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Old Goulburn Bridge restoration divides Mitchell Shire Council

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Jordyn Grubisic
Jordyn Grubisic
Jordyn Grubisic is a senior journalist for the North Central Review primarily covering politics at all levels and sport with a particular interest in basketball. Since 2019 she has worked for several publications across Victoria including most recently at the Alexandra Standard and Yea Chronicle. She is always keen to hear from local community members about issues they face and has an interest in crime and court reporting.

Borrowing $3.5 million to restore Seymour’s historic Old Goulburn Bridge proved to be a divisive issue at Mitchell Shire Council’s special meeting to pass its 2023-24 Budget.

Cr David Lowe submitted an amendment to the Budget to change the council’s plan to borrow money for the bridge restoration, but instead put in grant applications for $3.5 million to minimise council borrowing.

All three south ward councillors voted for the amendment, and did not support the approval of the Budget.

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Cr Lowe said as a councillor he could not support the $3.5 million borrowing but agreed the bridge was worth restoration.

“I’m all in favour of us to continue to try obtain grant funding for it,” Cr Lowe said.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be diverting funds that should be spent on other needs within the shire to this particular project at this particular time.

“I’m sorry I just don’t think we can afford to spend $7 million on this when the Budget is in such dire strait.”

Cr Rob Eldridge said he would also like to see the bridge restored but didn’t believe it was appropriate to do so at the moment.

“As Councillor Lowe said we have roads that need repairing … I think it would be just irresponsible of us to sign this sort of money, when we can’t meet our basic duties as councillors,” he said.

Cr Rhonda Sanderson voted against the amendment, stating council had a legislated obligation under the Heritage Act 2017 and Planning and Environment Act 1987 to restore the bridge.

“The bridge is deteriorating. It is a known risk and we have a duty to address this,” she said.

“With no external funding forthcoming council has two choices to meet its obligations – council cash or borrowings and I think the most financially responsible thing is borrowing,” she said.

Cr Annie Goble said she was ‘shocked and a little bemused’ at the suggested amendment.

“The Budget has gone out to the community on two separate occasions and there has been no objections to the borrowings for the bridge,” she said.

Cr Goble said the Budget had been balanced with the borrowings factored in.

“An attempt to remove it at this stage would, I believe, be blindsiding the community,” she said.

“To put a halt to the project yet again will do further damage to our reputation and I frankly would be ashamed and quite embarrassed if that was the outcome of the Budget debate.”

Cr Louise Bannister agreed the budget was received with no community objections.

The community also raised more than $100,000 towards the project showing support.

“Within our capacity for these road projects I think we’ve allocated an adequate amount and forecasted an adequate amount for the future,” she said.

“Council has a legal responsibility to maintain this bridge and if we don’t, we may face fines in the future and no bridge to show for it. More importantly, council morally has a duty to preserve history as once it’s gone it’s gone.”

But Cr Lowe said roads remained underfunded.

“We have had reports that [the allocation] is $2 million a year less than what we need to maintain current roads in their current situation, never mind improving which the people out there are demanding that we do,” he said.

“The need for us to develop this bridge at this stage is not critical. The need for us to fill potholes in the road is critical.”

Cr Clark and Mayor Fiona Stevens voted against the amendment.

It did not pass, and the south ward councillors did not support the Budget.

“Yet again the south ward finds themselves contributing most in the rates and getting far less than they should be,” Cr Lowe said.

“I just think it’s ridiculous the way the rates are divided. A great deal of grant funding is going to other areas within the shire but we can’t rely on grant funding in the south to actually develop the facilities we need.”

Cr Eldridge said he couldn’t support the Budget with places like Seymour missing out on monetary allocations for recreation facilities.

Cr Cornish said there was not much for the south.

“People in the south need to pay a bit more attention to the Budget moving forward,” he said.

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  1. $3.3 million wasted on this project, the three rebel councilors were 100% right put in to the grants program, the reason people do not put submissions to council is because councils just do as they want any way regardless to what the community wants, this council needs to be put under a government administrator

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