By Colin MacGillivray

DEPUTY Mayor Fiona Stevens last week pushed for Mitchell Shire Council to commit seed funding for a bridge across Whiteheads Creek on Seymour’s Delatite Road, describing the project as long overdue.

The north ward councillor said the need for a bridge at the crossing had been evident for years, with floodwaters frequently inundating the road and presenting a danger to motorists.

In January 2016, Seymour man Max Loweke drowned in his car after being swept away in 1.8-metre floodwaters while crossing the creek in the dark.

Cr Stevens said there had been numerous near-misses in addition to Mr Loweke’s drowning and a bridge was needed urgently for community safety.

“This crossing is more like a ford. It’s a substantial dip in the road that is inundated with water on a fairly regular basis. The flooding comes very quickly, very significantly and then dissipates,” she said.

“It’s an unlit spot and it’s two lanes that [merge] into one lane. It has a history of being problematic. There have been a number of rescues at this particular site.

“On June 11, 1989 two police officers saved two people from drowning and were awarded bravery awards as a result.”

Cr Stevens said flooding at the crossing also hampered service provision in times of crisis.

At last week’s council meeting she pushed for councillors to refer a commitment of 10 per cent of the bridge’s total estimated $2.85 million cost to the 2022-23 capital works program under the budget.

She also moved council allocate $100,000 for a cultural heritage management plan and begin talks with Taungurung Land and Waters Council about native title implications.

She said committing money to the project in council’s next budget would help secure external funding from state and federal governments.

“This was last dealt with in 2019 and here were are years later and we’ve made very little progress,” she said.

“If we get seed funding into our budget, we can show credibility and commitment to this project so when we go seeking additional funding and they ask what council has done about this, we can say ‘this is what we’ve done’.

“As we currently stand we have nothing to offer. For the credibility of what we want to do, we have to step up on this.

“I believe [10 per cent funding] is quite achievable. There is another site that floods and requires a warning system. If we’re successful with getting this one sorted, the warning system [at Delatite Road] can be relocated there. That would be a savings of $175,000 currently identified in the budget.”

Cr Stevens’ motion was unanimously supported by the rest of council, who agreed the project was overdue.

“Two words: critical infrastructure. That’s what this community needs,” Cr Nathan Clark said.

“It needs to have been upgraded some time ago. We need to light a fire under it.”

Cr Louise Bannister said committing funding would give the project momentum.

“We need to have steps and start thinking about timelines rather than just noting projects,” she said.

“Otherwise they can potentially keep coming back to us every five or 10 years and nothing ever happens with it.”

Cr Rhonda Sanderson said while the item had been referred to the budget for further discussion, its inclusion was not yet a guarantee.

“This item refers to budget discussions, it doesn’t mean it’s in the budget. I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up that this bridge will necessarily be built in the next four years,” she said.