There is a heartfelt reason Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholland is on a superhero mission to have every bridge in the shire fixed.
In 2013 the mayor received a phone call – a bridge had washed away.
The council didn’t have the money to fix the bridge and applied for government funding to replace the bridge.
Council didn’t get the money and nothing was done.
“I just about popped my cork,” Ms Mulholland said.
The lack of that bridge turned tragic when a man had a heart attack.
The ambulance had to take an alternative route because the bridge was down. That added 45 minutes and the man died on the way to hospital.
Ms Mulholland had to call his widow.
“I don’t ever want to make a call like that again.”
The tragedy drives the mayor to make the roads safe and bridges accessible.
Her zeal and approach to securing funding has worked.
Last week she said she couldn’t hold onto the news any longer or she would burst when the announcement was made that Kyogle Council would receive $40.3 million in state funding to replace 84 bridges.
“To have 84 bridges funded in one hit is incredible and something we lobbied for and hoped, beyond hope, would one day happen,” Ms Mulholland said. “This is a big win for our council and I’m jumping for joy that we’ve got this funding.”
The mayor thanked Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole for the funding, State Upper House Member Ben Franklin and State MP Janelle Saffin for advocating on Kyogle’s behalf.
She thanked council staff for writing the business case.
“In previous rounds of funding, a big shout out needs to go to Kevin Hogan and the Feds’ bridge renewal program which has seen a lot of our bridges funded under this program,” Ms Mulholland said.
In 2000, Kyogle had 320 timber bridges. By 2012 it was 223 timber bridges out of a total of 358 bridges, the rest were concrete and steel.
Now it is just 118 timber bridges and with the funding commitments including the 84 in the latest round, there are 18 timber bridges that are not funded or fixed. In two years, these should be the only timber bridges left.
Council is aiming to get a commitment to funding those also.
The funding for the 84 must be spent within two years and there will be a rush on finding contractors to do the work, Ms Mulholland said.
The Fixing Country Bridges Program supports regional NSW councils to replace aging timber bridges and improve safety and access.
This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 17 March 2021.