The contentious issue of the replacement of the Cedar Party Creek Bridge and relocation of the Wingham Memorial Swimming Pool reared its head once again last week, with a report tabled at the MidCoast Council ordinary meeting at Gloucester on Wednesday, October 23.
The report provided an update on the project and recommended further consultation be undertaken with the Wingham community regarding the preferred bridge and pool options, and that a further report be presented to council to confirm the preferred option.
Councillors disregarded the recommendations of the report, with Cr Brad Christensen moving that council should adopt the existing alignment options. The motion was seconded by Cr Troy Fowler.
Related reading: Cedar Party Creek Bridge and Wingham Pool under discussion again
Cr Peter Epov moved an amendment that council examine the opportunity to retain the 50 year old existing bridge as a tourism attraction. The motion was seconded by Cr Katherine Bell, but was lost with only Epov and Bell voting for the amendment.
After extensive community consultation by MidCoast Council in 2017, two preferred options were decided upon, being the 'pool relocation' option and the 'existing alignment' option.
The majority of Wingham citizens who took part in the survey agreed with MidCoast Council with 57 per cent choosing the pool relocation option, and 28 per cent electing the existing alignment option.
"We have got to a point where we can't deliver on an in-town pool option and that has been holding up progress on the bridge replacement - this decision by council means we can progress the delivery of a new bridge for the Wingham community and the pool can continue to operate in its current location," council's Robert Scott explained.
Related reading: Cedar Party Creek Bridge preferred option endorsed
In December 2016 Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead with the then Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay inspected the bridge and at that time council said that "the NSW government has shown they're serious about funding a replacement bridge".
However, in March 2019 council announced it was unsuccessful in obtaining the funding to go ahead with construction of a new bridge and replacement of the pool. At that time the new Minister for Roads, Transport and Freight Melinda Pavey and Stephen Bromhead made an election promise that the Fixing Country Bridges program, the same program that would have funded the bridge had the application been successful the first time, would fund the replacement of the bridge.
"We have the opportunity to apply for grant funding for the bridge renewal, but to be eligible we had to make a commitment to getting the work done - now we can progress to detailed designs for the bridge," Mr Scott said.
What about the pool?
In a press release to media regarding the decision to replace the Cedar Party Creek Bridge on its existing alignment, council said "this decision provides certainty to the community that the pool will continue to operate in its current location."
However, council estimates that Wingham Pool only has approximately five years of serviceable life left.
Having decided on the existing alignment option, there is now no opportunity for council to have the pool replaced along with the Cedar Party Creek Bridge.
There are currently no funds available to replace the pool in its current site or elsewhere. If, in the future, council decides to replace the pool, funding will need to be sought to do so.
"That's a conversation that the Wingham community can have," Cr Len Roberts said at the council meeting.