06 June, 2015

An underground current

Beneath the streets of Belmont lies a largely-forgotten waterway, but one which bears a name familiar to all Geelong Residents - Kardinia Creek. The name Kardinia has been suggested as having a couple of different meanings although most agree that it is an indigenous word meaning "sunrise".
This little creek was for many years, an open waterway which ran from the high ground near Ceres, across what are now the suburbs of Wandana Heights and Highton to Belmont, where the creek formed the western border between the latter two suburbs. It discharged into the Barwon on the bend at the place Yollinko Aboriginal Park now stands, catching runoff water from around 1050 hectares of land.
An aerial photo of parts of Belomt and Highton prior to development, with
the course of Kardinia Creek marked by arrows. Image from the Highton
Facebook page courtesy of  Ross Rawson
Prior to the suburban sprawl, Kardinia Creek wound its way through open fields, crossing the Barrabool Hills Road (Barrabool Road) near its confluence with the Barwon. Today, vestiges of the creek's course can be seen in some of the surrounding open space such as the Highton Retarding Basin off Thornhill Road
To the Wathaurong people, it was a source of food and water for over 5,000 years. They would camp near the confluence during winter, a fact attested to by a nearby midden where various artifacts have been found. Its sheltered position provided protection from the elements and was within reach of good hunting grounds on the opposite bank of the Barwon.
When European settlers arrived in the region, they too used the area as a meeting place. Initially, the land formed part of Dr Alexander Thomson's property named "Kardinia", then in 1850 Dr Thomson offered a number of allotments for sale as "Belmont Town". They were located between Roslyn and Mt Pleasant Roads. This fledgling town, took its water from a pump located on the south bank of the Barwon, very near the confluence of Kardinia Creek and the Barwon.
Pump on the Barwon used by the early residents of Belmont with the original
Prince Albert Bridge in the background. A 1938 print of an 1860s negative held by
The State Library of Victoria
Not surprisingly, European arrival had a catastrophic effect on the well being of the Wathaurong. Stock introduced by the settlers damaged the surrounding land, with the loss of root crops - which they relied upon for food - contributing to malnutrition followed by disease.
A modern sign marking the position of the pump
the site of the pump
As the population of Belmont and the surrounding districts increased, infrastructure was needed and in 1852 funds became available to establish a roads board in the region. Then, in 1853 the Barrarbool (sic) Roads District (later the Barrabool District Roads Board then the Shire of Barrabool) was established. Some of the funds at the Board's disposal were allocated for the construction of a bridge on Barrabool Road across Kardinia Creek. Tenders were called for and then in 1854 it was reported by the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer that a substantial bridge had been built across the creek to carry traffic on the road heading to Ceres and beyond. An earlier mention of a bridge over the creek in 1852 being in need of repair suggests that this new bridge was not the first on the site, however I can find no further mention of the earlier structure.
With the completion of the bridge in 1854 - and presumably other works in the district - ongoing funding was required by the Roads Board. In this era, much of that funding was supplied by toll roads so by December, 1855, the Barrabool District Roads Board were calling for tenders for a contractor to operate the Kardinia Creek toll gate on Barrabool Road.
Things changed again in 1861 with the opening of the nearby Prince Albert Bridge which provided competition for the tolled Barwon (aka Kardinia) Bridge on Moorabool Street, which was the only bridge at that time and located some distance away near the end of Barrabool Road. Initially, the Prince Albert Bridge did not have a tollgate, however competition between the shires of South Barwon and Newtown and Chilwell saw the bridge first fenced off, then with a tollgate at either end before the situation was eventually resolved. What impact this had on the Kardinia Creek tollgate, is not clear.
View from the original Prince Albert Bridge looking towards Newtown and what
I suspect is the tollgate (centre) erected by the Newtown and Chilwell Council
There was little mention of the creek after the 1870s until 1910, when plans were discussed in the Geelong Advertiser to repair the "footbridge" over the creek at the same time reforming a part of Robert Street (presumably today's Roberts Road). By 1913 the issue was still being discussed, then in 1915 there were claims (and denials of responsibility) that the "wing walls" of the bridge over Kardinia Creek had been damaged by contractors Jas McCoy and Son.
Nor perhaps was the state of the bridge the only problem with Kardinia Creek at that time. A nostalgic look back at the 1850s in December, 1918 by the Geelong Advertiser declared that tree clearing had significantly reduced rainfall in the area, with the result that the creek, which once flowed continuously now had a much reduced flow.
Regardless of flow levels, the creek was - and still is - integral to the drainage of water from the high ground south of the Barwon, up towards Ceres. Until the 1960s it performed this function as an open creek, however early in that decade, the decision was made to move the creek underground to allow for the expansion of the Highton shopping centre and help deal with flooding. Since then, the creek - whose original course ran along Bellvue Avenue - has flowed underground via a series of main drains, fed by catchment points, eventually discharging into the Barwon at a "trash rack" designed to trap litter, near the original confluence.
Outflow of Kardinia Creek
Whilst this may have been useful at the time, it has proven problematic over the years. The age of the drains, population growth and the lack of adequate surface drainage, means that the catchment area is prone to flooding during periods of heavy rain and many local properties suffer damage and erosion as a result.
The above diagram shows the areas of flooding within the Kardinia Creek catchment area. Image
adapted from the Highton Drainage/Flood Study Draft Final Report, commissioned by the City of
Greater Geelong, Prepared by BMT WBM Pty Ltd
A recent study undertaken on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong to consider means of flood mitigation for the area, reached the conclusion that any of the three proposals considered would be prohibitively expensive and of minimal effectiveness. It was suggested instead that a land buy-back scheme along with initiatives to assist individual property owners to minimise their flood-risk would be more useful.
Time will tell if these measures are successful.


  1. Thanks for the post - Kardinia Creek and the drain beneath Bellevue Avenue have already intrigued me, but not much had ever been written about them.

  2. Fascinated by this blog which is similar to research I am currently conducting on the origins of Yollinko Park. I wonder whether you have any more historic images of the area? Would love to discuss this with you Jo in further detail. Would this be possible please?

    1. Hi! Yes, happy to discuss, but I'm not an expert. Except for the one which is marked otherwise, the historic photos I generally find at The Victorian State Library through Trove. There are a few others of the old Prince's Bridge but no others of the creek which I could find online.
      Love to hear from you!

    2. Cheers Jo, my email address is: j.dearnaley@hotmail.com, maybe best to take it offline. Are you able to email me at this address please? I can fill you in on what I'm researching etc Cheers, Jen