Last week’s unexpected closure of the New Buildings bridge across the Towamba River has become more than just an inconvenience.
Rocky Hall Preschool director Jodie Dickinson is worried about how the extra hour of travel time and petrol costs for parents will affect enrolments and, consequently, the small preschool’s funding.
Tegan Umback has seen two of her children go through Rocky Hall Preschool, but said the detour caused by the bridge closure was so much of a hassle she decided to take her three-year-old daughter out.
“She only started there two weeks ago and is not settled in enough to have someone else drive her. I’ve pulled her out and we will start again in Term 2,” Ms Umback said.
Ms Dickinson – whose own travel time has increased from eight minutes to almost an hour each way – was also disappointed with the lack of notice provided by the Bega Valley Shire Council which resulted in the preschool having to close on Friday, February 10.
“It was lucky that I saw council’s Facebook post [at 4.37pm on Thursday, February 9] which said the bridge would close in the next 24 hours. We were under pressure and had to make the decision to close,” she said.
Despite this, Ms Dickinson is remaining positive and is considering hiring a mini bus at a cost of $250 per day to transfer the children from Wyndham to the preschool to alleviate the pressure on parents.
“I’m also thinking quite creatively. We’re fairly resilient, innovative people. We will problem solve our way around it like we always have around here,” she said.
“The families are very supportive of the preschool and we will find an alternative.”
Although $250 is a steep cost for the preschool, Ms Dickinson said there is grant money available that at a pinch could be used.
NSW Roads and Maritime Services released a statement on Tuesday saying it closed New Buildings Bridge to carry out essential maintenance to improve safety.
RMS said it will be providing a temporary pedestrian bridge across the Towamba River to minimise disruption to residents and businesses. However the RMS has not said when this temporary footbridge will be available.
The New Buildings Bridge work is expected to be completed in eight weeks, weather permitting.