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Lei Parker - 23 July 2019

Lei Parker addressed the Council regarding Bumbo Bridge at the Public Access Session on 23 July 2019.

Presentation to Public Access July 23rd, 2019 by Lei Parker

Councillors,

You have no doubt now read and understood the document I sent you that provides the known history of Bumbo Bridge. It is my expectation that you did so to best inform you of the issue and to enable you to ask for further information today.

What you may not be aware of is the recent correspondence between Director Sharpe and the Parrish’s dated July 16th 2019 (Ref: 06.0489.E; E17.1042; E19.1884 – 32080.19)

Thank you for your Public Access presentation and detailed submission to the Council meeting held 30 April 2019, regarding the ownership of Riverview Farm Bridge. Further to our telephone conversation today, we confirm the following:

i) We have undertaken a detailed review of the information submitted by you together with the historical records held by the Council.
Our review confirms that the bridge is a private road (being your private access to Riverview Farm) and therefore you are responsible for the inspection and ongoing maintenance of the bridge.


In an earlier letter (Ref: E00.4671 – 24847.19) written again by Mr Sharpe it stated

ii) Our further review supports the continuing ownership and maintenance of Riverview Farm bridge by the landowners. 

This is supported by:  
b. the Bodalla company undertaking responsibility for the construction of a new bridge in the 1950’s (despite ultimate assistance from the then DMR as part of managing the highway traffic due to the collapse of the highway bridge as an emergency measure)


On the 20th of June, 2019 I placed an informal GIPA request asking requesting that Council provide the document that this statement is based on, for to make such a statement that  "the Bodalla company undertaking responsibility for the construction of a new bridge" requires evidence of that intention/agreement between the DMR, Eurobodalla Council and the Bodalla Company to the ongoing maintenance of the bridge. 

Without such a document the comment is speculative and has no place in establishing legal ownership.

I have received no correspondence from Council’s Information Officer at all since making that application.

Further I requested Council provide any advice it my have received regarding its understanding of documented evidence that proves the Parrish family own the Bumbo Bridge when no such titles of bridge ownership exist and the bridge is NOT located on any of the land parcels they own.

Council continues to advise the Parrish's that they own the bridge yet the bridge provides access to two other farms, to emergency services and to the wider community including tourists. 

Mr Sharpe also wrote in his letter of July 16th, 2019

Our review confirms that the bridge is a private road (being your private access to Riverview Farm) and therefore you are responsible for the inspection and ongoing maintenance of the bridge.

Exactly what legal documents did Mr Sharpe obtain to legally determine that the bridge was a private road.

Council to date have offered no evidence at all to disprove that they are the owners.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)  Thu 8 Apr 1954

Mr. J. Beale, M.L.A. for the South Coast said that the detour would go through the property of the Bodalla Company, which had pastoral and manufacturing interests in the district. It would be open to vehicles of up to 10 tons, including buses. Light traffic could already use the detour.

"The old bridge over Bumbo Creek is being strengthened and, in addition, the Department of Main Roads has taken over the construction of a new bridge over Bumbo Creek, which had been begun by the Bodalla Company. "

NEW BRIDGE

Mr. Beale said it had been decided to build a low-level timber bridge across the Tuross to take the place of the damaged bridge temporarily. This bridge would take about four months to complete. It would be impassable during floods, but would withstand flood debris.

At this point it is critical to establish exactly WHO Mr Sharpe is referring to when he states “Our review” because Mr Sharpe is advising of legal opinion.

Fact: Council does own the road reserve that leads to the bridge and agree in writing that they will maintain the bridge abutment contained within that road reserve.

That status of abutment was determined by Council’s registered surveyor. As a registered surveyor he is the only employee in Council to be able to make any legal statement around the ownership of land. The only formal statement he has made to date is in regard to the northern abutment of the bridge.

By Mr Sharpe’s review, based solely on as yet unseen historic records and a presentation offered by a member of the public, he has deemed the bridge to be a ‘private road’ providing no formal legal statement from Council’s Registered Surveyor to confirm such a status. Without legal substantiation this remains only Mr Sharpe’s opinion.

However, based on his opinion, Mr Sharpe has determined that the bridge is privately owned and that the Parrish’s are the owners and, as such, has directed, Pursuant to Section 86 of the Roads Act 1993, the Parrish’s to carry out inspections and work at their cost to Bumbo Bridge that Council considers is necessary to prevent the bridge from becoming unsafe and immediately erect signposting of the load carrying limit of the bridge in its current condition.

FACT: The Parrish’s DO NOT OWN the bridge. They have no title to it. It is not their asset. They did not buy it. They can not sell it.

Council has produced NO evidence that it is privately owned by the Parrish’s and have now imposed considerable and immediate actions on the Parrish’s without providing any legal proof of their determinations. Any anecdote or hearsay offered by Mr Sharpe and his staff is NOT legal evidence.
A tatty old sign saying “Private Bridge”, once seen over a decade ago, does not prove legal ownership. If this was offered it would be immediately discarded as legally irrelevant.

Let’s look closely at this.

Firstly by the Registrar General's Guidelines a private road is a “road restricted in use to a limited class of person (ie not to all members of the public) or to a limited period of time.”

Mr Sharpe has deemed, in his letter, that a bridge is a ‘private road’. Mr Sharpe is not a Registered Surveyor and is therefore not qualified to make such a legal determination.

The Bumbo Bridge was constructed by the DMR in 1954 using public money for the purpose of building a public bridge that provided the public a detour via a public road that gave access to that bridge delivering them on the southern bank whereby they traversed a farm road that connected through to a Public Road network of 22kms returning to the highway.

Bumbo Bridge is a very public bridge, built with pubic funds for a public purpose. It traverses a creek under the control of the Crown.

Mr Sharpe states in his letter:

Our review confirms that the bridge is a private road (being your private access to Riverview Farm) and therefore you are responsible for the inspection and ongoing maintenance of the bridge.

Yet the information he bases this on, saying “We have undertaken a detailed review of the information submitted by you (Mrs Parrish) together with the historical records held by the Council” ignores the fact that Council were also clearly advised by Mrs Parrish that the bridge ‘is not privately used’ and that it is well used by the whole community, essential services, emergency services, and anyone with a purpose to access Redex Road which is a Public Road.

Councillors,

Should an accident occur on the bridge Eurobodalla Council would be required to prove IT DOES NOT own the bridge as it provides and maintains the public road that provides access the bridge and now acknowledges a responsibility to inspect and maintain that portion of a bridge abutment within their road reserve.

Most likely Council inherited the publicly funded and constructed bridge in 1954 and this appears to be the case with evidence of Council actions on the bridge following the reopening of the new Tuross Bridge.

Council maintained the Bumbo Bridge after its construction and after the new Tuross Head bridge was re-opened (April 10th 1954) as is evidenced in the Council minutes dated 20/7/1954 (below). By their actions it indicates that Council had taken responsibility for maintenance at Council's expense

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/af2863_f7aeb8ef0f7a47208a770342823abd64~mv2.png/v1/fill/w_733,h_71,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/af2863_f7aeb8ef0f7a47208a770342823abd64~mv2.png

I have lodged a request for information with the RMS that states:

Built in 1954 by the DMR for the purpose of a highway detour the Bumbo Bridge was then decommisioned with the opening of the new Tuross Bridge. 

Eurobodalla Council claims the bridge was handed to the Bodalla Company and as such has since become the asset of the local farmer however they have no evidence. In order for the DMR to remove itself from responsibility of the Bumbo Bridge they would have had to legally divest themselves of that responsibility via a document that provides evidence of such divestment. 

If no evidence can be found of that divestment then the responsibility of the bridge remains with the party who built the bridge being the DMR. 

I request any documentation you have in regards to the Bumbo Bridge.


In a letter written by a Council engineer dated February 1st, 2019 it clearly stated that Council accepts no responsibility as "No records show transfer of ownership was actually completed"Such a statement is on a par with “the dog ate my homework”. Simply because a record can not be found doesn’t mean that ownership was not transferred nor actually completed. Council has made no attempt to contact RMS on this matter of ownership.Mrs Parrish however has, under a GIPA request, sought to discover documents held by the RMS regarding Bumbo Bridge..

Council’s February 1st, 2019  letter also stated:

Such arrogance from a Council over such an important issue is most unfortunate.

Since Mrs Parrish’s presentation in April 2019 there has been considerable additional research regarding the bridge by Mrs Parrish and myself.

So much so that I request Council rescind their advice that they consider “This Matter Closed”

Councillors,

Might I remind you that in 2007 Engineer Sharpe advised Council in a report that Eurobodalla Council DID NOT own nearby Crapp’s bridge.

However just a few years later Crapp’s Bridge was added to the Council Asset register following another report to Council that proved (by a registered Surveyor) it was a Council asset. In that situation the result was reluctantly accepted.

Council clearly did not want to own any more bridges. Crapps Bridge was subsequently rebuilt in 2015 by Council taking advantage of a total of $225,000 for bridge condition assessments under the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Roads Program which is largely funded from Restart NSW.

Eurobodalla Council appear to have washed their hands in regards to accepting any responsibility for the Bumbo Bridge yet after the declared natural disaster of the 6-7 December 2014, Eurobodalla Council staff submitted the necessary documentation seeking financial assistance for Bumbo Bridge actions by way of a grant administered by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).

A ‘declared’ natural disaster allows councils to seek financial assistance grants from the State Government to restore local roads and bridges to the equivalent of the pre-damaged standard. The total cost to restore local roads and bridges was calculated to be $395,500 - In October 2015, RMS offered Council $366,500 in funding assistance. In the report to Council the Director of Engineering, Warren Sharpe advised Councillors that;

"The Schedule of Works that required immediate attention after the floods or will be undertaken by Council to restore local roads and bridges to pre-damaged standard"

included among a list of other Council owned bridges : Bumbo Bridge access – vegetation washed onto bridge and required removal

So while Eurobodalla Council on one hand claims Bumbo Bridge as its own local bridge for Disaster Grant funding it then continues to deny it has any responsibility for the bridge.

Council continues to this day to also grade a section of Bumbo Road that is privately owned road.

In terms of land ownership the opinion of an engineer is irrelevant as they have no qualifications to legally determine tenure.   

A perfect local example of this is where Council have built and maintained Keightly and Maunsell Streets in Moruya within road reserves that are NOT dedicated as Public Roads and did so without first having a Registered Surveyor determine the legal status of those road reserves. Council now has no option but to undertake the process of dedication as they are not allowed to expend ratepayer funds on assets not owned by Council.

Council also maintains a section of Congo Road that traverses private land. Council have been aware of this anomaly for 30 years and acknowledge that this section of Congo Road is PRIVATELY OWNED and NOT contained in any road reserve yet maintain it as it is the primary access for the Congo village.  

The Congo Road anomaly is much like the Riverview Farm example where a formed roadway across private land connects two sections of dedicated PUBLIC Road under Council’s care and control. Both roads provide access to the public, emergency services and to industry.

Councillors, I request that you move a motion, as a matter of urgency,

i) to receive a report that clearly and unequivocally proves that the Parrish’s own Bumbo Bridge and

ii)  that the instructions issued by Mr Sharpe for immediate actions, Pursuant to Section 86 of the Roads Act 1993, be withdrawn as no evidence is forthcoming that shows the bridge to be privately owned by the Parrish’s nor proves any responsibility be held by the Parrish’s of the bridge’s condition, maintenance or renewal. 

Provided to Councillors for reading prior to this presentation:
“Who owns Bumbo Bridge” – a brief overview: highly recommended reading that offers all known research to date. Not included is the Historical records alluded to by Mr Sharpe that have not been forthcoming to date following a GIPA request lodged on June 20th 2019.