Emma Pritchard, Clarence Valley Independent
The photo says it all, and it’s deeply upsetting for the locals.
After the bridge crossing the Mann River along Old Grafton Road near Wytaliba was destroyed during the devastating 2019 bushfires which tore through the region, a temporary causeway was established to allow residents of Newton Boyd, Diehard and the surrounding areas access to and from their properties while a new bridge was built.
Unfortunately, while residents have waited more than 12 months for construction on their new bridge to begin, they now face an uncertain future following the recent flooding.
Until a new, temporary causeway is established, or a new bridge crossing the Mann River is built, residents must travel more than 100km one way via Buccarumbi to reach Grafton.
The disrupted travel route also means additional essential services including mail delivery are severely affected.
Megen Hibbins has lived “off the grid” on the southern side of the Mann River with her family for more than 10 years.
While she loves her home and its remote location in one of the most scenic areas of NSW, Ms Hibbins openly admits to being frustrated and annoyed by the distinct lack of action to build a second bridge and restore easier access for residents.
She said she has been in contact with both Clarence Valley Council and Glen Innes Severn Council regarding the matter.
“Everyone around here lives off the grid and while we’re used to living remotely, none of us can understand why it’s taken over a year for a new bridge to be built, and now that the temporary causeway has been destroyed, does that mean we’re going to be forced to wait even longer?” she asked in bewilderment.
“We just want to know when is something going to be done to fix this problem?
“There has been equipment sitting near the river for months, but nothing has been built and nothing has been achieved.”
Ms Hibbins said residents have been stranded since the 2019 bushfires waiting for the new bridge to be built and the loss of the temporary causeway only adds additional stress and dilemmas, especially for young families who live in the area.
Ms Hibbins also said residents want to know when work will finally begin on the new bridge and if a second, temporary causeway will be constructed in the meantime to cut back travelling times.
“We just want some answers,” she said.
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 31 March 2021.