DYERS Crossing residents don't want to wait for a fatality or their community's deteriorating bridge to be washed away before something is done to replace it.
More than 50 concerned people met with member for Lyne, David Gillespie at the bridge on Monday, where he suggested Greater Taree City Council request to transfer $10 million in announced infrastructure funds for the Gateway Regional Transport Hub Project to fund its roads and bridges program of which the Dyers Crossing bridge is included.
While many welcomed the idea, others were concerned it was just another "time waster" on a project they feel needs to be attended to urgently, or that it wasn't something council would agree to.
Residents are clear though that the current situation isn't good enough and council should make funding for the project a priority above a number of other projects.
Some are so fed up that one member of the community declared she would organise a petition, which all in attendance promised to sign, calling for the current councillors to be sacked and an administrator brought in.
Dr Gillespie listened to their concerns and explained that the particular matter regarding the petition needed to be taken up at a State government level.
Greater Taree mayor Paul Hogan visited the bridge a month ago to meet residents after Dr Gillespie announced there was no funding for the bridge's reconstruction, which had been promised by the previous Labor government.
The bridge is signposted to warn drivers that it is one-way, has concrete bollards and signage indicating weight and width restrictions.
Residents say those warnings are being ignored to a degree and tell of at least two caravans which have become stuck on the bridge when they couldn't get through.
At least one person who attended the meeting said she is so wary of the bridge's safety that she chooses to go the 'long-way around' (an extra 15km either way) to avoid crossing the bridge.
Erica Gordon, a resident for 30 years who has run Dyers Crossing Produce for about 20 years with her husband Frank, describes the bridge as the community's "lifeline".
"I cannot see that it has got through to council that it is an essential bridge."
She estimates the bridge supports hundreds of movements a day, which is less than before the weight limit was imposed which means school buses, feed trucks, milk tankers, water trucks, garbage trucks and other essential services can no longer cross the bridge and are required to take the longer route.
Frank adds that some of the timber posts at the ends of the bridge are either hollow or white-ant infested.
In addition to the deteriorating condition of the bridge, a major concern is if a fire or flood occurs and the Dyers Crossing bridge is the only access in and out to residents living at Krambach, Firefly, Dyers Crossing and other nearby communities (because the bridges at Firefly and Dargaville go under), which also limits emergency access.
Erica said if anything happens to the bridge it will also effect the post office (which is part of the store they run).
The postman already does two trips to their post office and he would have to go out through Krambach and Firefly, which would add significantly to his travelling time.
Erica and Frank support Dr Gillespie's suggestion that money be transferred from the gateway project to pay for roads and bridges works.
"There's no other way to do it - no alternative," said Erica.
They feel their bridge and their concerns are being ignored by council in favour of projects within the city centre.
"We don't even get a look in as far as (mayor) Hogan is concerned," said Frank.
He puts the blame on council for the funding not coming though, saying council didn't fill out the necessary paperwork for the roads and bridges package in time.
Both feel the rates they pay to council don't come back into their community and are instead concentrated on beautification works in the main centre of Taree.
"There's no way beautification should take precedence over safety - a new roundabout over a bridge."
Resident of Dyers Crossing for 20 years, Colleen Patten-Bird said she has had to sign a disclaimer with council to allow her to have her garbage bins picked up on the other side of the bridge now that the garbage truck can't cross it.
She said the funding is a long time coming but expected council wouldn't agree with Dr Gillespie's suggestion, even though the funding is needed.
"(The bridge) is really dangerous".
She said that while walking about the bridge the boards were moving - so is concerned what is happening when a car goes over it.
Eve Witschge from Firefly feels Dr Gillespie's suggestion is "another little time waster", particularly when they can see the seriousness of the matter.
"It needs to be addressed. The risk factor is someone's life".
She said she was anxious herself about crossing the bridge and pointed out her concerns for the elderly and children with disabilities that use the bridge.
Eve said the bridge provides for the community and she expected politicians to provide for them after the community supported them.
Pauline Graves has lived in Dyers Crossing for four years and agreed with Dr Gillespie's suggestion.
"I think it is a very good idea...I think it's more important than the gateway and I think this is more of a priority."