Old Bendemeer Bridge
This bridge, which crosses the MacDonald River, was in service for 80 years before Bendemeer was bypassed in 1985. A commemorative plaque next to it explains the history and the building of the bridge. The bridge is heritage listed for its engineering value, as a striking example of a 90 metre long structure with its Dare wooden side trusses, and is believed to be one of the few examples of that engineering technique left standing in NSW. It is no longer used as a motor vehicle thoroughfare, but pedestrians can use it to cross over the river. At sunrise and sunset you may see platypus under the bridge.The local community have fought for its preservation as part of their local history.
The contents of the bridge plaque:
Public Works engineer Harvey Dare designed this composite steel and timber truss bridge. It was constructed by prominent bridge builder W F Oakes and opened on 29 September 1905. The truss type, now known as a Dare truss, was the zenith of timber truss development, being technically superior to previous types. The bridge was in service for the New England Highway for 80 years before being bypassed in 1985.
THE INSTITUTION OF ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA, TAMWORTH REGIONAL COUNCIL, COMMUNITY OF BENDEMEER 2005
Tamworth Regional Council media releases:
Bendy bridge closed for repairs
8 June 2010
A building review of the old 105-year-old Bendemeer bridge is likely to see it banned to horses and their riders and even cyclists from now on.
The heritage-listed structure has been a walking bridge up until now but an incident on Friday where a horse’s hoof punched a hole in the wooden planks is likely to lead to it being restricted to only human pedestrians.
The wooden truss bridge over the McDonald River in the village has been closed to vehicles for years and was originally the old highway bridge before the highway bypass was built.
The bridge is being preserved for its heritage engineering value as a striking example of an old 90 metre long structure with its Dare wooden side trusses and is believed to be one of the few left standing in NSW.
A detailed inspection of the deck this week will identify the repairs needed or any other potential problems before it can be re-opened to pedestrians.
Tamworth Regional Council Works and Assets engineer Matthew Ferris says the bridge closure does not affect village access because the adjoining low level crossing concrete bridge about 70 metres downstream takes vehicles, horses and bikes and has been used as the main river crossing for the village since being built 12 years ago.
He says camping visitors and pedestrians also use the lower bridge but should remain aware of passing traffic and give way to anything on wheels.
He said the load or pressure of a horse’s hoof on a surface can be greater than that of a standard car tyre (like the stiletto heel theory) and that would be the reasoning behind the new formal ban. Cyclists are also likely to be banned because of potential gaps between the decking planks – which run like tram tracks rather than the usual side to side decking plank pattern – which presents a bit of a hazard for two wheels.
Bendemeer Bridge will remain open to pedestrians
Tuesday 26 April, 2016
With the endorsement of the Bendemeer community, the historic Bendemeer High Level Bridge will remain open to pedestrians and receive a $70,000 facelift.
The decision to retain the bridge is the final step in the preparation of the Bendemeer Floodplain Risk Management Plan which will now go on public exhibition for a period of 28 days.
The high level bridge dominated all stages of the consultation process with the Bendemeer community expressing an overwhelming desire for the bridge to be retained. As a result, Council commissioned a structural assessment and load test of the high level bridge to determine its structural integrity for possible ongoing use.
This report showed that the bridge had sufficient structural strength to cater for pedestrians and if repairs were conducted, the bridge could be utilised by pedestrians for at least another 10 years.
Armed with the structural assessment and the identified flood risk associated with retaining the bridge, Council returned to Bendemeer to survey residents one last time regarding the fate of the high level bridge. Those who could not attend the meeting were able to provide written feedback to Council.
Tamworth region Mayor Col Murray said the resounding message from the community was to retain the bridge for pedestrian use.
“Of the 36 attendees at the meeting, 35 were in favour of keeping the bridge open and we had a similarly positive response from property owners outside of the area who could not attend the meeting. The community were presented with the risks in keeping the bridge however it is apparent they still want it to remain.”
In order to extend the life of the bridge, Council will conduct works estimated to cost $70,000 to ensure the safety of pedestrians.
Cr Murray said the community should also be congratulated for their commitment in mitigating further flood risks threatening Bendemeer.
“The Macdonald River Restoration Group is also working to address further flood mitigation options by way of the removal of non-native vegetation from the river bed. The community support to maintain this historic site should be commended.”
Northern Daily Leader Extracts
Locals sad to see bridge go
Dec. 29, 2015
BENDEMEER’S historic high-level bridge could be removed to reduce the risks of flooding in the village and surrounds.
Tamworth Regional Council has asked for a report on its removal before the development of a floodplain risk management plan for Bendemeer.
The demolition of the bridge was recommended in a new flood study for the area, prepared for the council by GHD Consulting.
It found its removal would improve the movement of flood water through Bendemeer, lowering water levels and eliminating blockages at the bridge that could raise upstream flood levels and risks.
However, the report to the council also noted the bridge was locally heritage-listed in the Tamworth Regional Council LEP, and was the only pedestrian link across the river, although it was briefly closed recently for repairs to its decking.
At a recent community consultation meeting regarding the flood study, there were also strong objections from some residents over the recommendation to remove the bridge.
Councillors acknowledged the importance of the structure to local residents, but questioned whether it would even withstand Mother Nature at her worst.
Cr Phil Betts said the community didn’t want to see the bridge go, but argued “the reality is it will go in a flood”.
He suggested preserving part of the bridge somewhere in the village if the report back to council confirmed removal was the best option.
Cr Juanita Wilson said the construction of a higher pedestrian bridge could be considered, while mayor Col Murray said the report would be important for assessing the high-level bridge’s current condition and its long-term security.
The flood study by GHD also recommended land-use planning, creek and channel maintenance and the compilation of a flood-safe brochure as the measures that should be given the highest priority within the next three years.
The removal of the bridge and an SES flood plan update were given medium priority, and a voluntary house purchase scheme was of a low- to medium-priority.
Debate over Bendemeer bridge
April 28, 2016
THE historic Bendemeer bridge will remain open to foot traffic, but the decision sparked a debate about how much council should spend on preserving the region’s heritage.
Tamworth councillors voted on Tuesday night to give the Bendemeer High Level Bridge a $70,000 facelift.
Councillor James Treloar said while he was happy to support the move, he found it “amazing council had $70,000 to throw at a walkway over the Macdonald River, because it’s nice for our heritage”.
“The 35 residents who responded in Bendemeer equates to $70,000, isn’t that lovely?” Cr Treloar said.
“The sooner we get that second flood, the better, so we get the bridge demolished for nothing rather than $300,000.”
Mayor Col Murray said the council struggled to manage the assets it already used.
“We are looking at a five-to- 10-year window of satisfactory use with this $70,000 allocation,” Cr Murray said.
“It’s going to be a challenge for the councils of the future [to maintain]. I think at some stage we have to realise some of these assets do reach their use-by date.”
Cr Mark Rodda was quick to defend the “delightful” bridge, saying “heritage doesn’t come cheap”.
“Nobody said heritage doesn’t cost money to maintain – that’s just a reality,” he said.
“This is a problem historically with Tamworth city, we’ve knocked down too much heritage and now we’re trying to desperately hang onto what we’ve got left with the skin of our fingernails.”
Cr Phil Betts said the “beautiful bridge” was an “engineering icon”, but was fearful a major flood would knock it down.
“The only thing I’m concerned about is Bendemeer will have significant floods in the future – I’ve seen two in my time,” Cr Betts said.
Cr Tim Coates attended the community consultation meetings and said Bendermeer residents realised that over time, the bridge “would be a burden on the community”.
“There was a clear indication from the community of a willingness to undertake some of the work in relation to removing some of the non-native vegetation,” Cr Coates said
“The community was invigorated by this particular threat.
“The community spoke and I would be remiss of my duties by not listening to them.”
Cr Murray said the community should be congratulated for its commitment in mitigating further flood risks threatening Bendemeer.
“The Macdonald River Restoration Group is also working to address further flood mitigation options by way of the removal of non-native vegetation from the river bed,” he said.
“The community support to maintain this historic site should be commended.”
We have to live with decisions
May 2, 2016
IT’S the dilemma of every council in NSW – that is how to spend “thin-on-the-ground” ratepayer dollars. Say what you like, but it is a big ask to get it right.
The saying goes “you can’t please all of the people, all of the time”.
Councils are responsible for building and maintaining all sorts of community assets, everything from roads and footpaths, to children’s playgrounds. They will get some money from the other levels of government in this regard, a dollar here and there, but a lot of the onus is on us to come up with the cash at a local level.
The fallout then, from the recent TRC budget has been interesting, with $70,000 allocated to preserving the historic Bendemeer bridge.
The debate was interesting because it raised the question of how much should we spend on preserving the region’s heritage.
Some councillors are obviously more interested than others in making sure we keep an eye on the past – you could say “it touched a nerve”.
In making these decisions on behalf of the community, councillors need to address the broader issue, and that broader issue includes the overall attractiveness of our region.
It’s a bit like the airport car park argument, if we don’t have these assets we’re not likely to grow as a region.
Could $70,00 be better spent – maybe – but no one wants to live in a region devoid of character. And if we want people to move to our region we have to strike a balance, providing jobs and growth potential, alongside some of the things that make our region a great place to live.
Some people will move here for work, some people will move here for family, and some people, believe it or not, will move here because it’s an attractive place to live.