THE days are numbered for timber bridges around Tamworth and the new structures are helping heal the wounds of past council mergers.
Since Tamworth, Parry, Nundle, Manilla and Barraba councils were amalgamated in 2004, the Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) has been on a mission to replace the region’s 67 “declining” timber bridges.
The timber bridge management plan hasn’t come cheaply, with the ongoing project costing more than $7.5 million since 2012.
It’s a huge investment for council and the benefit has been largely felt in the region’s small communities.
Councillor Jim Maxwell admitted the bridge replacement scheme was one of the biggest positives to come out of council amalgamations.
“There were three bridges done in a fairly short space of time [in Manilla],” Cr Maxwell said.
“We would have never been able to finance their replacement as Manilla Shire Council.”
Cr Maxwell – former mayor of Manilla and the first TRC representative from the small town – hoped it went some way to healing old merger wounds in the small town.
“There was a lot of angst in Manilla when it happened, but they’re starting to see the positive side of it,” he said.
“It ripped the guts out of the community when it happened; we’re very parochial in our small towns.
Cr Maxwell said councils amalgamated in the Fit for the Future process last year should be looking at how the merger can “work to their benefit”.
Councillors formally endorsed a plan in December last year to add $309,693 in savings from bridge replacement works completed in 2015 and 2016, to the $2 million budget they had already approved for 2017/18.
TRC has nine timber bridges in its sights for this year, including structures at Woolbrook, Crawney, Bithramere, Weabonga and Woolomin.
Mayor Col Murray said there has been significant progress in improving the region’s bridge infrastructure in recent years.
“We will continue to move forward this year, with plans for more timber bridges to be replaced,” he said.
“It is good news, in particular, for residents of our rural communities where most of these timber bridges are located.
It is expected tenders will be called in July this year, with a view to awarding tenders as early as possible in the 2017-18 financial year.