By Claire Ottaviano
THE City of Swan and the State Government are in a deadlock over the controversial request for a redesign of the Lloyd Street Bridge – just months away from construction.
All councillors, with the exception of the mayor, voted at last week’s council meeting to “take all necessary steps” to stop tree clearing and infill on the Helena River floodplain until a concept plan was supported by council.
But in a response to Echo News, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti hit back, saying if the City wanted a revised concept plan they would have to take over the project from Main Roads.
“If the council would like a complete redesign, I would be happy to hand back responsibility for this project to the City of Swan,” she said.
“I would seek to exclude the bridge from the current Great Eastern Highway Bypass contract, which would allow the City to go back to scratch, secure additional funding and go through the approval process.”
In a conflicting twist, Ms Saffioti said Swan City representatives met with her only weeks prior to ask the State to take ownership of the asset.
“The City, including the mayor, deputy mayor and chief executive officer, met with me on December 9 and asked me to provide an assurance that the State Government would take control of Lloyd Street into the future,” she said.
“I again obliged and sent a letter at their request stating we were prepared to take control and ownership of the road.”
Since then, the City has advised the State of council’s latest decision.
“The City has also advised of a further proposed motion that would seek the preparation of a new concept design for the bridge – this would delay the project,” Ms Saffioti said.
She said given environmental and heritage approvals already in place, and finite budget available, a total revamp of the bridge structure was not something the State was willing do.
While the State has made several claims of its environmental and heritage approvals, a December 2020 Aboriginal Heritage Survey report addendum has revealed Traditional Owners opposed the project.
“[The Whadjuk Native Title Claim (NTC) group] believe building a bridge at this location is not in keeping with the significance of the site to the Whadjuk people and as such they recommend Main Roads do not proceed with this project and seek other solutions to managing traffic,” the report said.
“[An NTC member] advised the Whadjuk realised that Main Roads intended to proceed and seek consent under the Aboriginal Heritage Act so should consent be sought and granted, then the Whadjuk people recommended the preferred option was the steel bridge as this design had the widest distance between the abutments and had in their opinion the least affect upon the river’s flow.”
As a result of consultation, the bridge design was changed from a pier design to the current single-span design because it was culturally imperative the river’s flow was not blocked from its natural path.
At last week’s council meeting, Swan River Traditional Owner Vanessa Corunna spoke in support of the motion.
“In the spirit of reconciliation and in the spirit of healing the land…I ask for this project to stop,” she said.
“If my dad Albert Corunna was standing beside me today, he would say this is our moort, our family, our country, and we need to care for what we have left.”