Fate of historic timber bridge is not sealed
WORK on the $48 million bridge at Tabulam is expected to be completed in three months.
Parliamentary secretary for Regional Roads and Infrastructure Chris Gulaptis said the crossing was about 75 per cent complete and powering ahead following the appointment of new contractor Georgiou Group last year.
While the new double lane bridge will be a godsend for Bruxner Hwy traffic, not everyone is happy about the removal of the original timber truss bridge
Bridge supporter John Ibbotson said the Tabulam bridge was originally given national heritage status back in 1977 which was then transferred to the current NSW Heritage Register.
In an independent report on NSW's wooden truss bridges done in 1998, it was rated number six out of 84 and was listed as a bridge of national significance, he said.
"It was delisted in 2016 based on a request from the RMS, in return for the RMS releasing the Cobram Bridge over the Murray so it could be heritage listed," Mr Ibbotson said.
"Initially when a request was made that the bridge be relisted it was rejected.
"When the concerns of the Aboriginals came to the fore, another submission was submitted." The reply this time was that the Office of Environment & Heritage NSW didn't consider Aboriginal factors and sent the request on to the OEH Regional Offices North East Region in Coffs Harbour, Mr Ibbotson said.
A separate submission was also sent to them but there has never been a reply, he said.
Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin wrote to Minister Don Harwin in October last year, pleading the case to keep the timber bridge on behalf of the community.
"The bridge is of great cultural significance for the indigenous and non-indigenous community of Tabulam," her letter stated.
"The community is asking, loudly and clearly, for the bridge, built between 1900 and 1903 to be relisted on the register as a pedestrian bridge for future generations."
Mr Harwin said the local government did not "have the capacity to keep the bridge safe, maintained and usable by pedestrians" due to the cost.
Ms Saffin explained the history of the bridge.
"The area under the bridge was used as a safe, dry birthing area for Aboriginal mothers, which explains the deep, spiritual connections to this specific crossing of the Clarence river.
"Aboriginal Queen Ponjam (Teresa Agnes Ponjam) was born in 1872 and lived under the bridge in a gunya.
"She was champion boxer Tony Mundine's great grandmother."
Mr Harwin said if the bridge was retained it would revert to council ownership.
This means the cost to maintain the bridge would be borne by Kyogle and Tenterfield Councils.
Ms Saffin intends to ask Deputy Premier John Barilaro to intervene.