Farmer walking the plank

By Michelle Slater

A YINNAR South farmer is being forced to walk across a rickety homemade bridge to access his own property while waiting for authorities to repair a bridge that was swept away in last year’s floods.

Upper Middle Creek Road landholder Greg Davis is at loggerheads with government agencies over rebuilding a privately-owned bridge across Crown land that allowed him to drive onto his property.

Mr Davis has a creek front lease with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for the land between the road and his property.

He said the bridge was weakened in the 2019 Yinnar South fires when heavy emergency service vehicles repeatedly crossed it.

The land holder said he had warned the command centre that that structure was not rated for trucks.

It meant the bridge could not withstand the devastating June 2021 storm and floods which swept it away along with a build-up of heavy silt and logs.

Mr Davis had to build a temporary footbridge out of old pallets to allow him to walk from Upper Middle Creek Road to the other side where he trudges up a paddock to his house.

He is able to drive a tractor through the creek over a ford on a neighbour’s property, but this is only suitable for certain vehicles in dry weather.

“I walk across this footbridge every night when I get home, even at midnight in the pouring rain. If I have to carry shopping up, I have another car parked on the other side to take it to the house,” Mr Davis said.

“I don’t have any emergency access, if we needed an ambulance, they would need a helicopter, and it would be impossible to cross the ford if the creek was up.”

Mr Davis said his son slipped down an embankment and broke his leg and had to hobble across the footbridge for the ambulance to meet him on the other side.

He said the lack of access was also making life difficult for his partner with mobility issues, and meant he could not get livestock on or off his property.

Mr Davis said he had contacted several authorities including Latrobe City Council, local MPs, DELWP, Agriculture Victoria, and the ombudsman.

“Everyone says ‘I’m sorry Mr Davis’, everyone has been hiding from this problem for ages and I’m sick of it,” he said.

“If you saw my partner hobbling across the paddock, it would put tears in your eyes.”

DELWP is aware that the issue had been raised with the ombudsman and was complying with any requests for information.

A Forest Fire Management Victoria spokesperson said that any replacement bridge would be subject to modern planning processes.

“DELWP will continue to engage and maintain communication with the impacted resident in relation to this assessment and the outcome of it,” the spokesperson said.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.