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Maroochy River is our future

By Dan Sowden

The Maroochy River (the mouth of which is at Maroochydore) and its tributaries, cover about 400 km2 of undulating hills in south-east Queensland. The catchment extends about 22 km inland, with broad, low-lying land and swamps lying along a coastal strip and floodplain area extending 8 km inland of Coolum. A healthy Maroochy River underpins much of Maroochy’s life, work and play. Tourism, fishing, drinking water, wildlife – all depend on a healthy, unpolluted river. We need it and the river needs us. What we do at home, work and play each day ultimately affects our waterways.

The Maroochy River is suffering from over a century of human impacts and pressures increase as the region grows. Maroochy Shire Council and the community are committed to the ongoing task of restoring the river to optimum health. Before widespread clearing, native vegetation held slopes and stream banks, shading waterways and filtering run off. Waterways are now more vulnerable to contamination from erosion, rural runoff and collapsing stream banks. Huge volumes of urban storm water are now channeled from roads, paving, roofing and development sites, funneling a multitude of contaminants into waterways River watchers know that the Maroochy River has experienced over a century of human impacts. The pressures are increasing as the region grows. Sediment and contaminant laden storm water runoff from building sites can cause serious damage, silting the river and suffocating and poisoning river life.

The first European ‘holiday maker’ to arrive in the Maroochydore area was the Irishman John Graham who was taking a break from his convict duties at Moreton Bay. Graham was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing six pounds and a quarter of hemp. He arrived in Sydney in April 1825. In October 1826 he was sentenced to another seven years for petty theft and the following January he was shipped to Moreton Bay. In July, labouring under the delusion that he could row to China, Graham escaped from Moreton Bay. He tried to avoid the Aborigines on the coast who had a fierce reputation. However, he eventually walked into a camp near the present site of Maroochydore and was immediately accepted as the ghost of one woman’s dead husband. She herself died within a year but Graham continued to live with the Aborigines for another six years. In 1833 he returned to Moreton Bay and gave himself up. Three years later he featured prominently in the rescue of Eliza Fraser from Fraser Island. He was given his ticket of leave the following year and nothing is known of his later life. Timber-getters were in the area by the early 1850s and a depot handling timber had been established on the river by 1856. The explorer Andrew Petrie passed through in 1862 and named the Maroochy River. Maroochydore was probably named after the local Aboriginal word ‘marutchi’ meaning ‘black swan’ or ‘marutchi dora’ meaning ‘water where the black swan lives’.

The river mouth, which leisure craft now ply, was once the site of a large timber mill from where the local lumber was shipped to Brisbane by paddle steamer.

The township of Maroochydore came into existence in 1900 but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the area really developed as a major tourist destination. Today there is little of historical interest in the area unless you want to experience the incongruity of passing from a lazy Australian beach culture to a medieval castle. The extension of small peninsulas over the mouth of the Maroochy River ensure calm waters for boating, waterskiing and boat fishing. A boat ramp is located on the southern riverbank, just west of the Sunshine Motorway (adjacent David Low Way), and another is nearby, on Eudlo Creek, in Lions Park (access off Fishermans Rd). A third is situated on the northern bank of the Maroochy River, at the end of Nojoor Rd and a fourth is further north by David Low Bridge, in Muller Park (off David Low Way).

Aboriginal people of the Gubbi Gubbi language group were the first to inhabit the banks of the Maroochy River (derived from Muru-kutchi meaning “red bill”; the name for the black swan). During the 1850’s Europeans settled the area to cut timber, grow crops and graze cattle. Much of the native vegetation protecting the riverbanks and floodplains was cleared and with the loss of vegetation came a loss in river health.


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