Port Augusta bridges | VIDEO


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:17): I rise today to talk about a very important issue for us in Port Augusta at the moment. Of course, it also affects a lot of people in the broader district and, in some ways, people in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Darwin because we are having great difficulty with transport through the middle of the regional centre of Port Augusta at the moment.

We have four very significant wooden marine assets in Port Augusta: the main wharf that runs parallel to the gulf and the shore behind the Woolworths and Big W car park; the T-jetty between that wharf and the main bridge; another jetty on the western side, near the boat ramp; and the old wooden bridge that runs parallel to the current main Joy Baluch AM Bridge.

These four assets are all owned by the state government, I believe, but they are all leased from the state government to the Port Augusta City Council. They are the Port Augusta City Council’s responsibility to maintain and care for, and I understand they have been for about 15 years. We have a great difficulty at the moment in that the T-jetty and the old wooden bridge are both closed, and this is causing a great deal of difficulty for people in town.

From a recreational perspective, the T-jetty is very important for swimmers, fishers and people who just want to walk or walk their dog. Kids love playing on that T-jetty, jumping off it and swimming around it and doing all sorts of good, healthy, fun things that kids get to do in our hot summers in Port Augusta. Closing the old wooden bridge is an even bigger problem because it means that we have lost safe pedestrian access between the eastern and western sides of the gulf.

That old wooden bridge, while it is not suitable for vehicles any longer, has been used for bicycles, for gophers, for families, for prams, for kids playing and for couples walking. Anybody who wants to walk across the gulf away from traffic has used that safely for a very long time. Because that is now in disrepair, all the pedestrian traffic across the gulf has to go on the narrow footpath on the main bridge right next to national Highway 1.That bridge carries all the traffic between Darwin and Sydney and Perth and Adelaide; it is genuinely the crossroads of Australia.

What that has meant is that for the safety of pedestrians, the speed limit has been reduced to 40 km/h, which has a very significant impact upon local, regional and interstate road freight. Even more importantly, it means that the people who want to cross the gulf on foot or on a bike or on a gopher or with a pram are very uncomfortable doing so on a narrow footpath with no barrier protection whatsoever between them and the traffic including double road trains.

We have had a situation where two gophers were coming from opposite directions. They obviously realised they were going to meet in the middle and one of them had to back up all the way to get off the bridge to let the other one pass and then go back the other way. We have had a situation where a pedestrian had a very near miss with a wide load on a truck that was going over the bridge. Of course, the driver did everything he or she could do. Traffic had been stopped at both ends so that this one truck with a wide load would have the entire bridge to go across, and no doubt the driver was looking at the railings on either side of the bridge, but there was a pedestrian there as well and that person had not been cleared off the bridge before the wide load went through.

We have had numerous situations with people feeling very unsafe. It has not only been a safety issue for the people who cross that bridge but it has also been an issue for the people who now do not feel safe enough to use the bridge and do not have exercise and recreation or access to both sides of the gulf, as they historically have.

I am sorry that I am limited for time, but at the beginning of this short speech I touched on the funding responsibilities. I know that this state government has offered to contribute a partial contribution toward the maintenance work that is needed for these two closed assets: the T-jetty and the Great Western Bridge. I know that the member for Grey has been very active. In fact, he brought the federal transport minister to have a look at this. My main message is that we just need to get this fixed. It is a council responsibility, but the council is not able to fulfil this responsibility. The community needs to have it addressed and I call on all levels of government—local, state and federal—to cooperate as quickly as possible to get resolution to these two very important issues.