Current work on the new double lane Tabulam Bridge, next to the old wooden bridge at Tabulam.
Current work on the new double lane Tabulam Bridge, next to the old wooden bridge at Tabulam. Susanna Freymark

VOTE : Tabulam Bridge, should it stay or should it go?

THE fate of the longest single-truss wooden bridge in the southern hemisphere may not yet be sealed.

As work continues on the new double-lane bridge at Tabulam, the old wooden bridge where cars have to take turns to cross the Clarence on its single lane is still standing as it has done for 116 years.

When the new bridge is complete, the old one will be torn down.

Should the wooden Tabulam bridge be kept?

This poll ended on 10 December 2019.

Current Results

Keep the wooden truss bridge

84%

Remove it, we have a new one

13%

Makes no difference to me

1%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin made a private member's statement to Parliament about the bridge on October 17.

MP's speech about the bridge

Here is an edited version of her speech:

"I will share with this House an issue of great cultural significance for the indigenous and non-indigenous communities of Tabulam and Upper Clarence in my electorate of Lismore," she said.

 

"I refer to these communities' campaigns for the NSW Government to review its August 2016 decision to de-list from the State Heritage Register the truss bridge crossing the Clarence River at Tabulam.

"The community is asking loudly and clearly for the bridge, built between 1900 and 1903, to be listed on the register and retained as a pedestrian bridge for future generations.

"It is a shame that the current groundswell of support to save the bridge from demolition was less evident during the public consultation period prior to its removal from the State Heritage Register, which was approved by the then heritage minister.

"A major consideration is that 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.

 

100th Battle of Beersheba Commemoration Ride at Tabulam.
HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT: A lone rider crosses the Tabulam Bridge during the 100th Battle of Beersheba Commemoration Ride. Susanna Freymark

"Aboriginal Queen Ponjam Derry, also known as Teresa Agnes Ponjam, was born in 1872 and lived under Tabulam Bridge in a gunyah. She was the great-grandmother of champion boxer Tony Mundine.

"Another important historic link - and one of national and international significance - is that of General Sir Harry Chauvel, who was born in Tabulam in 1865 and started his distinguished military career as the second lieutenant in the Upper Clarence Light Horse.

"Sir Harry Chauvel went on to achieve global fame as commander of the Anzac Mounted Division and later the Desert Mounted Corps, becoming the first Australian to command such a corps.

"At Beersheba in October 1917 his light horse captured the town and its vital water supply in one of history's last great cavalry charges.

"Many of those soldiers would have been involved with the construction of the bridge, itself a monumental exercise for the early 20th century.

"The light horsemen's original training path and triumphant postwar parades crossed this bridge, so it would be almost sacrilege to tear it down.

"From an engineering point of view, the bridge, built from wood and steel by men and horses and sitting 60 feet above the water - out of flood level - is the longest single-span wooden bridge in the southern hemisphere.

"Roads and Maritime Services' 2012 timber truss bridge conservation strategy outlines the cost of maintaining a bridge like this one but surely if we are only seeking safe pedestrian access rather than vehicular access, these costs should be less prohibitive.

"Kyogle and Tenterfield Shire Councils clearly cannot bear these costs - nor should they - but a pedestrian bridge with so many historic and cultural links to the community could become a major tourism attraction.

"The campaign to save the Tabulam 1903 truss bridge has the public's support as well as the support of Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan and a host of community groups, ranging from the Tabulam Progress Association to the Country Women's Association."

Ms Saffin also sent a letter of the speech to Minster for Public Service, Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts Don Harwin.