TENTERFIELD producers say they could struggle to get stock out of their own front gates when local council imposes load limits on its ageing timber bridges.
Community meetings are set to be held in four areas this month after residents were told of at least 16 bridges, many near stock properties, would be hit with limits as low as five and seven tonne gross vehicle weights.
Tenterfield Shire Council says load limits are required to ensure the structures don’t fail before repairs or total replacement can be carried out.
Mayor Peter Petty said council was currently working with both state and federal government members to secure appropriate funding to begin a renewal program after bridge maintenance had “fallen off the radar”.
“We have 58 wooden bridges in our shire,” he said.
“We got tests on 17 of them by engineers and 14 of them came back dodgy, so what’s that tell you about the other 40 odd?”
Beef and Merino sheep producer Scott Macansh, who’s father Don is pictured above, only has one access to his 1625 hectare property, Deepwater Station, and it’s blocked both ways by impacted bridges.
On Torrington Road both the Deepwater River bridge and the Kangaroo Creek bridge will be limited to 12t GVM.
Mr Macansh regularly sells large lines of stock, up to 1200 head of sheep, but expects to be only able to move about 100 head across the bridges at any one time.
“It’ll completely change everything we do because everything that leaves here usually leaves on a semi or B-double,” he said.
“We sell sheep in biggish numbers and they often go long distances.
“We have sold wethers up into Longreach and down into Victoria and you can’t send them on a 10t truck.
“Also everything coming in; for feed during the drought, and normally we get B-doubles of feed from out west and fertiliser comes on B-doubles. Even the truck that brings our fuel wouldn’t be able to come.”
Greg Kneipp operates an earth-moving business in the Glen Innes and Tenterfield areas and grosses close to 40t with some of his equipment.
He sometimes travels about 20 kilometres to jobs but soon will have to detour, making 60 and 70km trips instead.
Mr Kneipp feared similar bridges in other shires could be the next to be impacted.
“We’ll have to go back into other shires and they’ve got little bridges as well, probably in worse state than Tenterfield’s and I think when they find out what’s going on they’ll most likely apply load limits too,” he said.
“It’s going to make it very hard and they are threatening big fines if you do cross.
Council has since purchased two steel replacement bridges to begin works from next year but Cr Petty was unable to outline when works would be complete.
He appreciated the impact it would have on some producers.
“All of our clients in our shire have been affected, especially with the dry time on, it couldn’t be worse, because people want to get fodder,” he said.
“Agriculture is our biggest industry in the shire but at the end of the day safety is our first thing.” Community meetings are planned to explain the changes at:
- Torrington Community Hall on December 7 at 6.30pm
- Urbenville Community Hall on December 10 at 7pm
- Liston Community Hall on December 12 at 7pm.