Bridge open: Darryl Stewart with the Tiaro Bridge on the Mary River.
Bridge open: Darryl Stewart with the Tiaro Bridge on the Mary River. Karleila Thomsen

Mary River Bridge reunites Tiaro

IT was all smiles in Tiaro this week, with drivers lining up to make the most of the newly renovated and now-re-opened Mary River Bridge, all of them hoping to put their divided community back together again.

Equipment still sat on the roadway at the scheduled opening time of midday, Tuesday but 40 minutes later, with half the safety rails still in place, the impatient drivers were allowed to make their first crossing since the bridge was closed for flood repairs in early March.

But, even among feelings of relief from a community, Tiaro Chamber of Commerce president Daryl Stewart was concerned at the pace of the repairs, which had cost businesses money and damaged the community.

“And we still only have a 76-year-old, timber, one-lane, S-bend, no-guard-rail, flood prone, dangerous bridge with a bit more timber on it.”

Mr Stewart said government bureaucrats need to answer some questions, because the bridge closure was not caused solely by flood damage, as claimed but by rotting timber – “and that doesn’t occur after one flood.

“They say they’ve got a program to replace all timber bridges, so why do they spend $1 million repairing one that should be replaced.

“They’re spending $6 million in Biggenden and I don’t begrudge Biggenden the money, but they are replacing a bridge there that is not as important.

“The bridge here has separated the community. Business was down 30 per cent in Tiaro. Even the school had trouble because students had to be taken an extra 120km to get them to school.”

Residents living on the Mungar side of the bridge were forced to drive an extra 45 minutes through Maryborough to collect their mail and buy food, with many choosing to shop there rather than continue to Tiaro.

Roslyn Banks, one of the first drivers to cross the reopened bridge, said she was excited about the reopening.

“It’s been a long time coming ... it was awful having to drive an extra 140km just to collect the mail and get milk.”

Helene Coulter said she was pleased the days of getting her kids to school via the taxi that transferred people across the bridge in half-hour time slots twice a day over the past three months were over.

Echoing Mr Stewart’s concerns, Tony Vandoorn from Screen Dreams said, “It’s just going to happen again and again.”

Vince Smith, who lives next to the bridge on the Tiaro side, said businesses should now document their losses and request an ex-gratia payment from the State Government to compensate.

While Mr Smith understood other locals’ plight, he was one of the few who could see a positive side to the bridge closure.

“It was so quiet – there was hardly any noise except for a bit of rattling on the bridge during the day.”

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