4 April 2024

Time to 'bite the bullet' and reallocate $10m NPA bridge commitment to Myall Creek: Entsch

| Lyndon Keane
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Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch (centre), pictured with former NPARC mayor Bernard Charlie and councillor Eddie Newman, says the $10 million the Federal Government committed in 2015 to a Jardine River bridge needs to be reallocated to a Myall Creek solution. Photo: Supplied.

The $10 million in Federal Government funding committed to building a Jardine River bridge needs to be diverted to a Myall Creek solution, says the frustrated Member for Leichhardt.

With the divide between a need for a bridge and Traditional Owner opposition seemingly as wide as ever, Warren Entsch has called for the money, committed in 2015, to be pulled and reallocated to developing a wet season solution for Weipa.

“[A Jardine River bridge] makes a lot of sense, but here we are 10 years later and nothing’s happening,” he told Cape York Weekly when asked whether he thought the infrastructure project would ever progress.

“I think it’s time to stop talking about it; if tourists want to spend a ridiculous amount for the ferry, let them.

“I think it’s time for us to say now, ‘let’s bite the bullet’ and take the money back and put it into Myall Creek.”

READ ALSO New NPARC mayor backs renewed Jardine River bridge debate

The ferry connecting Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) residents, tourists and road freight operators with the rest of Cape York is operated by Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), which charges users anywhere from $130-330 to cross the Jardine River.

The ageing ferry will not operate for most of April as it undergoes much-needed maintenance, and Mr Entsch said it beggared belief there was so much resistance to infrastructure he believed would allow the wharf at Seisia to be developed into a regional freight hub.

“A bridge would connect the PDR up to Seisia wharf as a major distribution network into the Torres Strait,” Mr Entsch said.

“But there is no appetite; I’m going up there soon to meet the new council but …. I’m not expecting anything to change.

“Where is that money for the ferry going? There’s no transparency on it whatsoever.”

READ ALSO Is it time to build a bridge over the Jardine River?

The $10m funding announcement was welcomed by former NPARC mayor Bernard Charlie at the time, who said replacing the ferry with a bridge would mean “the community of the NPA will now be able to travel twenty-four seven to go south and to return home to family safely”.

Mr Entsch pulled no punches when outlining his frustration with the lack of action on even a full-scale feasibility study into the construction of a bridge.

“It has just been ridiculous since then; councils have been for it, then they were against it,” he explained.

“I think the time’s run out, unless they want to accelerate the process.

“The money is still on the books, but [Myall Creek] is becoming critical, so I’d like to see it go to that instead.”

Incoming NPARC mayor Robert Poipoi told Cape York Weekly he believed the bridge would deliver significant benefits to the region, and was committed to liaising with Traditional Owners to try to find way forward.

Tourists can queue for more than one kilometre during peak season waiting for their turn to cross the Jardine River, despite the Federal Government committing $10 million in 2015 to replace the dilapidated ferry with a bridge. Photo: Cape York Weekly.

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