Debate over raising footbridge continues

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

The debate over raising Koombana Bay’s footbridge is expected to flare again tonight after boaters appeared not to be buoyed by reasoning offered by City of Bunbury staff.

About 40 people attended a meeting at Bunbury City Council chambers last night when acting chief executive officer Mal Osborne and works and services director Gavin Harris made a presentation on the contentious issue.

The presentation covered the council’s previous decision not to raise the bridge and the potential costs and effects of reversing that decision if the boating fraternity’s wishes were to be granted.

Boaters have made an 11th hour push to get the bridge raised by 1400mm because they claim the existing height is unsafe.

An estimate from design consultants Cardno, quotes the work to raise the bridge to the same height as the traffic bridge at $528,000 while raising it 600mm – a compromise suggested by boaters – would cost $379,500.

Bridge contractor Ertech has also advised it could cost $30,000 per week of delay in the project.

Boaters taking part in the discussion last night questioned the quotes, claiming the estimates were “way over the top”.

But Mr Harris explained the concepts were “purely conceptional” and detailed designs – which would also cost money – were needed to refine the costs.

“Until we have detail to be able to go to Ertech, who’s the contractor to get a product, I can’t get it down any better than what it is,” Mr Harris said.

“Ertech will give me a firm price when I give them detailed design and there’s a cost to get detailed design.”

Mr Osborne also responded to questions over what savings the council had looked at in the overall Koombana Bay redevelopment project to cover the cost of raising the bridge.

“We’ve looked at some components in the project which could be taken out – they were add-ons such as CCTV, free Wi-Fi, public art,” Mr Osborne said.

“They are project components that should council so desire could be removed, albeit the council has gone to the community and has told them that is going to be included in the project.

“So it’s weighing that up, but there are some components that could be sacrificed.”

A vocal advocate to raise the bridge, former Bunbury Yacht Club commodore Neil Seymour responded saying safety should be a higher priority.

“I think the considerations need to add there what is far more important – the safety aspect by raising it 600mm or having extra playgrounds or whatever,” Mr Seymour said.

Mr Osborne responded the responsibility was with boaters to ensure safety.

“It’s only a safety risk if mariners don’t navigate correctly in their own boats at the moment,” Mr Osborne said.

“If the bridge goes back where it was, nothing has changed.”

Department of Transport regional services operations manager Peter Westgate was also at the meeting and agreed the responsibility was with boat owners.

“At the end of the day it is the skipper’s responsibility to ensure they check the tide and all those sorts of things,” Mr Westgate said.

Mr Westgate said money would also have to be sourced – whether through the council or State Government – to raise the storm surge barrier walkway.

He said the department believed Casuarina Harbour would cater for bigger boats into the future.

The council will debate the issue tonight, but Mayor Gary Brennan said today he did not believe there was any “appetite” from councillors to take away money from other components in the project.

“I’d be amazed if that happens,” Mr Brennan said.

“If council considered an amended recommendation, once we have those costings secured then we can look at how to fund them.”

The council has been recommended to reinforce its original decision.

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