Cross­ing bor­ders and wind­ing roads, the days of Yar­ra­wonga- Mul­wala’s his­toric bridge are num­bered.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - Words Shane Douthie pho­tos Les Gar­butt

BOR­DER towns on the Mur­ray River have a unique re­la­tion­ship to the river.

Towns like Yar­ra­wonga (Vic­to­ria) and Mul­wala (NSW) were ini­tially di­vided by Aus­tralia’s largest river but many are now united by it - drawn to­gether to cap­i­talise on the ben­e­fits of their lo­ca­tion.

Yar­ra­wonga Mul­wala’s bridge is one of the most recog­nis­able in the coun­try; its sweep­ing curves (to pre­vent de­bris build­ing up dur­ing floods which had caused a break in the former wooden bridge back in 1917) and idio­syn­cratic dip are an added at­trac­tion for vis­i­tors who come to en­joy the many at­trac­tions es­tab­lished around the lake.

Con­struc­tion of the first (wooden) traf­fic bridge be­gan in 1889, and was com­pleted in 1891, marked by three days of cel­e­bra­tions.

By 1915 the wooden bridge had be­come un­safe and was re­placed by the cur­rent steel and con­crete traf­fic bridge in 1924.

Cur­rently there are two bridges for road-based traf­fic – the Mul­wala Bridge and the Yar­ra­wonga Weir - but with the lat­ter to be closed to traf­fic from 2020 and a new sin­gle main cross­ing to be built, it ap­pears the old bridge’s days are num­bered.

Vicroads, the lead au­thor­ity on the project, chose what is called the Grey Route for the new cross­ing, which runs along­side the ex­ist­ing bridge and will mean the old bridge will be closed when con­struc­tion of the new bridge be­gins.

Well-known lo­cal iden­tity and former coun­cil­lor John Law­less (pic­tured) has led a cam­paign to save the old bridge.

“I took up the fight be­cause I didn’t want my kids and grand­kids ask­ing me in the fu­ture ‘why didn’t you do any­thing?’” he said.

“We want to re­tain it for walk­ing and cy­cling...it would be­come an at­trac­tion in its own right.

“And lo­cals will use it too; much of Yar­ra­wonga’s pop­u­la­tion works in Mul­wala and with just the one cross­ing it leaves no al­ter­na­tive for peo­ple to cross the river.”

John and his sup­port­ers gath­ered more than 10,000 sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion, with 6000 lo­cals and 4000 vis­i­tors pledg­ing their sup­port.

The pe­ti­tion led to the then Vic­to­rian coali­tion govern­ment and NSW govern­ment putting their sup­port be­hind the Green Route and pre­serv­ing the old bridge, ac­cord­ing to John, but the in­com­ing La­bor govern­ment has backed Vicroads’ pref­er­ence for the Grey Route.

“Even though the cur­rent govern­ment said they will de­mol­ish the bridge the fight isn’t over yet, far from it,” he said.

“If we need to mo­ti­vate the peo­ple again, say be­fore the next elec­tion, we will.”

When a new bridge is built it seems it will have very large shoes to fill.

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