The Tasmanian government needs to spend between $8 million and $76 million to make Hobart’s Tasman Bridge suicide-proof, a coroner says.
Olivia McTaggart made the recommendation after investigating a spike in the number of deaths from the 1964 structure, which spans the Derwent River.
Tasmania has the nation’s second-highest suicide rate per capita and there have been an average of two suicides a year at the bridge from 2000 until 2015, when seven deaths were reported.
“The Tasman Bridge has a remaining design life of 50 years. Therefore, if the death rate remains the same, there will be a further 100 deaths at the site,” Ms McTaggart noted in her findings on Monday.
After hearing evidence from engineers, the coroner said it was not simply a case of raising the 1.59m fence due to complications including a gantry that is used for inspection and maintenance.
She was provided with various options, the cheapest of which was costed at $8.3 million and involved installing a higher fence with access points to the gantry.
“An appropriate height for effective suicide prevention would be at least three metres, ideally sloping back towards the pathway to make climbing difficult,” Ms McTaggart wrote.
A more costly – $76 million – option is closing the bridge to pedestrians and building a walkway on the southern side, which would be supported by pylons under the traffic lanes.
“Construction of a new shared path that is fully enclosed with walls and a roof, eliminating the possibility of users climbing out.”
There should be further investigation of costs and options, she noted.
“I recommend that the government formulates a plan for the implementation of structural modifications to the Tasman Bridge, such structural modifications having a key aim of eliminating the Tasman Bridge as a method of suicide,” Ms McTaggart said.
The structural modifications are just one of seven recommendations made by Ms McTaggart.
She also called for continued close monitoring of the bridge by police, the installation of more CCTV cameras and establishing a working group to oversee suicide prevention measures.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.