Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Taming the Burnett River

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Taming the Burnett River

Article excerpt

Cherie Curtis

OFFICIALS condemned the Burnett River from its earliest days, citing the exposed mouth, abundant shoals and considerable flow of fresh water as deterrents against it being a suitable port for the sparse scattering of pastoral and mining outposts around the region.

The story of the river features prominently in the book Bundaberg and the Four Elements, to be published soon.

In his book, Bundaberg: The Persistent Port, John Kerr writes that shipping was the most economical means of supply to the new stations and the short course upriver made Bundaberg more accessible than Brisbane, Maryborough or Rockhampton.

The Burnett was named after explorer and surveyor James Charles Burnett, who discovered and delineated the course of the river in 1847.

As the Bundaberg township grew, residents wanted "a proper wharf, rather than just a few logs on the bank" and, in 1871, petitioned the Minister for Lands to reserve the river frontage for wharf purposes, Mr Kerr said.

The progress committee was also annoyed that steamers only called on the northern side and petitioned for a south bank wharf -- punting cargo across the river cost half as much as the freight from Brisbane.

But the 1873 floods swept away the wharf and Pringle's punt.

The wharf was restored and wavered against further floods and cyclones until the new strong wharf (where Midtown Marinas now stands) was finished in October 1875, and marked by a three-gun salute on December 17.

Even back then, the silting of the river was a huge problem.

"Early navigation problems were overcome in April 1876 when Arthur Neill marked a new channel to replace the old tortuous passage ... but the grounding of the Lady Young in July 1876 reinforced the need for dredging," Mr Kerr said.

The next 20 years were marked by dredging campaigns, which were quickly negated by multiple floods and storms. …

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