Nestled between Griffith and Hay on the banks of the Murrumbidgee in the western Riverina is a small and proud local township – Carrathool – the hub of one of most agriculturally productive shires in New South Wales.
This tiny western Riverina township (population 99, according to the sign) has been fighting for decades for a new bridge to replace the heritage 1922 truss structure which crosses the Murrumbidgee River. Height and weight restrictions mean many large trucks and vehicles have to detour a round trip of some 80 kilometres to cross the river, delaying by hours the ability of farmers to get their produce to market.
Central to this fight has been the long-time Carrathool Shire Councillor Margaret Merrylees, whose letters to Ministers and Shadow Ministers have had the bridge affectionately referred to as “Margaret’s bridge”. Letter after letter, meeting after meeting, year after year, Margaret finally prevailed thanks to the Bridges for the Bush Programme from the NSW Government and Bridges Renewal Programme from the Commonwealth stumping up some $7.5 million each to fund a brand new, dual lane bridge over the Murrumbidgee at Carrathool.
Last Monday was a sight to behold. From Shires all around the region dignitaries came, the kids got the day off school and the pub was set to do a roaring trade as NSW Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, and Assistant Minster to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, joined Margaret for the turning of the soil for the new bridge.
Shovel in hand, Michael McCormack spoke of Margaret’s determination to get the new bridge for Carrathool and how he got from Duncan Gay a promise of matched funding if the Federal Government were able to make the commitment – something The Nationals have delivered upon in State and Federal Government.
“This is what happens when The Nats work together in Government – we back remote communities like Carrathool and give them the infrastructure they deserve and need.”
Duncan Gay agreed.
“I remember Margaret writing to me when I wasn’t even the Shadow Minister for Roads – and it’s just so special that The Nationals can deliver for you today.”
Both Duncan and Michael have called on local authorities to, when complete, officially name the bridge after Cr Margaret Merrylees.
More information on the project can be found here: http://www.nswnationals.org.au/sod_turn_marks_start_of_planning_for_the_second_carrathool_bridge