State help needed for historic wharf repairs

Tathra Wharf repairs in 2016 after the damage caused by the East Coast Low.
Tathra Wharf repairs in 2016 after the damage caused by the East Coast Low.

There are concerns that urgent repairs to Tathra Wharf could far exceed the $1 million estimate if the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) insists on a full heritage style replacement of decayed timbers.

The concern was raised in the council meeting by council’s director transport and utilities Terry Dodds during discussion about the historic wharf.

A detailed condition assessment of the wharf identified that over 28 per cent of the over-water piles supporting the wharf have deteriorated to such a degree that major replacement or repair works are required within the next 12 months, at a cost in excess of $1 million.

Mr Dodds explained that cost estimates were based on the use of modern materials covered with a wooden sleeve.

“But if the OEH says all it all has to be turpentine and ironbark, I can’t say what it will cost,” Mr Dodds said.

He also outlined some of the repair challenges pointing out that work would have to start from the shore side and move towards the ocean as the wharf needed to be strong enough to support heavy repair machinery.

But not surprisingly the biggest concern was funding.

“It’s about starting the advocacy role; it’s a state asset. This community can’t fund that [the repairs] and so will be putting a lot of pressure on government. We will be very strongly canvassing with Crown Lands and state ministers,” council’s general manager Leanne Barnes said.

The wharf is the only deep sea wharf and cargo shed dating from the 1800s remaining on Australia’s east coast and is listed on the State Heritage Register. It is a major attraction for locals and visitors to the area.

As the appointed corporate reserve trust manager for the Tathra Wharf Reserve, on behalf of the Department of Industry - Lands, council is eligible for funding support through the Public Reserves Management Fund Program. 

The program funds projects up to $2 million but council staff will be under enormous pressure as applications for the 2017/2018 round close on March 24.