Aboriginal sites saved as road ‘160 years in the making’ delayed

Very long-awaited works to upgrade a track between Orange and Mudgee have again been delayed, this time in order to retain Indigenous heritage along the route but with consensus already reached on the solution.

Key points:A river crossing locals have been wanting for more than a century has been delayed againDixons Long Point Crossing will provide a fast link between the tourist cities of Orange and MudgeeThe federal government and local councils are to retain Aboriginal heritage sites with a new design

Significant Aboriginal artefacts have been discovered where a new road was set to be cut for the Dixon's Long Point Crossing, currently a four-wheel-drive track between the two cities.

The $20 million project, funded by the federal government, has been moved again after decades of attempts to better connect the two wine and tourism industries.

The major issue and changes have occurred on the Mudgee side of the crossing which will now involve a much straighter decline on approach to the river, as opposed to zig-zagging. 

Aboriginal heritage is key

Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee, and surveyors recently met with Wiradjuri representatives from Wellington, Mudgee, and Orange to redraw the designs to avoid culturally important sites. 

"I think we have a consensus that the new route is much better and there is a way forward," Mr Gee said.  

"You can approach it with the aim of conflict or you can approach it in a spirit of mutual trust and mutual understanding."

A lovely landscape with a river cutting through it.
The Macquarie River crossing at Dixons Long Point is only suitable for 4WDs and cannot be used during heavy rains. (Supplied: John Kich)

Major work was expected to start in the middle of this year but will not begin until well into 2022. 

The Mid-Western Regional Council will now seek environmental and heritage approvals in order for early drilling and geotechnical analysis to get underway before Christmas. 

"People should be under no illusion that this is a huge project, 160 years in the making, and it's not an easy project," Mr Gee said.

"It's going to be an engineering feat to get it done."

The new route will be suitable for all vehicles. 

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At this stage, the delays and design changes could increase the cost of the project but Mr Gee said it will not be a "blow out".

"In the greater scheme of things it's not substantial and to protect cultural heritage it's just something we should be doing," he said. 

Long-awaited plans on the horizon

Council's general manager Brad Cam said the project can now proceed because the preferred option of the bridge will remain unchanged. 

"The fact that we had great relationships with the local Aboriginal land councils and being able to get a fabulous outcome means that the project can continue on now," Mr Cam said. 

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The tender for the bridge will be put out at the beginning of 2022.

"I would think it's been more than 100 years that people have been talking about trying to get a crossing," Mr Cam said.

"The people from both the Dubbo region, Wellington area, also Orange and mid western will all be pleased to finally see a bridge going over the Macquarie River."

Posted 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 7:24pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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