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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 296 ..


I will get on to the inquiry matters in a little while. This situation, as I mentioned in my motion, therefore justifies an inquiry, at least at Assembly committee inquiry level. The purpose of such an inquiry, I maintain, is to investigate the government’s very questionable management of all of the decision making processes around this whole Tharwa bridge crossing saga, as well as to hasten the restoration and the reopening of the old bridge for the sake of the Tharwa community and for our heritage in general.

I propose that such an inquiry would seek to do the following things: refer to the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment for inquiry and report all circumstances surrounding the original decision to close the existing Tharwa bridge, the original decision to restore the existing Tharwa bridge and the consequent decision to build a new bridge at Tharwa and subsequent reversal of that decision, including but not limited to (a) the process that occurred that brought the ACT government to the decision to build a new concrete bridge at Tharwa; (b) the engineering and financial advice that has been provided to the ACT government to date regarding the viability of the restoration of the bridge at Tharwa; (c) the business case that was developed, including the engineering and financial advice for consideration by the ACT government regarding the viability of the restoration of the bridge at Tharwa; (d) the environmental impact studies undertaken and any other advice received regarding the construction of a new bridge with respect to the river, the surrounding landscape and the Tharwa village; (e) the social and financial impact on the Tharwa village and surrounding district; (f) the consequences of not restoring an asset listed on the heritage register; and (g) the social and financial impact on the residents of Tharwa and surrounding districts. And we seek that the committee report on this matter by the last sitting day of April 2008.

These are very important issues, not only because of what happened on the Tharwa river crossing but because it goes to the heart of good governance and how this government is managing its major projects and the maintenance of the ACT’s infrastructure. If it cannot get this right, what other decision making processes are failing at the moment and what have failed in other areas? That is fundamentally why we need to see this looked at closely.

The bridge has been closed for more than 512 days. Deliberations about the bridge took 20 months even before that, so we have seen a total of 31 months of uncertainty and indecision since May 2005. Contradictory engineering guidance or evidence has been offered and the Tharwa community has been quite severely disadvantaged by the closure. There has been a long lead time of decision making, and most likely the wrong decisions have been taken, leading to the decision for an expensive concrete bridge and further long delays on that. Then, finally, we have seen the back flip by the Chief Minister because clearly the Chief Minister began to realise—well, we would think this is what it points to—that the department of municipal services and the minister of that department had perhaps overlooked a lot of the engineering and heritage evidence that had been amply available in the time frames leading up to the time that the Chief Minister himself made that decision to disregard the concrete bridge project and go back to a restoration option.

All these things are justification for an inquiry into what has been not only an expensive but a very time-consuming exercise, resulting in a lot of pain and disruption


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