Nowra bridge should stay and the state should pick up the tab: Readers

The old Shoalhaven River bridge.
The old Shoalhaven River bridge.

ANY discussion over the future of the old iron Shoalhaven River bridge always creates plenty of interest.

The future of the 136-year-old bridge appeared to be made clearer recently when Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis announced at the Shoalhaven River Festival  the historic iron structure over the Shoalhaven River was to be kept.

That started a storm of debate, especially among the politicians, as to whether the bridge would remain and if so who would pay the on-going maintenance costs.

RMS documents reveal keeping the structure would cost between $15-$25 million to fix a variety of problems with the bridge and then a further maintenance cost of around $15m over 50 years or $300,000 a year. To relocate or remove the structure is estimated to cost between $10-$20 million.

Mrs Sudmalis said bridge maintenance funding was “not her issue”, while Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley questioned who would fund the maintenance if the bridge was retained and handed back to the city, becoming part of the local road network?

So we asked our readers what they thought.

If they wanted to keep the old bridge or get rid of it and if the bridge was retained who should pay for its ongoing maintenance?

Close to 580 people took both our polls.

The question of retaining or getting rid of the old Nowra bridge attracted 246 votes, of which 172 or 69.92 per cent said it should be retained. 68 voters or 27.64 per cent voted for the bridge to be removed, while six voters (2.44 per cent) were unsure.

As for paying for the ongoing maintenance costs of the bridge if it remained, you voted the state government should pick up the tab.

A total of 133 people voted, 64 or 48.12 per cent said it was up to the state government; 42 or 31.58 per cent said it was a federal government responsibility; while 27 or 20.3 per cent said it was up to Shoalhaven City Council.

Numerous studies and public consultation over the bridge project have been conducted over the years.

In 2015 the NSW Government’s Roads and Maritime Services Nowra Bridge Project consultation summary revealed of 720 submissions received 80 argued the old Nowra Bridge should be removed.

RMS received 38 individual submissions, 676 online survey responses and six Facebook suggestions, capturing what people thought should happen to the old Nowra bridge and why, as well as how it could be used or remembered in the future.

Of the 720 submissions received, 540 indicated the old Nowra bridge should be retained, 80 indicated the old bridge should be removed. 69 indicated the old bridge should be relocated, 31 indicated they had no opinion either way.

The main reason for keeping the bridge was for historical and heritage reasons with the most popular suggestion if the bridge was retained to be used for tourism, as a community space or cycle/walk way.

Of the 80 submissions to remove the bridge, 70 provided comments as to why, with more than half suggesting the cost of other options for the bridge were too high.