Friday, 15th May 2020.
LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is lending her support to a push to replace the unsafe Disputed Plains Bridge on Bungabee Road, Bentley, so local farming families can get back to business as soon as possible.
Ms Saffin said she was contacted by families whose farming operations were severely impacted by a recent decision by Lismore City and Richmond Valley councils to impose a 2-tonne weight limit on the boundary bridge.
“I immediately made representations to both Mayors and thank Richmond Valley General Manager Vaughan Macdonald for providing me with a full briefing on the bridge’s deteriorating condition, which I shared with residents,” Ms Saffin said.
“Richmond Valley Council also undertook to consult with these affected residents to gain a full understanding of their heavy transport needs.
“One couple no longer has heavy vehicle access, which is essential for transporting cattle, fodder, seed or construction materials.
“At present, they have about 250 tonnes of silage cut, baled and stacked, ready for sale, but cannot move it.
“The bridge is this couple’s only means of access other than trekking through neighbouring properties or walking across disused railway bridges.”
Ms Saffin last week inspected the bridge, which an engineering consultant has recommended needs urgent replacement within three months at an estimated cost of about $500,000.
In a letter to Ms Saffin, Mr Macdonald advised that many farmers in this area, particularly those who are recovering from drought, bushfire and flooding, have diversified to survive the drought. Some have shifted into bailing silage for their first season or are working to increase their properties’ resilience by bringing in machinery to improve dams or cut fire breaks, Mr Macdonald wrote.
Ms Saffin said it was imperative that the bridge be replaced so that Bungabee residents’ lives and livelihoods can return to normal as soon as possible.
She said because neither council had budgeted for this work, they were investigating jointly applying for State or Federal funding programs, which would have her support.
Ms Saffin has contacted State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall (Northern Tablelands) so that they were aware of the affected farmers’ plight. Residents had also written to Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan.