Save the Victor Causeway from Demolition

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Victor Harbor’s iconic Granite Island Causeway is under threat. The Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) have announced they will demolish the heritage Victor Harbor Causeway link between Victor Harbor and Granite Island.

DPTI have suggested that they want to construct a new concrete and steel bridge upon a different alignment within the Encounter Marine Park area which is also part of the Great Southern Reef system. Potentially sacrificing swathes of seagrass forest and limestone reef.

Like many South Australians we were shocked to hear about the horse tram incident on the Causeway in January 2019. Since then we have been trying to help identify a solution to save our heritage Causeway.

The Causeway is a South Australian icon and has been a focal point for tourism since the 1890s. Prior to this, when it was constructed in the 1860’s, the railway and maritime utilisation was critically important to not just South Australia, but Australia’s Colonial economic development.

The significance of Nulcoowarra (Granite Island) and Kongkengguwar (the Bluff / Rosetta Head) and surrounding areas are also important to the local Ramindjeri and Ngarrindjeri as part of their Cultural heritage and Dreaming stories.

Despite the Causeway’s significant historical value, the attitude seems to be “Its old – lets tear it down”. We have already let so much heritage slip through our fingers, like the swimming baths that were destroyed due to disrepair in the 1950’s. The old Workman’s Jetty, the heritage kiosk, the Harbor Masters Cottage and various other buildings that have been demolished on the Island and in the local area. We also said goodbye to the Chairlift and Swimming Baths which people are missing. These are the sort of attractions people would like to see return. We can’t let the Causeway slip through our fingers as well. Once it’s gone – it is gone forever.

Not only will we see the destruction of a significant part of SA's history but constructing a completely new bridge will require the driving in of multitudes of steel pylons which could pose a massive threat to the marine environment and creatures including whales, dolphins, little penguins, seahorses and local fisheries. This will also impact local wildlife and creatures that rely on the area for survival.

There’s strong scientific evidence to suggest that pile driving can negatively impact our marine animals, especially those that rely on acoustics and sonar such as whales and dolphins (cetaceans). Pile driving noise is more intense and can travel large distances under water. It can also confuse and make some creatures more susceptible to predator attack. There are also studies that suggest penguins and other sea birds operate the same way as cetaceans while underwater. Penguins spend their daylight hours out in the surrounding ocean to swim and fish, generally only coming onto land at dusk. We only have one Little Penguin colony left on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The referred noise from pile driving can reach levels high enough to disturb, injure or even kill some marine animals.

After years of neglect the Causeway is in desperate need of a proper refurbishment and rejuvenation. The pylons urgently need to be renewed. We want to get this right and make sure our Causeway stays around for a long time to come. A complete renewal of the existing Causeway will achieve the same as building new, but with significantly less environmental risks and lower costs.

Last year, DPTI used a very modern construction methodology to renew the Port Adelaide Passenger Railway Bridge. This technique can renew extremely damaged pylons, even pylons with a section or sections missing utilising composite materials.

Essentially, composite material is wrapped around the pylon – much like a cast around a broken arm, which is then filled with resin. Any remnant timber is encased in this resin composite and you are left with a completely new pylon. When set this technology is reputed to be 4 x stronger than steel, and attaches below the seabed floor, just like a newly placed pile. Wrapping the pylons would significantly improve the structural integrity overall which would make the rest of the structure safer.

This process is also very quick with 144 pylons renewed within 3 months on the Pt Adelaide Passenger Railway Bridge. Additionally, this wrapping could occur as soon as a contractor is available. This method has little to no environmental impacts with notably no extensive pile driving and reportedly no reduction to access or usability of the Causeway while the pylons are being renewed.

The next step could be to upgrade the timber deck where and if necessary, with composite material. Composites are being used in infrastructure projects the world over. Some of the Australia’s largest Councils and companies are utilising this methodology. It is also been used extensively across Europe, UK, NZ and North America for over the last 25 years. UNESCO recommends the use of modern techniques such as 3D printing and modern technology to preserve monuments and cultural sites for the benefit of present and future generations.

DPTI and Minister Stephan Knoll have just recently announced that composites will be used on the heritage listed Birkenhead Bridge with the upgrade being “sensitive to the bridge’s heritage design and features”. If composites are good enough for the Birkenhead Bridge – why not use this composite technology on our Causeway? Composites do not rust and are not susceptible to concrete cancer. DPTI are not demolishing the Birkenhead Bridge so why are they even considering demolishing our Causeway?

If a new deck turns out to be necessary, any reclaimed timber can be repurposed, possibly even put back on the Causeway. Any money saved using these alternative techniques could then be used to save other local heritage projects, like the Screw Pile Jetty which is also in desperate need of repair. With the money saved it may possible to bring back The old Workman’s Jetty, Swimming baths and maybe even a new chairlift. (we can dream!) We really feel that we can have our cake and eat it too. If Busselton Jetty has done it, by creating an amazing unique tourist attraction so can we!

Our Causeway - it’s part of the fabric of early Colonial South Australian history. It belongs to all of us. Act now to have your say and save it!

Please sign our petition, to STOP the unnecessary demolition of our Causeway and help us extend the heritage Causeway’s life for future generations to enjoy. **** Petition only, no need to donate any money. Thank you, Save the Victor Causeway. �Photo shown depicts the heritage Causeway in its glory days, prior to the demolition of the Victoria Pier spur and swimming baths in the 1950s. �State Library of South Australia.