07 April, 2012

The flow of progress

Over the past 180 years since European settlement, attitudes towards the care and management of the Barwon River have changed dramatically. A look at newspapers over the years also shows quite a difference in priorities between now and the 19th and even well into the 20th century.
The Barwon River at Queen's Park c1866. This image is held by the State
Library of Victoria
Whilst the Moorabool during the drought years of the last decade has been described as one of the most stressed rivers in the state, the Leigh and Barwon Rivers do not seem to have suffered so greatly, with a shortfall in water volume estimated at about 4,700ML (per year I assume) in a paper published by the government in 2006. Recent years of good rainfall have no doubt improved this situation somewhat. At the time of publication, the upper reaches of the Barwon were described as being in good condition, however the lower reaches were not so healthy, despite having what was considered to be an adequate level of water flow.
In the next few posts, I will transcribe some articles which were published in The Argus newspaper (now The Age) in the late 19th and the 20th centuries and which provide an interesting comparison to the attitudes of conservation and regeneration which are espoused today.

The Barwon River at Queen's Park c1882. This image is held by the State
Library of Victoria from the Fine Art Photographs of Victoria
The first article appeared in The Argus, Thursday, 24th March, 1892:
Complaints have been made regarding the pollution of the Barwon River at South Geelong, a process which has been going on for many years past. The evil effects of it, however have not been manifested to any great extent until lately, when the odours from the stagnant pool have become almost unbearable. In a particular part of the river the water has actually become fouled from decaying organic matter and the steady flow of liquids from tanneries, fellmongeries and wool-scouring premises, and in hot weather the smells arising from the river have been of a most unpleasant nature. The health committee and officers of health of the town have awoke to the existence of the nuisance, and after examinations and analyses they decided today to recommend that prompt steps should be taken to apply a remedy. It is proposed that each factory should provide filter beds for catching the refuse from the factories and running the liquids into charcoal, &c, with the view of preventing a continuance of the nuisance.

Barwon River at Queen's Park, 1937. This image is held by the State
Library of Victoria
The following article appeared in The Argus, Friday, 28th November, 1924:

State Asked to do Work.

Following a conference at Geelong on October 10, at which was discussed a plan for the improvement of the Barwon River, representatives of the City of Geelong, the towns of Geelong West, Newtown, and Chilwell, the shires of Bannockburn, Bellarine, Corio, and South Barwon, the Geelong Harbour Trust commissioners, and the Barwon River Navigation League, who were present at the conference, waited on the Minister for Public Works (Mr. Goudie) yesterday to ask for the removal of a breakwater and the construction of a lock on the Barwon River.
Mr. Richardson, M.L.C., who introduced the deputation, said that the state of the Barwon River had been acause of dissension among the people of Geelong for more than 50 years. As they had been unable to reach an agreement it had been decided to ask the Ministry to settle the matter. It was desired that the breakwater, which hampered the flow of the stream, should be removed; that salt water from the sea should be prevented from going up the river and rendering the water unfit for stock purposes. At the same time the plan would have to make provision for the periodical flushing of the river, as it flowed very slowly. In the lower reaches, near the factory sites, the river became in summer practically a cesspool. The adoption of the plan would enable an area of about 1,750 acres to be reclaimed. Land in the vicinity was worth about £60 an acre.
Mr. Brownbill, M.L.A., supported the request.
M4 Goudie said that the matter had to be regarded from the viewpoint of the Treasury, as the plan would entail the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. The many changes in the Ministry had increased the cost of administration, and he would like to know whether, in the event of the Ministry adopting the plan, the municipalities concerned would be prepared to contribute to the cost of the undertaking. Meanwhile he would send one of the departmental engineers down to inspect and report on the river.

The Barwon River at Queen's Park, c1920-1954. This image is held by
the Victorian State Library
And this is how the same view looks this afternoon on 7th April, 2012:
Queen's Park Bridge 7th April, 2012

In the next post we will step forward to 1949.

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