Party has signalled that its response to the consultation is yes, do it. Do it at up to $25 million and accept that it may take between three and four years. That has been, even at this initial stage, a very good outcome.

The government now has a level of understanding and awareness of the Liberal Party's position. The Liberal Party has immediately endorsed the reconstruction of the Tharwa bridge. The Liberal Party has done that in the context of the options that have

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