The restored Middle Falbrook Bridge in the Upper Hunter Valley was opened to the public on Saturday, 17th March, 2018.
The restored Middle Falbrook Bridge in the Upper Hunter Valley was opened to the public on Saturday, 17th March, 2018. John Ibbotson

LETTER: Saving manmade wonders a bridge too far for pollies

Saturday: Off to Singleton to review progress on the $10 million restoration of the Middle Falbrook truss bridge. My lucky day! The just finished bridge was opened, without fanfare, that afternoon.

I decided to stay in Singleton. Fortunately it has a VIC (one of seven in the Upper Hunter) which, with difficulty, found us some accommodation.

Sunday: As there was still scaffolding in place, I was able to do a close up examination of the bridge. The only original parts left were the Monier concrete pipe piers. And except for the trusses and the road base, it is a steel bridge. But the RMS have done a spectacular job in creating a look-alike replica.\

Unfortunately it's on a back road which isn't even on the Singleton Regional Map, is 15km from the nearest pub, and is mainly used by farmers and coal miners. Hardly a tourist destination.

Why was it restored, when it failed most of the RMS's bridge retention criteria? The Hunter has political representatives with vision who championed for it and five other old bridges to be retained. There are four others listed for replacement, but as they are being maintained, I suspect they will be around for many years to come.

Tuesday: While on Lawrence's new bridge photographing the old one I met a Townsville tourist who had stopped to do likewise. Will others stop when the bridge is gone?

So why are Tabulam and Sportsmans Creek going to be demolished? It seems our political representatives don't understand the importance of history.

From the documentation I've sent them requesting support the only reply (regarding Tabulam's bridge) said "I understand the RMS has written to you (they did), providing information on why the decision was made (they didn't), and how they're going to honour the historic value of the structure, in the local museum (which doesn't exist)”. I've received no responses to any Sportsmans Creek Bridge documents I've sent out.

Thursday: Editor Bill North reported that we are "losing our greatest assets”, seagrass, beaches and possibly the last remaining populations of coastal emus. "We should be doing all we can to protect our natural wonders,” he said (which is difficult when the NPs control most of our coastline), so that the coming generations will still have access to the "treasures we once took for granted”.

It's a pity there are seldom comments about protecting our manmade wonders, which are equally important, because they contribute to binding us together as a community. But this is understandable as most people in the Valley appear to be environmentalists who want to make the world a better place by protecting natural resources, keeping things the way they are, and that people are the problem.

On the other hand conservationists want to make the world a better place, which is achieved by people and nature working together.

So where does that leave us? The southern half of NSW will have 26 truss bridges, while the northern half will have two. Political persuasion is effective; political and community apathy isn't. As a result the coming generations will not have access to these treasures we spurned.

After receiving legal advice that the RMS could say and do whatever they liked to achieve their objectives, which ruined my case, and with no official support, it's time for the next project. This will be a book based on all of the above.

John Ibbotson, Gulmarrad



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