|Point Henry wetlands and Alcoa pier|
This time, I headed out to the tip of Point Henry on the edge of Corio Bay. The views from here are sweeping: the You Yangs to the north, Corio Bay away to the left, Portarlington and Clifton Springs to the west. Behind are the buildings of Alcoa's aluminium smelter and stretching out into the water just around the tip of the point is the pier. Built to receive material for processing at the smelter, it is over a kilometre in length. The plant itself was built in 1963 and currently produces about 190,000 tons of aluminium per year for both local and Asian markets.
|Part of the Alcoa plant with the wetlands in the foreground|
The "Moolapio" project as it is known also incorporates much of the surrounding land, including not only the foreshore, wetlands and smelter site, but also farmland.The whole is part of an innovative grasslands regeneration program which if successful, may change the way revegetation is managed across the country. It is also intended that the site be used for community education, scientific research, plant propagation and seed storage, providing a valuable resource for other regeneration projects in the region and beyond.
|weir controlling water levels in the wetlands|
As a result, a thriving tourist industry also developed here, with the 'California Tea Gardens' opening its doors in October 1849. This name was an acknowledgement of the number of people leaving the district and traveling to the Californian goldfields to try their luck. It was not long however, be for the tide turned and waves of gold seekers were arriving at Point Henry on their way to the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo in the early 1850s.
During this period, Point Henry also became a popular destination for tourist boats, with steamers running back and forth across the bay from Melbourne, bringing holidaymakers for a day at the beach. This state of affairs continued until the 1880s when the opening of the Hopetoun Channel allowed for the passage of larger vessels directly into the port of Geelong.
|View of Point Henry Wetlands and Alcoa's pier|
Another important early industry at Point Henry was the Cheetham Salt Works, established by Richard Cheetham - an English industrial chemist - in 1888. Today, the salt works form part of Alcoa's wetlands project whilst the company itself is now part of a multi-national operation with interests in Australia, Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand.
Including the saltworks, Alcoa currently own around 500 hectares of land around the smelter at Point Henry and continue to work with environmental groups and the community to regenerate the surrounding land.