Pambula River Bridge
Mr R. H. L. SMITH (Bega) [2.52 p.m.]: For many months now I have been calling on the New South Wales Government to replace the Princes Highway bridge over Pambula River to provide flood-free access for Pambula. In the State budget handed down earlier this year the Minister for Roads announced that funds were available to begin environmental studies for a new bridge, with construction to start next year. However, this new structure, a concrete bridge immediately alongside the existing wooden structure, will effectively be at the same spot and at the same height, resolving none of the problems that currently exist. By proceeding with the proposed bridge, the Government is condemning the far South Coast to another 50 to 100 years of repeated interruptions to road transport.
Previously I have advised the House that all road access to Bega from the south can be cut off by flood water at Pambula River Bridge. Once again I feel compelled to bring to the attention of the House the need for permanent flood-free access across Pambula River by the construction of a new bridge on the Princes Highway. For years the Pambula River Bridge has been a notorious trouble spot whenever we have had heavy rain. The Princes Highway becomes cut off at this point, with children being unable to get to school, people having to miss a day or so of work, access to Bega and Pambula hospitals made either difficult or impossible, and tourists left stranded and missing connections.
Because of the construction and alignment of the bridge, there is the added problem of the build-up of debris around the piles. This obstructs the river's flow, and flood waters spread out over a wide area. Traditionally there have been two main alternative routes available for those willing or able to add several hours to their normal journey. However, on occasions both these roads, Main Road 91 and Imlay Road, can also be damaged by flood waters, isolating the towns of South Pambula and Eden. There is a real cost to the local economy because of these continued disruptions to traffic. Access to and from the port of Eden becomes impossible for trucks, causing problems in the fishing, timber and dairy industries, and the transport of fuel. Tourists, residents and businesspeople are inconvenienced through being denied access to Merimbula Airport.
Major tourist promotions are frequently held in Melbourne, encouraging our southern neighbours to visit our beautiful area. They expect to be able to explore further than Eden, not be stymied by heavy rain storms. The Princes Highway is one of the nation's main arterial highways. There is no rail network south of Nowra, and we rely heavily on this road for the import and export of goods right along the eastern seaboard. Replacing this old wooden bridge in exactly the same alignment and with the same elevation is a cruel joke and a waste of Government funds. One does not need an engineering degree to work out that this will not provide permanent flood-free access over Pambula River. Virtually no money has been spent on major roadworks south of Illawarra. Where is all the money going? Sydney might be in desperate need of more carparks and bus terminals, but lack of adequate maintenance or improvement works in country areas, such as at Pambula River Bridge on the Princes Highway, can have serious consequences.
Surely, with the new wharf facility to be built at Eden, the State Government can do better than this. The new wharf will provide export opportunities for local businesses, but lack of access to the wharf from the north could have serious consequences for these operations. Last year I presented a large petition to the Parliament and attended protest meetings at the site. Yet this Government still remains hell bent on providing a quick-fix solution, which in fact fixes absolutely nothing. I call on the Minister for Transport to make funds available immediately to build a new bridge at this location, but with improved alignment on the southern side and high enough to withstand the problems of flooding in heavy rain.