Responding to the Kimberley floods

In late December, Tropical Cyclone Ellie crossed the Northern Territory coast and a subsequent tropical low settled over the Fitzroy Crossing causing significant damage to roads and bridges, cutting off access to communities and causing disruption to locals, tourists and the freight industry.

Several sections of Great Northern Highway (GNH) between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing in the East Kimberley were completely washed away, and the Fitzroy River Bridge at Fitzroy Crossing was damaged beyond repair in the largest known flood to date, considered to exceed a one in 100-year flood event.

In the months that followed, we worked with government agencies, local government authorities, Traditional Owners, and stakeholders to restore temporary access on GNH and across the Fitzroy River, and to reconnect the Kimberley. This has included:

  • Significant temporary repairs on GNH in Willare, including construction of a gravel access road to reinstate access across the Fitzroy River floodplain.
  • Implementation of a pedestrian and 4WD ferry and barge service across the Fitzroy River, which transported 15,000 people in the two months it was operational.
  • Construction of two, temporary low-level crossings to enable access for vehicles across the river.

The temporary causeway allowed workers to demolish the old bridge and begin piling work for the new bridge. Approximately 40,000 tonnes of rock for the causeway were sourced from a quarry near Willare. We have committed to an ambitious program to re-establish, in the shortest possible timeframe, permanent connectivity across the Fitzroy River through construction of a new Fitzroy River Bridge. The new bridge will be dual lane, almost 100 metres longer than the old bridge and up to six-times stronger to withstand future flooding events.

To enable site works to begin as soon as the wet season was over, project procurement was fasttracked with approximately nine months of procurement activity completed in eight weeks. As well as restoring this critical link across the Fitzroy River, the bridge project is viewed as a once-in-ageneration opportunity to develop skills and provide economic opportunities to those who live and work in Fitzroy Crossing and the wider Fitzroy Valley area.

Despite ongoing unseasonal rains which have hampered progress, we continue to work closely with impacted communities to reconnect the region and the local people it serves as quickly as possible.