There are calls to bring forward plans to build a second high-level bridge in Katherine.
This comes after communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia have been cut off, during the latest record flooding event.
Katherine Town Council mayor Lis Clark says she will put pressure on the Territory Government to fast-track the project, which is currently marked for development of a new bridge in 10 -15 years’ time.
“’Unprecedented’ is heard too often these days and 15 years is too far away,” she says.
“We need to start planning for this now.
“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.”
The Northern Territory Government’s Big Rivers Regional Economic Growth Plan states that freight networks for agriculture, mining and other sectors are primarily by road and 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 does have a low-level bridge but this is only passable in the dry season and is limited to small 20 tonne trucks.
Over the last couple of weeks, ex-tropical Cyclone Ellie has caused intense rainfall in WA’s Kimberley region and the Fitzroy River Bridge at Fitzroy Crossing, on the Great Northern Highway, has been destroyed in a record flood.
This has impacted the essential trucking route connecting WA and the NT and trucks have had to detour south, adding some 3,200 kilometres each way from Perth to Halls Creek.
While water is receding, it will take some time to fix the bridge and it has highlighted vulnerability in Australia’s road infrastructure when relying on one option.
Councillor Denis Coburn says a backup bridge in Katherine, built to even higher standards than the current high-level bridge, would provide security for Katherine and Darwin.
He points to at least two occasions last year when the Stuart Highway was cut off south of Katherine.
“Everything stopped, Darwin experienced delays and the grocery shelves went bare,” he says.
“We want to fortify Katherine, and the territory, for the future with this important piece of infrastructure.”