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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Uki’s new ‘rainbow bridge’ creates a splash

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The new rainbow-coloured  railing of the bridge at Uki.
The new rainbow-coloured railing of the bridge at Uki.

Story and photos Luis Feliu

The painting of a bridge in rainbow colours at Uki last week by two dozen youngsters in memory of their classmate, a 9-year-old local boy who died at school just over a year ago, sparked an urgency debate among Tweed shire councillors soon after.

Police and council rangers were called last Tuesday afternoon to Smiths Creek Bridge on the village’s northern entry after complaints were made about a group of around 30 youngsters and adults painting the a bridge rail in a rainbow theme.

The group of painters, who were celebrating the first anniversary of the death of Marley Phoenix Morton Cross, were horrified to learn council rangers intended painting over their work the following day and made a plea to mayor Gary Bagnall for the painting to be allowed to stay.

At the start of last Thursday’s Tweed Shire Council meeting, Cr Bagnall alerted councillors to concerns about the fate of the bridge-rail painting in the community, saying council should leave it in place for now and the issue of similar personal memorials considered.

He said state government authorities had left in place a similar ‘rainbow bridge’ on the Pacific Highway in Byron shire at Tyagarah in memory of a young woman killed on her bike there some years ago.

Cr Barry Longland, who lives at Uki, told councillors he had ‘vox popped’ locals when he noticed the ranger crew at the bridge last week and that the communty was ‘largely’ accepting of the new painting but some didn’t like it.

He said he agreed with the motivation behind those who painted the bridge ‘and it does look pretty good’, but said the local resident group’s advice should be sought as that the community should be informed about council policy on the issue.

Cr Warren Polglase said he was concerned that councillors were making decisions against council policy on what he termed ‘graffiti’ and that it was unfair on council staff ‘to be out on a limb’ when they’re acting per the policy’.

‘If we let one go, then why not another one, where do we stand then?’ Cr Polglase said.

He said policy should be changed by resolution and not by ‘a merit assessment’, even though he ‘supported and understood the sentimentality’ behind the painting.

‘What next? Will the bridge over the Tweed River be painted in rainbow colours?

‘It’s all good-hearted stuff, but we have a responsibility for the 80-to-90 thousand other people in this shire and and we have a policy,’ Cr Polglase said.

Cr Michael Armstrong said the issue could be ‘informing or ‘inspirational’ of a draft council graffiti management plan currently being developed.

Councillors unanimously agreed to ‘take no action in relation to the unauthorised painting of the handrail on Smiths

Creek Bridge on Kyogle Road’ pending advice from the Uki Village and District Residents Association over community opinion on it’.

They also decided to advertise in council’s newsletter the fact that council approval is needed for such works and for a report on the issue to be brought back to next February’s meeting.

The painting celebration for Marley, who died after collapsing at the Aetaomah (Steiner) School at Terragon near Uki last November drew a crowd of onlookers and many thumbs-up from passing motorists, according to Marley’s mum, Raquel Morton.

Ms Morton told Echonetdaily she couldn’t understand why people were offended or complained about the painting or memorials in general such as plaques and roadside crosses.

‘I can’t see why people are offended, that’s a bit weird,’ she said.

‘People hadn’t noticed that bridge before when it was a dull grey, now its so colourful and puts smiles on people’s faces.

‘It is Uki after all,’ she said.



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  1. Everybody should love the rainbow bridge. I can’t wait to see it. I think it is a beautiful tribute to Marley and very fitting for Uki. Please leave it that way Tweed Council.

  2. I have no objection to the rainbow colours on the rail, why do some people have issue with colour? This sure beats boring block colour and is attention seeking in a good way.

  3. If rays of colour and light can brighten up motorist’s days and pay tribute to a young life, I’m totally for the Rainbow bridge.

  4. I think it is wonderful to remember our loved ones in this very special way. My daughter Milli O’Nair whom her friends painted the rainbow bridge on the Pacific Hwy after her tragic death there, 5 and a half yrs ago now, made this a memorial to someone they loved and it has been repainted twice more. The shame is its very dangerous as traffic is in 100km zone and buffeting from semi’s etc make it very harrowing as I found out doing the last painting with family and friends. I would like the bridge to be painted yearly and many of Milli’s have offered, I say its very dangerous to them and dont advise it, although i have paint to do it again. At least the Uki bridge is safe to paint, go Rainbow Region thats why we came here after the Aquarius Festival in 1973,

  5. I understand the sentiment, but am appalled by the comment that ‘it is Uki’ to have a rainbow bridge. Rainbow does not represent me or any of the people I know and we live in Uki and have done for a long time, unlike Ms Morton who lives elsewhere. I’m sure if there had been some community consultation there would have been a more tasteful memorial created.

  6. Let it stay. We live in a community. This is an expression of part of the community. This form of expression does no harm, in fact it adds personality, and enriches and enlivens the environment.

  7. The bridge looks fabulous, it is very far from graffiti in my mind. I feel happy when I see it and my heart goes out to Marley and his family.

  8. Katrina Gudgeon: I think I see where the problem is – you seem to be confused about what this rainbow bridge is about. It’s about a young child who DIED nearby. In other words, it’s not about you. Not everything is about you. But here’s the really neat part – it’s a bridge. So you don’t even need to build a bridge to GET OVER IT. 🙂

  9. It made me smile too when I passed last week. Sad that a young person person passed away. I didn’t know. I thought the council had painted it. Rainbow bridges for the rainbow region! Paint ALL the bridges.

  10. the bridge had rainbow colouring before, it was just dulled off
    looks fantastic now, fresh, in memory of a young and vibrant soul

    this is not vandalism, poo hoo cr polglaze
    rampant graffiti? i think we know what graffiti is….. making a dam i reckon

  11. We happened to be passing the bridge last Tuesday and waved to the happy children as we drove by. Being a visitor to the region we were unaware of the memorial aspect, we had dropped into Nimbin earlier in the day for afternoon tea and spoke to a painter who was “rain bowing ” the public seating in the Main Street and we thought that a wonderful idea and so naturally when we saw the bridge we assumed the region was carrying out a “rain bowing” project .
    I can only speak as a visitor but I would think having more rainbows bridges throughout the Region would not be a bad thing. They would delight children,the young at heart and visitors alike. If this is at all possible I would n,t mind donating some paint money to kick it off starting with the Federation bridge in Mullumbimby.

  12. Please leave the beautified bridge and can council look down the street at the overflowing rubbish bins in Uki. twice a week bin emptying isn’t enough when there isn’t a waste transit area for the rural community. Tweed Council may have policies but I don’t see them working for good in my rural community.

  13. Oh for heavens sake Council! Just relax! It’s a only a bridge that now happens to look really good. Leave it alone! And get on with the job of fixing the roads etc. How damm petty!!

  14. More rainbow bridges please. I paint the one in Tyagarah for Milli as a gesture of high light the violence on the roads that took her life, a drunk driver at 6 am in the morning of mothers days while she was riding her bike to see her mother in Main Arm. So if the community can not express its feeling spontaneous and turn a ugly bridge into beauty, when seek for healing, what can we do?

    Perhaps there much more important issue to deal with such glyphosate on our water aways.


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