'I could have died'
MAKING an emotional plea to Bellingen Shire Council yesterday, Harold Welsh claimed he’d be dead had it rained heavily on February 1.
That’s when he suffered a burst appendix and had to be taken by his wife from their home at the head of the Darkwood Valley to the Coffs Harbour Hospital.
“If the river had been flooding and a helicopter couldn’t get in, I wouldn’t be here today,” Mr Welsh said during his passionate address at yesterday’s council meeting.
Mr Welsh said because of council’s inaction on replacing Justins Bridge, which was severely damaged in the floods of March 31 and May 22 last year, lives are now at risk.
“Since the March flood, the 18 people who live upstream of Justins Bridge have been cut off for 81 days,” Mr Welsh said.
“When it rains now, we all get very nervous and try to get our cars to the other side because when the river comes up, the causeway council put in goes under and our only option is to get in boat and pull ourselves across. On 81 days since March 31 last year, that is what people going to work and kids going to school have had to do,” he told the meeting.
“If my wife had to row me over the river when I was in agony with acute abdominal pain, I don’t think we would have made it.”
Mr Welsh said he was so frustrated by getting nowhere in talks with Council and the Roads and Traffic Authority, he now seriously despaired whether a council promise to replace Justins Bridge by December this year will eventuate.
“It seems like Justins Bridge is no longer on council’s agenda,” he said.
Mr Welsh said two families had left because of the access issues and another had pulled out of buying a property.
“It is like we are too isolated to be bothered with, when in fact we are just 36 kilometres from Bellingen which is as far as Coffs Harbour is, an nobody thinks of Coffs Harbour as being remote.”
Council’s general manager Mike Colreavy denied that council had forgotten about the community upstream of the bridge.
He said until a consultant engaged by council had finalised a design for a new bridge, costings couldn’t be done and funding sought let alone work commence.
Mr Colreavy said the design was due to be finished by the end of July.
At the suggestion of Councillor Kerry Child, it was resolved to invite Mr Welsh to council’s works committee meeting so he could have an involvement in the process needed to build a replacement for Justins Bridge.