Katherine mayor calls for a second high-level bridge

With numerous flood-ravaged communities in northern WA cut-off from their main supply routes, a voice from the other side of the border is calling for action to help floodproof her region.

A second high-level bridge has been proposed as part of the NT Government’s plan for a heavy vehicle alternate route in Katherine, but it isn’t marked for development for 10-15 years.

In the wake of the WA flood emergency, Katherine mayor Lis Clark wants to see those plans brought forward.

“Unprecedented is heard too often these days and 15 years is too far away. We need to start planning for this now,” she said.

Katherine mayor Lis Clark. Photo: Shaana McNaught/Katherine Town Council

“We’re looking for solutions that reflect climate change as we know it today. If access to our current bridge is lost, all of the Territory’s resources south of Katherine come to a standstill.”

In WA, ex-tropical Cyclone Ellie has caused intense rainfall in WA’s Kimberley region, with the Fitzroy River Bridge at Fitzroy Crossing, on the Great Northern Highway, destroyed. This has impacted the essential trucking route connecting WA and the NT and trucks are being forced to detour south, adding 3200 kilometres each way from Perth to Halls Creek.

Clark says this has highlighted the vulnerability in Australia’s road infrastructure when relying on one option.

She pointed to the NT Government’s Big Rivers Regional Economic Growth Plan, which states that freight networks for agriculture, mining and other sectors are primarily by road and furthermore, that having one bridge is a risk for major projects.

Trucks from the south bring exports to the Darwin port and essential supplies to the city. Defence currently has major development and activity at the territory’s largest RAAF base at Tindal, located south of Katherine.

Katherine has a low-level bridge but this is only passable in the dry season and is limited to small 20 tonne trucks.

Katherine town council councillor Denis Coburn supported Clark’s calls. He said a back-up bridge in Katherine, built to even higher standards than the current high-level bridge, would provide security for Katherine and Darwin.

When the Stuart Highway was cut off south of Katherine last year, Coburn says, “Everything stopped. Darwin experienced delays and the grocery shelves went bare.

“We want to fortify Katherine, and the Territory, for the future with this important piece of infrastructure.”

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