Two causeways either side of Kohinur Hall in Main Arm have reopened with a five-ton limit, allowing passenger vehicles to access them.
This good news for Upper Main Arm residents came just hours after Byron Shire Council staff swooped on the two causeways yesterday afternoon and erected barriers over them without notice following a report from engineers on their state of disrepair.
The move set parents and residents, already faced with the threat of fire further up the valley, scrambling for alternative routes to access Main Arm village and Mullumbimby – with some describing it as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction by the council.
Council staff later relented, removing the plastic barriers that had closed the two causeways and replacing them with 5-ton limit signs.
Echonetdaily understands that the move followed representations by the Rural Fire Service to allow light traffic to move freely at least until the current bushfire is extinguished.
Original report: Residents of Main Arm Road are in shock after discovering that two causeways near the Kohinur Hall were closed without notice by Byron Shire Council at 2:15pm today (Wednesday, September 6).
The council said it had no alternative but to close the two bridges ‘because of structural issues and [the] danger posed to residents’ uncovered by engineers it engaged.
This will be of little comfort to people living above the bridges, who are currently threatened by a bushfire that has been burning for several days and is yet to be brought under control.
The council says it is hopeful that following a full report from the engineers they will be able to reopen the causeways to traffic under five tonnes.
Meanwhile, people living west of Kohinur Hall will be unable to get direct access to Mullumbimby and are being told ‘they will need to look for alternative routes.’
The second causeway east of the hall and the first causeway west of the hall are closed to all traffic, with residents living on Main Arm Road between these causeways only able to get access to their properties by walking in.
Engineers were called to inspect the causeways after a bridge at Durrumbul collapsed recently.
One hour to get out
Local filmmaker Sharon Shostak, who spent the day teaching at the school said that staff and parents were thrown into chaos by the news, having had no forewarning of the closure.
She said school staff contacted the school bus service, which hadn’t been advised of the closure by the council.
‘We we were told by a parent that the council was going to close the two causeways just past Kohinur because they received an engineer’s report that they were dangerous,’ Ms Shostak said.
‘They’ve closed the bridges subject to a further report and they told one guy he had an hour to get out.
‘They hadn’t informed the school or the bus company. The fire trucks are being rerouted via Stokers Siding and Uki
‘A parent was told by one council worker although they had erected barriers they wouldn’t fill them with water so small vehicles could get out in an emergency,’ she said.
But Byron Shire Council is standing by the move, with works manager Tony Nash saying, ‘the safety of our community is our primary concern and the closing the two causeways, while inconvenient to residents, is necessary as the bridges are no longer safe for car travel.’
Mr Nash said there is a possibility the consulting engineers will report that the causeways will be able to be reopened with a load limit on vehicles. If this is the case the causeways could be reopened as soon as late Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.
People living between the causeways are advised that Emergency Service access will be limited in that staff will have to walk in from the causeway.
The Council said on its Facebook page it ‘sincerely apologises for the inconvenience but safety is paramount.’
‘We will inform residents as soon as we are able to about the possibility of the causeways reopening with restricted load limits.’