Sportsman’s Creek Weir and the Sportsman’s Creek Drainage Union have a very long history.
Most locals know the weir which was formally opened in 1927. It was a large gathering that attended, including visitors from further afield. Afterwards the crowd shared picnic baskets on the creek bank as they excitedly discussed prospects for the future.
Fewer people know of the Sportsman’s Creek Drainage Union (SCDU), the statutory corporation, established under governing legislation, to build and manage the weir. All private land, or land leased from the Crown, within the gazetted boundaries of the SCDU is subject, under legislation, to levies for the maintenance of the weir and management of the organisation.
There had been proposals to build a weir from at least the early 1900’s. However, in those years the creeks were still used for navigation, moving produce to market. Later other methods of transport were developed and the plan to build a weir in its current location on Sportsman’s Creek, downstream of Woody Creek, was proposed.
Funds to build the weir were raised by local residents and supporters, through the Drainage Union, and by bank loan. The loan was paid off by Union members in following years.
Construction of the weir protected a large area of land from saltwater and also provided a pool of fresh water to sustain small crops and livestock in dry times. Land that has been described as unpleasant, brackish, swampy and dense with mosquitoes, was made profitable.
Potatoes, corn, and pumpkins provided cash crops so important to the development of the valley and to the viability of smallholders. Sugar cane, dairying and beef cattle occupied larger areas. The improved production attracted population, enhanced local business and contributed to a vibrant community.
Today it is primarily sugar cane and beef cattle that are produced upstream of the weir, continuing to contribute to the income that sustains local businesses. For most of the last 94 years the SCDU has maintained the weir by raising levies and voluntary labour. During the years of the Second World War the weir fell into disrepair but in the 1960’s was rebuilt with support from Local Government.
Since then, members of the Union have continued to fund costs and provide volunteer labour to maintain the weir. Through the decades, and several changes in the legislation that governs Drainage Unions, this local organisation is still in existence.
Through the decades the ecology in the creek valley changed also and for many years that was generally regarded as a good thing.
Along with the farming opportunities fish and crab breeding areas upstream were protected and a bass fishery developed. Water birds came in large numbers to feed and breed when the swamps flooded, and then departed again as the water receded. Mangroves pretty much disappeared, and the mosquito population is reputed to have decreased immensely, to the relief of local residents.
However, the weir is now seen by some people as having undesirable impact on the landscape, on the ecology of the creek and also on flora and fauna in the region.
There have been many studies of the creek and the impact of the weir. There have been meetings, and discussions with various government and university representatives regarding possible futures for the weir. Documents and reports have been written including proposals for alterations to gates to allow for fish passage, input to management plans and proposals for actions to support landholders through changes, which may include removal of the weir gates. To date nothing has resulted.
Nothing has resulted except that, in the last decade the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has purchased much of the land within the gazetted boundaries of the SCDU, creating the Everlasting Swamp National Park. That of course has resulted in management changes. Some of these changes are disadvantageous to neighbouring farms and especially onerous is the refusal of NPWS to contribute to costs of the SCDU.
In the face of the changes that have already occurred, and those that the future will bring, it is essential that landholders within the boundaries of the SCDU participate in the election of the board of directors which is currently being prepared.
Election material will shortly be emailed or posted to all members.
Jo Wearing, Chairman SCDU; Mobile 0428 274 951; Email: [email protected]
All landholders within the gazetted boundaries of the Sportman’s Creek Drainage Union are eligible to vote in the upcoming election of directors.
The Preliminary Roll of Members for voting is prepared and will be mailed, or emailed, to members.
Returning Officer is Mr Jim Pryce (JP).
To view the Preliminary Roll of Members, or for any queries regarding the election, please contact The Returning Officer: Email: [email protected]; Phone: 0448 895 489 or SCDU Chairman, Jo Wearing: Email: [email protected]; Phone: 0428 274 951
Authorised: Returning Officer, Jim Pryce, (JP).