31 May 2023

EDITOR'S SAY: An open letter to Mark Bailey, Cynthia Lui and TMR about bridge closures

| Matt Nicholls
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Bridge works at the McLeod River near Mount Carbine, plus at Shelley's Crossing in Laura and Mount Molloy, have an impact on Cape York motorists.

Bridge works at the McLeod River near Mount Carbine, plus at Shelley’s Crossing in Laura and Mount Molloy, have an impact on Cape York motorists.

WITH bridge works happening in and around the Cape, better communication is required for local residents who are travelling long distances so they can make plans prior to leaving home.

Cape York Weekly editor Matt Nicholls has penned this letter to Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey, Member for Cook Cynthia Lui and the TMR office in Cairns …

Dear Minister Bailey, Ms Lui and the TMR team,

I’m writing both as a newspaper editor and as a concerned citizen.

There have been three scheduled bridge closures in the Cape York region over the past few weeks and none of them have been advertised to the public. Not one newspaper advertisement and not even a media release.

The Laura closure, which was supposed to start this week but has now been pushed back, is a perfect example of TMR’s lack of local knowledge and communication.

The Shelley’s Crossing bridge at Laura is the only way in and out of the Peninsula for most Cape York residents. TMR is proposing to close it for nine hours per day from 7am to 5pm, with only two half-hour windows to gain access north or south.

I understand that the work needs to be done and that it’s better to do it as quickly as possible. However, you MUST communicate these closures with the whole Cape York community, not just those living in Laura and the nearby surrounds.

This is part of the response I received last week from TMR:

TMR always engages with the community ahead of works, as was the case with this project, which is being carried out in two stages.

We advised the community about the works before the start of the stage 1 in December 2022.

On May 15 we notified the local community, elected representatives, and Peninsula Developmental Road stakeholders, including freight operators, about upcoming works and road closures for stage 2 from May 29.

Community members north of Laura were not informed of this proposed closure.

Some freight operators were not informed, either. This can have big ramifications on their businesses as they need to meet logbook requirements.

In case you’re not aware, this is one of the reasons why you need to do better when communicating closures that go for lengthy periods.

People living in Weipa or Bamaga, for example, will drive south for appointments in Cairns or on the Tablelands. Or maybe to catch a flight. A four-hour delay at Laura would need to be factored into their travel plans.

I’m not asking you to stop carrying out these works, but I am asking you to improve your communication methods. I note that in the Cairns Post, TMR is providing updates on traffic changes around Gordonvale.

The bridge works at Mount Molloy and at the McLeod River also impact Cape York residents.

Sending out emails to Cook Shire council and some other stakeholders isn’t enough. You need to spread the message much wider. Cape York Weekly is more than happy to share this information, both through editorial and advertising.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I hope you take the feedback on board and improve your systems.

Kind regards,

Matt Nicholls
[email protected]

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