END OF AN ERA: Tabulam grazier John Cousins has started an indigenous and non-indigenous petition to protest the impending demolition of the historic Tabulam Bridge.
END OF AN ERA: Tabulam grazier John Cousins has started an indigenous and non-indigenous petition to protest the impending demolition of the historic Tabulam Bridge. John Cousins

'We were born under that bridge': Fight to save history

THE longest single-span timber bridge in the southern hemisphere will soon be demolished, despite local indigenous and non-indigenous community objection.

Once the new $48 million Tabulam Bridge is complete, the original 120-year-old bridge will be removed by the NSW Government, but the question remains: what will become of the structure which helps to make up Tabulam's rich cultural history?

About three months ago, Tabulam grazier John Cousins started two petitions to stop the original Tabulam bridge from being removed - an 'Aboriginal petition' and a local community petition.

He said the Aboriginal petition had about 250 signatures so far and the local community petition had about 600.

Tabulam's Harry Walker Mundine was born under the original Tabulam Bridge in 1940 and is just one local community member does not agree with it being demolished.

The petition read "Tabulam Aboriginal Corporation, Jubal and Jubullum Community, would like to say the original Tabulam Bridge has been part of our culture for a long time".

"Many of our community people were born under the bridge.

"We used to camp and shelter under the bridge in the early days on our way back to our camps after getting supplies from Tabulam.

"The Tabulam Bridge forms a connection of our lands - either side of the Clarence River - the bridge holds our memories and our stories.

"It's home to us.

"We are concerned citizens who urge our political leaders to act now to stop the destruction of our bridge it must stay."  

The once heritage listed bridge was built of wood and steel in 1899 by horse and pre-war men and women using only hand tools - it's six feet above the water out of flood level and notably the longest single-span wooden bridge in the southern hemisphere.

According to Mr Cousins, the government spent the last 30 years restoring the bridge and had acknowledged its importance by heritage listing it.

"We think saving the bridge is important to Australia and to its people - it holds cultural value to both indigenous and non-indigenous community members," he said.

"We have also created a 100-page document including the petitions to go the heritage division of Environment and Heritage NSW to try and get it re-listed and ultimately saved." 

He urged those who wished to save the bridge to sign the petition.

The Save Tabulam Bridge petition can be found at the Mallanganee Post Office the Tabulam Post Office and hotel, the Bonalbo Post Office and the Drake Post Office.

A RMS spokeswoman said due to the significant maintenance costs of the existing Tabulam Bridge, the structure must be removed once the new bridge is built.

"In early 2016, Roads and Maritime submitted an application to the Heritage Council to remove the existing Tabulam Bridge from the State Heritage Register," the spokeswoman said.

"The Heritage Council carried out a formal consultation process and the Minister for Heritage approved the application for delisting.

"The Heritage Council has determined to remove the bridge from the Heritage Register.

"Roads and Maritime is continuing to look at ways to remember the existing bridge and maintain the link between the bridge and the heritage values of Tabulam. To commemorate the timber bridge, replica trusses of the old bridge will be included on the new bridge - refer to the August 2016 Project Update to view the artist's impression of the trusses."