The Old Goulburn River Bridge

By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire Councillors credited the hard work and dedication of the Seymour community after endorsing a strategy for the restoration of the Old Goulburn River Bridge.

The bridge, which was first built in 1863 and updated in 1892, had been used as part of the Hume Freeway before its realignment, but was closed to vehicle traffic in 1987 and has been closed to pedestrians since 1998 because of vandalism.

Councillors voted in favour of a $4.3 million restoration package of the bridge at last week’s ordinary meeting.

Included in the package are provisions for the full restoration of all remaining timber bridge piers and abutments to ensure their long-term viability from conservation and load-carrying perspectives; the installation of a new six-metre wide, 108-metre long multi-span lightweight bridge structure on top of the restored bridge piers and abutment works; and three lightweight bridge trusses per span supporting a timber decking.

The bridge deck would be marginally below what council officers calculated would be a one-in-100-year flood level on the Goulburn River.

Cr Fiona Stevens said bridge restoration would support pedestrians and cyclists, but not vehicle traffic.

“Council has a legislative responsibility … to maintain the bridge to the extent that its conservation is not threatened and to ensure that the structure does not fall into a state of disrepair,” she said.

“[The community was] hopeful of a full restoration, and of course in an ideal world if we could rebuild this wonderful structure the way it was 100 years ago that would be fantastic, but the reality is we can’t, so the next best thing is making it look like she used to look as best we can, being true to the design as best we can and working with what’s available to us in this day and age.

“Heritage Victoria will have requirements that have to be met, but the closer we get her to the original design in the way she visually looks, the stronger the chance we have of getting that permit granted.”

Cr Stevens said the cost of $4.3 million was only indicative, and a more accurate figure for the cost of the restoration would be known after a structural report was undertaken.

Cr Annie Goble said the bridge was one of the most important parts of Seymour’s history.

“The Old Goulburn River Bridge is recognised for its heritage value, both by local, state and national authorities. It is included on the Register of the National Estate, the National Trust Heritage Register, the Victorian Heritage Register and a Mitchell Shire heritage overlay is on it,” she said.

“I want to applaud the community of Seymour and surrounds for not giving up on the project, because I don’t know if I would have had the strength to keep going.

“I think it will be an incredible multi-generational legacy, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Cr Bill Chisholm said fundraising efforts by the community had played a large part in progressing the bridge restoration.

“The community have shown their support for this over the years. [They] have really stumped up and had significant funds that they’ve been prepared to put into this restoration. That’s a big tick by any measure,” he said.

Cr Rob Eldridge said the project was a ‘must-do’.

“We’re running out of time to save this bridge,” he said.

“It’s a very significant part of older Seymour, and it gives us the opportunity to open that up and have pedestrian traffic and bikes, and reinvigorate that area.”