Emu Park Protests Sugar Leases
(manually translated from original scan 02 Jan 2012, Andrew Thompson)
This strongly voiced article from The Morning Bulletin, 15 October 1867, calls on the government to establish a township at Emu Park for wealthy Rockhampton holiday-makers, instead of allowing the influential Ross family to extend their landholdings and establish sugar farms there.
It was a turbulent time in the development of what would later become the southern part of the Capricorn Coast, which indeed today, remains a popular seaside tourist town for Central Queenslanders.
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Andrew Thompson, editor | historian
The Morning Bulletin, 15 October 1867
LETTERS received in town by the “Clarence” last week, from Brisbane, state that an application has been made to the SURVEYOR-GENERAL, by Messrs. ROSS, BEDDOME, and PALMER, for the land near their run on the Coast Reserve, for the purposes of sugar cultivation. This is the same spot “selected” by the Rockhampton people as an eligible site for a watering-place; and they have addressed a memorial to Mr. GREGORY to have it surveyed for that object.
The application of Mr. Ross and partners, and the memorial of the inhabitants of Rockhampton, are both now before the Government. The application of the former has not been granted, and it remains now to be seen whether the Government will allow private considerations to influence them to the detriment of the public good. The people of Rockhampton have no desire to interfere causelessly with private enterprise, or wantonly to oppose the operations of capitalists in the vicinity of the town, but they would overlook their own best interests if they allowed the only suitable locality for a watering-place to be snatched up by any capitalist, even for so valuable an industry as sugar growing.
Emu Park is within two or three hours of Rockhampton, and will provide a welcome retreat for its sun-baked citizens. Any one who has been on the beach there and caught the breeze coming in from the open Pacific, would scout the idea of going to Gladstone to enjoy the sea.
The place seems made for bathing. There are jutting headlands with rocky terraces to the water’s edge, with a spacious cove bounded by a splendid beach. Now, are the Government prepared to cut off the inhabitants of Rockhampton from access to the sea at the only available spot?
This they must do if they permit a lease of the land applied for by Mr. Ross and his partners. We have no doubt that the Government will see the inexpediency of granting the application. Priority of application does not decide the question. The Government, according to the Coffee and Sugar regulations published in the Gazette of 3rd October, 1864, reserves the power of refusing to lease the lands applied for, on public reasons, if deemed advisable.
The memorialists have advanced “public reasons” of the strongest kind, and we cannot bring ourselves to think that the Government will be insensible to their force or refuse to accede to the very reasonable request made by the inhabitants of Rockhampton.
It must be remembered that if this land is leased now, it will probably be lost for ever to the people of Rockhampton, for the lessee will have a pre-emptive right during the three years’ lease, of purchasing at £1 per acre, if he can prove he has planted one twentieth of the land with sugar or coffee. And if he should not purchase, during the three years, he has the right of renewal for eight years, at two shillings and sixpence per acre. Is it likely that the land will not be purchased by the lessees during these eleven years.
When this town has increased to double its size, as it probably will, the importance of having a bathing place on the coast within easy distance of town, will be more evident than it is at present. Now is the time to secure it; and the memorialists should put themselves in communication at once with our member, and request him to bring the matter, if necessary, under the notice of the Government, we have no great faith in the department of the SURVEYOR-GENERAL, and know how the wires are pulled in that office.
Apart altogether from considerations of the advantages conferred by such a fine watering-place on the inhabitants of Rockhampton, the Government would be very blind to their own duty if they leased this land now for a few pounds a-year when they could by proclaiming a town-ship, with suburban and country allotments, realise thousands.
There are many in Rockhampton who would invest largely there, both in town and country allotments.