Critical restoration works to save the Tathra Wharf from destruction are locked in for later this year.
It came as fantastic news to Tathra Wharf Museum committee president Lynneeta Darmody, one of the historic structure’s many advocates, who said the wharf would cease to exist without the works.
“It’s strong enough, but it won’t last much longer. It has to be fixed. It has to be fixed or it’s lost,” she said.
“This wharf is to Tathra what the Opera House is to Sydney – it’s an icon.
“It’s a strong community down here and everyone feels strongly about the wharf.”
Bega Valley Shire Council said Sydney-based marine construction specialist GPM Marine Constructions had been awarded the contract for the restoration works and a multi-staged works program would start in October.
Council’s acting assets and operations director Ian Macfarlane said recent investigations into the state of the wharf’s substructure revealed the need for urgent repair.
“This need was amply demonstrated in April this year when a storm resulted in the loss of an external bracing pile even when partially sheltered by the Tathra Headland,” he said.
“We cannot afford any further damage to the substructure, so it’s terrific to see the contract signed and works scheduled.
“Works will include replacement of piles, headstocks, girders, decking, the stockyard and stock race, as well as replacement of handrails, ladders and lighting.”
The wharf was built in 1862 and Ms Darmody said it eventually fell into such a poor state it was condemned to be demolished. However, a community campaign and 10 years of lobbying raised enough money to fund its repairs.
She said the wharf’s condition was again “getting needy”, with pylons decaying and even the windowsills of her museum rotting.
“It’s the last remaining deep sea wharf on the eastern seaboard,” she said.
“It’s very important that it’s restored.”
Ms Darmody said GPM Marine Constructions was the same contractor that fixed the wharf after the East Coast Low in June 2016.
The wharf had been significantly damaged then, with the vast swell lifting and moving the wharf’s main ramp.
“I was there every day to watch them work and I was very impressed,” Ms Darmody said.
“I think it’d take a tsunami to dislodge the work they’ve done.”
The restoration works are expected to take 12 months to complete and public access will be available to part of the wharf throughout the project.
Ms Darmody said visitors will still be able to access the wharf’s museum and café.
Once the substructure restoration is finished, the wharf building will undergo works for cladding, weatherproofing and utility services, which will need a separate heritage approval and tender process.
Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson said the restoration would be supported by $7.81 million from the NSW Government via Crown Lands.