Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Funding bid for Kirwans Bridge

Strathbogie Shire Council to make pitch to Heritage Victoria.

ALAN MCLEAN February 26, 2014 10:01am

Jim Baberton and Claire Purbrick cross Kirwans Bridge on the day it was re-opened in June 2011.

Kirwans Bridge residents have reacted cautiously but positively to the reappearance of the historic bridge on the Shire of Strathbogie radar and the council agenda.

Councillors voted last week - in an at-times fiery meeting - four to three in favour of framing an application to Heritage Victoria for funding towards an apparent replica of the existing timber bridge. It is understood that if the maximum grant of $200000 is approved, the council will be required to allocate a similar amount.

Councillors supporting the bid were Alister Purbrick, Colleen Furlanetto, Deb Swan and Pat Storer. Councillors opposed were Malcolm Little, Mick Williams and Robin Weatherald.

Kirwans Bridge Action Group chairman, Colin Cleak said: ‘‘I am pleased to note the council imitative, and perhaps this could stimulate interest from State and Federal Governments.’’

‘‘While we would hope that Euroa-based councillors (apart from Cr Furlanetto, who voted for the motion) could better understand the importance of the bridge and join their colleagues in the search for external funding, any positive action is obviously better than none at all,’’ he said.

The bridge built in 1890 and listed on the Heritage Victoria Register was first closed in 2001. Local residents pressed for action and after a $790000 renovation, the bridge re-opened in September 2004.

It had been a political issue in the 2002 Victorian Election when Bill Sykes (National) unseated Denise Allen (ALP) in the seat of Benalla.

The council again closed the bridge in June 2010, on the unanimous vote of the councillors.

A reinvigorated Action Group organised pamphlets, T-shirts, rallies, a media campaign and petition calling for the pooling of government-sourced funds to enure a safe river crossing.

The group raised funds to obtain a second engineering opinion on the bridge’s safety, and after remedial work costing just $60000, the bridge was again reopened in June 2011.

While the bridge was closed motorists were obliged to use an unsealed back road, crossing the Goulburn either at Murchison or at Chinaman’s Bridge. Part of that road crosses swampland and heavy flooding required the council to close the road for several days.

Action Group member Carmel Sidebottom said: ‘‘I was encouraged to hear some councillors recall an earlier council decision to seek funding when an opportunity arises.’’

‘‘If this is the first such opportunity, I have no doubt that all residents will be supportive of the funding bid,’’ she said.

Alan McLean is a long-time campaigner for Kirwans Bridge.

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