On the 21st of July, SA Water permanently locked the gates on the volunteers of the Cobdogla Steam Friends Society after 34 years years of the Society operating the Cobdogla Irrigation & Steam Museum and the world heritage listed Humphrey Pump on their behalf. In addition, members of the public are also excluded from the museum.
The museum was set up under a Jubilee 150 grant in 1986 and has been run by the volunteers since 1988.
At the time the museum was set up by the E & WS Department, the Dedication for the Crown Lease on the site was changed from that of Pumping Station to Museum. This means that it is a condition of the Crown Lease that the site must be used as a museum.
SA Water states the reason for the lock out is flood damage and unspecified safety concerns.
Three of the museum’s buildings were inundated to about 450mm, which caused damage to gyprock, insulation and some cupboards and dioramas. Although this damage would be relatively easy to repair, SA Water have declined to do so, and neither will they allow the volunteers to do so, citing unspecified safety concerns.
One of the banks of the inlet also needs to be stabilised with sheet piling for a short distance. To date, SA Water have declined to do this on financial grounds.
A previous perceived issue about the possible environmental consequences of the contents of the tar pit has been resolved with all the vegetable tar being removed and the area rehabilitated.
The Steam Friends have been attempting to have talks with SA Water concerning the future of the site with the aim being to have the site transferred to either the Steam Friends or another body to enable the museum to reopen. To date, meaningful talks have not taken place.
The Steam Friends are in negotiations with several bodies about possible options for reopening the museum. These negotiations are just commencing and it is expected they will take some time.
To manage these negotiations, a “Save the Cobdogla Museum” sub committee was formed at the Society’s AGM on Sunday 30th July. This committee will also have input from both the Berri Barmera Council and local members of Parliament.
Cobdogla Steam Friends Society Inc.