Last ditch bid to save aqueduct

The Barwon River Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct. (Ivan Kemp) 239892_14

By Luke Voogt

Campaigners have launched a last ditch attempt to save Breakwater’s 108-year-old aqueduct, with the demolition of four spans of the historic structure set to begin this year.

“It shouldn’t happen, because there are other solutions,” Friends of the Barwon River Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct member Jennifer Bantow said.

“Here we are destroying yet another extraordinary example of innovative engineering design.”

The bid comes after Barwon Water this week confirmed the $6.5 million demolition of four of 14 aqueduct spans would begin later this year, subject to weather.

The water authority expects to finish stabilising the structure next year and complete the demolition by 2023.

The demolition is part of a plan to turn 66 hectares of surrounding Barwon Water-owned land into public parkland.

Heritage Victoria approved a permit for Barwon Water to demolish the four spans in March 2020.

A Barwon Water-commissioned report in 2017 indicated the structure could be stabilised to allow safe access under one land span for walkers and another river span for water-users.

The report estimated this plan, labelled option 2a, would cost $2,865,866, just over half the initial 2017 estimate of $5.5 million to demolish the four spans.

Fellow campaigner David Le Lievre accused Barwon Water of “heritage vandalism” and ignoring a “cheaper and equally-safe option” that he said would protect the “iconic” structure.

He encouraged locals to join the Friends of the Barwon River Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct group and said he planned to urge state MPs to intervene.

Barwon Water managing director Tracey Slatter said engineering experts found that option 2a would not be feasible to construct, and would not adequately secure safe public access on the river.

“In considering the future of the aqueduct, we investigated options for ensuring public safety and improving public access to the Barwon River and surrounding land, while balancing heritage values, Aboriginal cultural values and managing costs for our customers.”