A proposed replacement for a historic bridge in South Australia’s Riverland region has split local councils, amid fears it could devastate two towns’ economies.

Key points:

  • A long-term solution is being sought to take trucks away from Riverland towns and the ageing Paringa Bridge
  • Local councils are split on the issue, with one worried its region could miss out on visitors
  • Member for Barker Tony Pasin says the project can only progress with widespread support

The Sturt Highway is the main freight route through the Riverland; starting north of Adelaide and continuing across the Victorian border to Mildura.

It bypasses many Riverland towns, but travels through Renmark, the region’s most prominent town, before crossing the historic Paringa Bridge.

The 93-year-old bridge carries heavy vehicles and cars and has a speed limit of 30kph.

An alternate river crossing has been touted for some time to ease pressure on the ageing bridge by redirecting heavy traffic away from the two towns.

The Lyrup Ferry would be made redundant if a bridge was built at Spring Cart Gully.(ABC Riverland: Laura Collins)

Spring Cart Gully, near Lyrup, has been touted as location for a new bridge and would create a bypass around Renmark and Paringa before linking back up with the existing highway, near Yamba.

Councils divided by proposal

Renmark Paringa Council Mayor Neil Martinson represents the two towns which would see the greatest impact by an alternate crossing at Spring Cart Gully and said local businesses would suffer without travellers passing through.

“Council’s biggest concern is what effect it would have on our economy, with any proposed bypass,” he said.

“You’ve got trucks coming through purchasing fuel, [people] purchasing food, you’ve got travellers going through travelling east to west depending on what their plans are.

“At the moment Renmark is an ideal stopover, being three hours from Adelaide.”

Leon Stasinowsky, the Mayor of nearby Loxton Waikerie Council, disagreed, saying other Riverland towns had survived and thrived despite being bypassed by the highway

“Barmera has been bypassed, Berri is bypassed and you know they are talking about bypassing Truro — they’ve been talking about that for a while,” he said.

“Gawler has been bypassed and interstate is the same.

“So people, when they want to go to the townships, they’ll go there.”

Berri Barmera Council Mayor Peter Hunt echoed Mr Stasinowsky’s sentiments and also backed the proposal.

Bypass would need widespread support

The proposed Spring Cart Gully bypass could have economic ramifications for Riverland towns.(ABC Riverland: Sam Bradbrook)

In 2019, Member for Barker Tony Pasin met with Federal Local Government Minister Mark Coulton about the proposal, saying it is was a long-term solution to the Paringa Bridge.

Speaking to ABC Riverland last week, he said it would come with a significant price tag and needed the support of all three Riverland councils before he would push its case in Canberra.

“It is for the three local councils, hopefully in the short term, that they see this as a strategically important priority.”