1 November 2021

A new era for Cabramurra as rebuilding from Black Summer bushfires begins

| Tom McGann
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An artist's impression of new building at Cabramurra

Artist’s impression of new building at Cabramurra. Image: Supplied.

A new era for bushfire-damaged Cabramurra has begun as preparations for its rebuild are finally on the way almost two years since the Black Summer fires.

The Dunns Road Bushfire ripped through the historic town in the NSW Snowy Mountains, in January 2020, destroying 35 houses, three apartment blocks, the town’s former school building, community tennis courts, and the famous Edinburgh Cottage – once stayed at by Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh on their tour of the region in 1963.

Canberra-based construction contractor Manteena has commenced work in the community, already demolishing and removing buildings and structures that were damaged, paving the way for the town’s new era.

Working with Australian architect firm Fender Katsalidis, Manteena will build structures that are better suited for the community, which sits 1500 meters above sea level, making it one of Australia’s highest towns.

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Cabramurra is known for its harsh winters, often enduring months of deep snow, meaning the new buildings must suit the landscape and seasons.

This process has been thorough, with the new buildings being designed with a focus on alpine safety, energy efficiency and bushfire resistance.

Manteena said it has been hired to focus on the first stage of the rebuild, with the bulk of its work being to implement newly designed buildings in the most efficient way possible.

The new Cabramurra will be a fit-for-purpose accommodation town, offering a range of housing options for Snowy Hydro staff and contactors, similar to the town’s original purpose when it was first established in the 1950s of being a basic construction camp for workers building the Snowy Scheme.

Historical photo of woman hanging washing in snow in Cabramurra

First-generation Cabramurra residents hanging washing in the snow. Photo. Supplied.

The rebuild will start with the construction of 100 apartments, a new staff medical centre, and a purpose-built fire refuge, which will accommodate more people than it did before the bushfires.

Fender Katsalidis has introduced an innovative modular construction method which will accelerate the construction schedule.

It was important for Fender Katsalidis and Manteena to have construction underway as soon as possible because the town will once again be a popular tourist destination next winter and beyond.

Fender Katsalidis founding director Rob Mirams said the design of the new buildings respect the original town aesthetic.

“Our masterplan is sympathetic to the origins of Cabramurra and the original buildings that once stood before the devastating bushfires,” he said. “The proposed suite of new buildings is deliberately designed at a low scale and fits into the alpine landscape with a series of natural colours and materials.”

Mr Mirams said the challenging Snowy Mountains weather conditions and its remote location have meant design elements include modular construction so the buildings can be fabricated offsite during the coldest months.

With the first phase of reconstruction to be complete by winter 2022, the new era of Cabramurra is well on its way.

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