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Former councillor questions Old Goulburn River Bridge restoration

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The North Central Review
The North Central Review
The North Central Review is an independently owned newspaper publishing company based in Kilmore that is responsible for publishing two community newspapers each week, covering communities within the Mitchell Shire

A former Mitchell Shire Councillor has provided insight into the history of the controversial Old Goulburn River Bridge.

David McCullough, who was a Councillor in both the Rural City of Seymour and Mitchell Shire, has questioned the status of the bridge, stating that the bridge is a remnant of a time past. He also questioned the proposed cost of the restoration, stating that the proposal is underestimated, and the $6.9 million estimated will be underfunded by at least $2 million.

“The community needs much better value and many facts have not been promulgated fully so far,” he said.

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Mr McCullough noted that in the 1950s, the bridge was seriously altered when the main stanchions were replaced with steel girders.

“The decking was replaced with timber, much of which was supplied by Ennis Bros sawmill in Tallarook, who I worked for at the time,” he said.

“Around 1985 when I was a Seymour Councillor, we had an onsite meeting on the bridge to decide its future. A Morris Mini crossed and the bridge swayed significantly and as a result it was immediately closed.”

Mr McCullough recalls a fence being erected in the centre, and seating provided along the bridge, but within a year, all of the fencing was thrown into the river – along with the seating.

“The cost was $33,000, and not long after, the bridge was set on fire. Such was the value of this bridge to the community. This made the bridge no longer viable for use as it was determined as beyond economical repair,” he said.

“But an enlightened group of locals believed it was worth saving, and they obtained a heritage listing in 2006 to enable their endeavour. These people did the future no service, and it could be said they created the problem that Council is trying to address today.

“This bridge is not unique as there are many such bridges retained throughout Victoria. One only needs to travel downstream to find similar bridges.”

Mr McCullough suggested that Council may have been granted the right to the use of the bridge by the Country Roads Board, and pointed out that Council does not own the land and it is debatable that they ever owned the bridge.

“Control of the river is appointed to the Goulburn Broken Catchment Authority, but the river and land abutting is owned by the crown. As far as I am aware, there is and never was a lease to Council of this area,” he said.

“There is no order from any heritage organisation to reinstate this bridge. Probably because ownership is questionable, and it is not economically viable. But if such an order were to be issued, it could only be to reinstate the bridge to the condition it was in 2006.

“Many state that Council should have acted sooner, but having been a part of the two councils, I do not know how this could have been any different. No previous council has committed to the folly of rebuilding this bridge with negligible benefit to the community.”

Turning his attention to the current debate, Mr McCullough suggested that from the minutes of the meeting, several Councillors need a better understanding of their role.  

“It is appropriate for any Councillor to seek change when they believe that Council can do better. Thus, the criticism of Councillors Lowe and Eldridge is unbelievable,” he said.

“Community views are those of that minority who are vocal enough to be heard. Today, even many of those who were supporters have now reneged at the outlandish cost. The bridge has lost considerable favour in this community.”

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  1. This firmly puts a lid on the “restoration” surely!!

    It seems Council [with the exception of those who can see the folly] is pandering to a very small minority group.

    Why can’t the issue be put to a vote of the people? It is us paying for it not the Councillors!

    Current sentiment seems to indicate that the vote against “restoration” would be massive and as such Council, if they truly purport to represent the majority would be obliged to listen, and then reallocate the funds to worthwhile projects for the good of the community.

    Hopefully Councillors Eldridge, Lowe, Chisholm, and Cornish can rekindle the debate and perhaps force another vote.

    If we have to resurrect something, let it be Councils empathy for the Shire at large, not an old well passed its use by date skeleton of a bridge to appease a very small vested interested group!

  2. The more we hear about this bridge it just gets worse it is showing the incompetence of this council in regards this matter it time to put it to rest do not waste rate payers money on this derelict bridge to nowhere

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