Page 297 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008
to the community and, more broadly beyond the bounds of the Tharwa community and the Tharwa district, a pain to Canberrans who deeply love and respect what few heritage icons we can call upon and list as being icons of some substance, and the Tharwa bridge is one of those.
The bridge is 112 years old. It is a unique structure, an Allan truss timber bridge structure. Not only that but it looks very pleasant where it sits in the rolling landscape of the Murrumbidgee River, and that is why Canberrans in general, and not just the 150 voters of Tharwa, have indicated their deep concern about what this government has done in terms of all the decisions it has taken and then undone, reversed and perhaps reconfirmed over a 31-month period.
I want to quickly pull out a couple of examples that show the trail of indecision by this government on the Tharwa bridge issue. Firstly, I look at the May 2005 concerns by the ACT Heritage Council who wrote an email after a May 2005 meeting where the minister was present with the Tharwa community and which included an engineer. I have talked about this matter in this place and I have actually defined exactly what that email said, but in spirit it said that the minister said he was there to consult with the community about what options might be available in the solving of the river crossing saga; that he seemed to be fairly committed to building a low-level crossing, to short-term repair works to the timber bridge, but in the end he was committed to replacing the structure with a concrete bridge. So in time he was committed to replacing the bridge with a concrete bridge. That was May 2005.
I have here with me an internal document dated May 2006 in which certainly the roads and bridges department had recommended to the minister:
Agree that Tharwa Bridge be conserved and strengthened as outlined under Option 2 in the option study.
Time precludes me from reading to you, Mr Speaker, what the option study or what option 2 out of the nine options listed in the options analysis says, but basically the advice of the minister’s own bureaucrats was to conserve that old bridge. But, of course, this was ignored. In June 2006 another official in the roads and bridges department said:
The minister is strongly of the view that he now needs to make a declaration under Section 62 of the Heritage Act that the existing bridge is unsafe and that a second crossing can be progressed.
So clearly again we see this continuing rolling evidence that all along the minister was committed to a concrete bridge. We then go on to August 2006, with indications that the minister is strongly committed to a concrete bridge and we then see the bridge shut down for three months in September. Then, finally, on 27 September 2006 the bridge is shut indefinitely and that announcement is made. We then see the minister going down to talk to the Tharwa community in October 2006. It would be interesting to see whether this document actually precedes that particular meeting, but we see again an indication by the roads and bridges department that the minister is quite committed to the concrete bridge.