Engineer says Wooli bridge too far

IF Clarence Valley Council’s plans for Wooli were adopted on a national scale, half of Australia’s bridges would be closed, according to an expert in planning large infrastructure projects.

Civil and structural engineer Dr Tim Heldt, who is heading engineering and research in the Coastal Communities Protection Alliance – Wooli, used the bridge scenario to highlight the flaws in the planning process used by council to produce the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan for Wooli.

“Council’s planning process is fine for a preliminary study, but this level of study can only identify the extent and nature of issues involved,” Dr Heldt said. “Extensive further studies are needed to identify cost-effective solutions and a procedure for implementation.”

Dr Heldt said council’s planning process was probably a greater and certainly a more immediate risk to Wooli’s future than the potential erosion issue it was attempting to manage.

He said its avoidance of due process had produced a plan with at least seven major deficiencies.

“Basics like an environmental impact study, trade-off studies and an accurate cost benefit analysis do not underpin the draft plan,” Dr Heldt said.

“The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water is forcing socially, economically and environmentally unfounded plans on threatened coastal communities.”

Under the draft plan for Wooli, no action would be taken by council to alleviate coastal erosion damage.

Property owners would only be permitted to protect their properties from one climatic event and then only for 12 months.

A policy of planned retreat would see the whole of south Wooli relocated to lease-hold land and services withdrawn from the area.

“Council should urgently place a moratorium on this plan,” said Dr Heldt.

“It should then work with the Wooli community to identify and evaluate options to resolve the erosion issue in a responsible and comprehensive way.

“The time and resources required would be only a small percentage of the current community investment.”

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