MIL-OSI Australia: Kempsey’s 56 new bridges secure a safer future for the shire

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Source: Australian Ministers 1

More than half of the timber bridges in Kempsey Shire have been replaced by stronger, safer concrete bridges in a little under three years through an ambitious Council project supported by the NSW and Australian governments. 

Kempsey Shire Council has achieved a significant milestone in its mission to enhance the safety and efficiency of local roads and bridges by announcing that 56 timber bridges that have been replaced with concrete upgrades are now open to traffic. 

The fires, droughts and floods of 2019 and 2020 left many bridges across the Shire damaged or destroyed. In response, Council determined to replace a total of 56 timber bridges with robust and durable concrete structures, designed to withstand future natural disasters and accommodate larger loads. 

Council is responsible for the upkeep of an extensive network of 1,259 kilometres of roads (equal to the distance between Kempsey and Melbourne) including 4,025 metres of bridge crossings which play a pivotal role in facilitating everyday life for residents and businesses alike. 

Before this project 86 of Council’s 141 bridges were timber, often showing the signs and damage of age and disaster. 

The ambitious program of works has been made possible through the support of the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Bridges program. 

The total budget to replace the 56 bridges was more than $26 million, the majority of which – a little over $22 million – came from the NSW Government. 

The NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said strong, reliable and resilient bridges are vital to regional communities. 

“Bridges keep people connected to the facilities of their nearest town, they provide emergency services and school buses with safe and reliable access, producers have better links to markets and locals can maintain social and cultural links which are so important for wellbeing,” Ms Aitchison said. 

“This comprehensive program of works by Kempsey Shire Council, largely funded by the NSW Government, has made a positive impact on the economy of the North Coast, in the form of engineering and construction jobs, along with provision of local materials such as concrete.” 

“The significant NSW Government funding will help councils with their ongoing asset management costs as these new bridges made of modern materials, are more resilient through floods and fires and less costly to maintain.” 

The budget for the program of works was supplemented by a $1.05 million Australian Government’s Bridges Renewal Program grant with the remaining balance contributed by Council. 

Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government, Kristy McBain MP said it was a fantastic milestone for the Kempsey region. 

“These new concrete bridges will better connect communities, they’re safer for cars and heavy vehicles, and they’re more durable – designed to better withstand future natural disasters. 

“Local road networks across NSW are ageing and under more demand, which is why we’ve partnered with Kempsey Shire Council to deliver targeted bridge improvements, and why we’re significantly increasing road funding available to local councils – to get more priority projects off the ground. 

“Kempsey Shire Council will receive $10.2 million in Roads to Recovery funding over the next five years – a $4.4 million boost thanks to the Albanese Labor Government, and will also have access to our $150 million Road Black Spot Program, and new $200 million Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program.” 

Leo Hauville, Kempsey Shire Mayor, said the new bridges will make a huge difference to the lives of so many in the shire through increased safety, reliability and peace of mind. 

“The completion of these 56 bridges is a big step for our Shire community transport infrastructure. Driving from one place to the other is safer now and into the future, from flood events to sunny days,” said Cr Hauville. 

“These bridges that are now open to traffic represent a crucial step forward in enhancing the region’s infrastructure and improving the lives of residents in the Macleay Valley and are a testament to Council’s dedication to providing vital infrastructure to the community. 

“We are thankful that Minister Aitchison was able to accept my invitation to open this amazing construction project across the Shire. All Councillors are especially thankful to Council staff for their dedication to undertaking and completing these very challenging infrastructure projects.” 

Kempsey Shire Council Manager Infrastructure Delivery, Dylan Reeves, said the replacement of the timber bridges in the Upper Macleay is an epic achievement in engineering. 

“It’s really pleasing to have these bridges open to traffic on time, as each of the 56 bridges presented a different challenge,” said Mr Reeves. 

“From dropping prefabricated bridges into place through to constructing them from scratch on site, stretched over a distance of hundreds of kilometres, often in isolated locations, we have faced and overcome nearly every challenge possible in bridge building. It’s been worth it though as each and every one of the improved concrete structures will be more reliable and much safer.”