Former Minister for Roads Russ Hinze cuts the ribbon on the new bridge.
Former Minister for Roads Russ Hinze cuts the ribbon on the new bridge. Bill Neubecker

Marking 40 years since Kolan River Bridge opening

THIS weekend will mark 40 years since a quite literal bridge over troubled water for those living north of Bundaberg.

Prior to 1978, those wanting to make the trip over the Kolan River in the wet season would have to be awake by 6am and tune into 4BU to know whether or not it was safe to cross over the low-laying bridge that was in place at Smith's Crossing.

 

The former Member for Burnett Claude Wharton addresses the community at the opening of the Kolan River Bridge on December 16, 1978.
The former Member for Burnett Claude Wharton addresses the community at the opening of the Kolan River Bridge on December 16, 1978. Bill Neubecker

A Mr Clifford would diligently call in with the bridge height every morning.

It's a childhood memory still embedded in former Gooburrum Shire councillor Bill Neubecker who was a driving force in its construction all those decades ago.

"There was a low-level bridge at Smith's Crossing," he said.

"It was a real hindrance for people north of the Kolan."

 

Locals head out to check out the new bridge.
Locals head out to check out the new bridge. Bill Neubecker

When a weir was built at Avondale the water levels became even more troublesome.

Russ Hinze, the then minister for main roads, was in the region one day when he witnessed the difficulties locals were facing.

 

Russ Hinze talks about the new bridge at the Yandaran Hall.
Russ Hinze talks about the new bridge at the Yandaran Hall. Bill Neubecker

He said he would come back in two years to open a new bridge - and in two years he came back to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Kolan River Bridge.

"After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the State Government we were able to get the bridge," Mr Neubecker said.

Five to six kilometres of new roads were also constructed as part of the works.

 

Gooburrum Shire Council Chairman in 1978 Basil McLellan on the bridge's opening day.
Gooburrum Shire Council Chairman in 1978 Basil McLellan on the bridge's opening day. Bill Neubecker

"It was exciting at the time because it's a nice, big bridge," Mr Neubecker said.

"It was a great thing for the people living north from Round Hill to Bundaberg.

"We used to be cut off with any small flood."

 

The Gooburrum Shire Council councillors in 1978. Bill Neubecker is third right in the back row.
The Gooburrum Shire Council councillors in 1978. Bill Neubecker is third right in the back row. Bill Neubecker

Mr Neubecker, who served as a councillor and chairman for many years until 2000, said many people today wouldn't know the difficulties faced by locals before the bridge was built.

"It was a great occasion for the district and the biggest event in my 30 years in council," he said.

The bridge has stood the test of time, only requiring the usual maintenance and a few repairs on its northern side after the 2013 floods.

"It's going to serve the community forever I'd say," Mr Neubecker said.



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