Bridge route stalemate frustrating

Green Route Committee members John Lawless and Robert “Possum” Purtle on site near the ‘green route’ location for a new Yarrawonga Mulwala Bridge crossing. Photo by Les_Garbutt

No confirmation of the green route for a new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge crossing by either the NSW or Victorian state governments is frustrating members of the Green Route Committee.

“It’s very frustrating not being able to get confirmation after we were told in December last year that following the results of the community survey the green route (near and parallel to the railway line) would be selected,” committee member John Lawless said.

“The committee are wanting both state governments to immediately confirm the green route and move forward with its planning and funding.”

Mr Lawless said the committee was still waiting on a response from NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway to commit to the green route despite the recent community survey results favouring the green route and Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum saying it was given at a recent press conference in Yarrawonga alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce.

“The report that we have is it’s a given, we are in with the green route,” Mr Drum said on April 11.

“Everyone is in lock step with the route and now we have to go and source funding.”

But contrary to Mr Drum’s understanding Minister Farraway’s office would not confirm the route after three requests by the Yarrawonga Chronicle as to whether a confirmation decision has been made.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson could only confirm they were still yet to determine the preferred route.

“Transport for NSW sought community feedback on the grey and green options for a new Yarrawonga-Mulwala crossing in mid-2021 to understand current community sentiment and to better appreciate community issues and values,” the spokesperson said.

“Transport for NSW has used this feedback to understand the diverse range of opinions and interests and will use this information to assist in determining the preferred route.”

Mr Lawless said a decision to commit to a new bridge route has dragged on far too long since the weir bridge was confirmed to be closed back in 2002.

Almost 20 years was given to all governments to plan and build a better alternate route for a fast-growing Yarrawonga Mulwala.

“We need a confirmation on the route and funding commitment now, this is the fifth busiest route across the Murray River,” Mr Lawless said.

Green Route Committee member Robert “Possum” Purtle OAM echoed Mr Lawless’ comments by urging all governments to get on board with funding commitments.

“We want to remind everyone about the statement made by (former Deputy Prime Minister) Michael McCormack that the Federal Government would contribute 40 per cent of the funding for the new bridge,” Mr Purtle said.

“In a visit to Yarrawonga Mulwala in November 2019 Mr McCormack said he would welcome a 40-30-30 funding scenario between the federal government and both state governments, similar to the new Echuca Moama crossing.”

The ‘grey’ route – along Irvine Parade to cross the lake at the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre - was decided as the preferred route in 2015 by the NSW and Victorian Governments after both states’ road authorities’ recommendations but following the community survey it appears the sentiment has now changed.

In December Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said in a statement following the release of the recent community consultation held mid last year that based on the feedback and changed council preferences, both governments understood community sentiment may have changed and we felt further consultation was necessary to confirm the preferred option.

“Transport for NSW received 285 comments/submissions during consultation from 15 June to 30 July which focused on issues including requests to retain the existing bridge, concerns about trucks on Belmore Street and planning for future population growth and development.”

Timeframes for design and construction of the new bridge are yet to be determined and depend on budget allocation according to Transport for NSW who expect construction to be between five and 10 years as per the Murray River crossings investment prioritisation assessment.

Mr Drum also said the replacement priority of a new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge has lifted to number three from eight, now only behind Swan Hill’s and Tooleybuc’s bridges.

In 2018, the NSW and Victorian governments carried out the Murray River Crossings Investment Prioritisation Assessment to help inform and prioritise future investment decisions by ranking each crossing over the Murray River.