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Councils Demand Timber Bridges Get Attention

Timber Bridge, Old Galveston Rd over Mustang Bayou, Alvin, Texas 1212201034

A report's found 29 per-cent of timber bridges tested in Queensland are in poor to very poor condition.  

45 of the 77 Queensland local governments participated in the study, of those 30 report having timber bridges collectively valued at $172 million.

The findings came out of the 2018 National State of the Assets: Roads and Community Infrastructure Report, launched this week at the National Local Roads and Transport Congress in Alice Springs.

$63 million worth or 37 per-cent are reported to be in good to very good condition, $59 million or 34 per-cent are believed to be in fair condition and the remainder $50 million are reported in poor to very poor condition.

Councils that provided data for the report are the Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Gympie; Bundaberg and the Fraser Coast; Gladstone and Rockhampton; Mackay and Whitsunday; Townsville, Burdekin and Hinchinbrook; and Cairns, Mareeba and the Cassowary Coast.  

Ahead of an upcoming federal election, local councils have joined the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to call for permanency of the Federal Bridges Renewal Program to help fix the roughly one in five local timber bridges that are in poor condition.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin, said that despite increased investment to renew bridges and the continued effort of councils to extend the life of their ageing assets, the backlog of bridges in poor condition remained largely unchanged.

“Councils are doing their best to bring these bridges up to a reasonable condition but this report shows that the scale of the problem is beyond the current resources and revenue streams available to councils.

“The Bridges Renewal Program has proved to be a very successful and important partnership between the Commonwealth and councils to improve road safety and freight productivity; more than 205 local bridges have been fixed using around $120 million of Commonwealth funding.

“Councils are keen to continue this partnership to deliver this important work and are calling for the program to be made permanent.”

Along with the uncertainty of the Bridges Renewal Program, further pressure has been placed on council budgets with the core Commonwealth funding to local government, Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs), being in steady decline over the past 20 years, falling from 1% of Commonwealth Taxation Revenue in 1996 to just 0.55% today.

“The fall in this funding has been swept under the rug for too long and the impact has been most acutely felt in regional and remote councils throughout Australia.

“The Bridges Renewal program helps tackle the backlog in fixing bridges, but a fairer share of Commonwealth taxes is vital to restoring sustainable levels of funding in the longer term, particularly for our regional and remote communities.

“That is why we are also calling for a restoration of the FAGs funding levels back to at least 1% of CTR to ensure our councils are adequately resourced to provide, maintain and renew the infrastructure and services our communities deserve.”

More than 400 councils across Australia provided data for the 2018 State of the Assets report.

ALGA’s election document outlines its federal election policy initiatives and is available at www.allpoliticsislocal.com.au

Michelle Price has been working as a journalist since 1999 and loves human interest pieces.

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