STATE Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter has called for urgent funding to improve road accessibility in the Gulf Country.
Beames Brook Bridge – the access road to Doomadgee and Burketown – has been cut off since December 3, leaving many residents stranded during the holiday period.
Welcome rain for the region unfortunately sparked widespread frustration as it isolated the Burketown and Doomadgee communities at a time when travel was vital, with all unsealed alternative routes impassable.
Mr Katter called on the State Government to improve livability and access for the people of Gulf communities.
“There are opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the region which need to be unlocked, but that shouldn’t be stifled by a lack of basic infrastructure cutting off access to Gulf communities.”
“The bridge closure not only left residents stranded but also caused significant disruption for local businesses who were unable to bring in goods and basic necessities for the communities,” he said.
“It’s also an important time of year for connecting families and many were unable to see loved ones or do Christmas shopping during the Festive period.”
“There were significant personal and financial losses and I remind the Government that the people of Doomadgee and Burketown must not be forgotten.”
“It also brings serious safety issues with people so desperate to get to a destination that they contemplate taking risks they shouldn’t on flooded roads.”
Mr Katter has consulted with Burke Shire Council on the best option to solve the issue and is pushing for funding to raise and widen the Beames Brook Bridge.
“We will never fully flood-proof roads in the Lower Gulf, but we need more robust infrastructure to tolerate the yearly wet season,” he said.
“The people of Burke Shire Council need a permanent solution to avoid being isolated during the wet season.”
“I’ve been advised by Burke Shire Council Mayor Ernie Camp that a two-lane bridge, 3-4m above the original bridge height, would be the best way to achieve this.”
Mr Katter complimented the efforts of the Department of Main Roads in Cloncurry for responding to the problem quickly by installing a temporary bridge.
“I appreciate this upgrade is a huge improvement on what was an ancient bridge – one of the few remaining timber bridges in Australia,” he said. “I acknowledge this is a temporary bridge and we need Government to commit to a long-term solution to connect the Gulf to the rest of Australia.”
Mr Katter called on the bridge to match the quality of the Burketown to Gregory route along the Wills Development Road.
“It’s brilliant to have complete bitumen sealing from Burketown to Gregory, which allows Burketown residents to own two-wheel-drive cars and be able to drive to Mount Isa,” he said.
“However, with more traffic on the Beames Brook Bridge it has highlighted the old nature of the bridge … We need the bridge to match the quality of the road.”
Mr Katter was able to secure shuttle buses to Mount Isa so that people from Doomadgee and Burketown could do Christmas shopping. It is expected that the bridge will reopen on Tuesday 19 January.