19 March 2021

Historic Cuttagee Bridge to be replaced with two-lane concrete span

| Albert McKnight
Join the conversation
Aerial view of Cuttagee Bridge.

The historic Cuttagee Bridge stretches across the open mouth of Cuttagee Lake. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.

An outcry has erupted over plans to replace a historic timber bridge on the NSW Far South Coast.

On 10 March, 2021, Bega Valley Shire Council resolved to replace the single-lane Cuttagee Bridge with a two-lane concrete alternative, but the community opposition has been swift with more than 8300 people signing a petition against the decision.

Council noted the bridge, which opened in 1935 and is on a picturesque location at the mouth of Cuttagee Lake on Tathra-Bermagui Road, is “not feasible to retain”.

Speaking after Bega Valley Shire Council’s decision, Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the road between Tathra and Bermagui is one everyone loves, and how council maintains it is a huge challenge moving forward.

“We know the community is concerned about losing the heritage value of the bridge, but also ensuring the infrastructure can withstand future challenges is critical,” he said.

Cuttagee Bridge.

Cuttagee Bridge will be replaced with a two-lane concrete bridge. Picture: Andrew Constance Facebook.

Mayor Fitzpatrick said council will engage a heritage consultant to work with council and the community to identify how the heritage and tourism value could be reflected in the new structure.

The bridge has a listing on Heritage NSW’s State Heritage Inventory, where its degree of significance is stated to be “very high” and it is described as having “a highly evocative character”.

According to Heritage NSW, the bridge has historic significance due to being built in the post-Depression period, in 1935, has technical interest for its use of traditional timber bridge construction, and has high aesthetic value for its timber character.

READ ALSO More work to open up access to our coastal vistas

“These aesthetic values are held by many members of the local community who have expressed concern at the potential demolition of the timber bridge between Bermagui and Tanja,” stated Heritage NSW in 2013.

“This and the other timber bridges contribute to the very high aesthetic values of the scenic route between Bermagui and Tathra, and are considered to be components of the cultural landscape.”

Heritage NSW also states the bridge has a heritage listing in the Bega Valley Local Environmental Plan 2013.

The decision to replace Cuttagee Bridge with a concrete span came after Member for Bega Andrew Constance announced the Bega Valley Shire would receive $16.8 million from the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Bridges Program earlier in March 2021.

Drawing of preliminary design for new Cuttagee Bridge.

A drawing of the preliminary design of the replacement for Cuttagee Bridge. Image: Bega Valley Shire Council.

“There’s no doubt that when we’re a region of fire and flood, typically one of the things that always seems to go out whenever there’s an emergency and get destroyed is some of our country bridges,” said Mr Constance.

“The work will just get underway and it will happen for those who need it most.

“There’s a lot of farms out the back which don’t always have great access. We want to replace timber with concrete so that [in] the next fire and the next flood, residents have the access they so richly need.”

Council said the funding will be used to replace a number of ageing timber bridges across the shire with structures that are safer and more resilient to natural disasters.

“Importantly, replacing these bridges will greatly reduce the ongoing maintenance burden on our ratepayers into the future,” said Mayor Fitzpatrick.

However, the reasons the online petition says why Cuttagee Bridge should be retained include the claim that building a new bridge would be a “waste of money” in the long-term due to predicted sea level rise, erosion and coastal inundation.

READ ALSO Share your shark tales and help research

Also, the petition claims the bridge is iconic and makes the Cuttagee region safer as drivers have to slow down to access the single-lane bridge.

“[It] is historic and gives an insight into what life on the coast was like before modernisation destroyed so much,” the petition states.

When announcing the $16.8 million in funding, Mr Constance shared a list of 12 bridges in the Bega Valley that would be replaced. These are:

  • Cuttagee Bridge in Cuttagee
  • Murrabrine Creek Bridge in Cobargo
  • Wonboyn River Bridge in Wonboyn
  • Buckajo Creek Bridge in Buckajo
  • Johnston Creek Bridge in Numbugga
  • Meringola Gully Bridge in Buckajo
  • Logans Bridge in Towamba
  • Red Hill Road Bridge in Bournda
  • Old Soldiers Road Bridge in Wolumla
  • Bens Creek Bridge in Towamba
  • Nungatta Road Bridge in Nungatta
  • Saddle Camp Creek Bridge in Bemboka.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

As the bridge (new or existing) will almost certainly be swamped by climate driven sea level rise and storm surges it would be much more sensible to do only maintenance work on these structures. If a substantial amounts of money become available perhaps we should look for less vulnerable access routes and at slowly withdrawing development from threatened coastal sites. The sea will not only inundate endangered areas in the long run, it will also eat away at land areas, headlands and cliffs.

The main reason for replacing cuttagee bridge is to assist the building industry in hastening destruction of all in its path to faster and easier riches.
Many concrete etc trucks thunder across these wooden bridges, not heeding the 40 k limit, nor heeding the load limit in their greed to build more infrastructure to keep themselves ‘in business’.
No public consultation has been involved in this decision as usual, and most locals and visitors would like to see these high value heritage bridges preserved

Gordon Taylor10:05 pm 23 Mar 21

Andrew Constance’s reasons for destroying the graceful, historic Cuttagee Bridge do not stack up. The more closely one reads the report of his arguments the more clearly it emerges that this is just another example of political pork barreling. Whatever might be the case with some of the bridges listed for replacement, none of his reasons applies to Cuttagee. As for fire or flood destroying this bridge, that is sheer fantasy. It has proudly withstood flood for over ninety years, and the chances of fire ever getting near it are exiguous. Constance also argues that “farms out the back” need to be assured of access (presumably to Bermagui). Actually there are very few farms out the back just here. Those who need access are coastal dwellers from Baragoot to Wapengo: have they been consulted? have they been agitating for a new bridge, as they did for tarmacing the Tathra road all those years ago. Of course not. There are at least three timber bridges between Cuttagee and Tanja, two of which are actually in danger of fire and flooding. But unlike Cuttagee they are tucked away in places that don’t appear to generate many votes. Constance wants the votes but does not see the need for wider consultation. He just dismisses consultation in typical bureaucratic style: “the work will just get underway and it will happen…”. It’s the same old story. Local member manages to persuade his boss in Macquarie Street to throw a lot of money at his electorate and then has to get the local council to think of something to spend it on. Council isn’t going to knock it back. Let’s spend it on projects that will make the Sapphire Coast as bland and uniform as the north coast of NSW. Why do we elect these ‘characters’ into state and local government, people who do their best to destroy the character and history of the place they are supposed to serve?

Thanks Gordon Perfect.

Sarah Benjamin10:10 am 22 Mar 21


Stephen Mills3:25 pm 21 Mar 21

I signed the petition against replacement. Apart from its heritage value and sheep beauty, the big value of the existing bridge is that is slows the traffic down – in turn allowing pedestrians (families, kids) safe parking and access to the beach. I have a lot of respect for Andrew Constance post bushfires but he is surely kidding us with his line about needing a new bridge for the next fire?!?!?😂

Stephen Mills10:31 am 25 Mar 21

I do like sheep, but what I meant to write was ‘sheer beauty’. Apols for typo. 🐑🐑🐑

Nagwa Semeika11:22 am 21 Mar 21

Instead of kocking the old brige why not build a new one next to it and leave our heritage to stand therit can become people crossing or just an australian monument to long it survive for all those years

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.