23°S 149°E Mackenzie River – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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Degree confluence 23°S 149°E, Google Earth

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Looking west

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Looking south

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Looking east

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Looking north

This intersection is located on 'Merion', a property on the north-east side of the Fitzroy Development Road about 3 km north of the Mackenzie River Bridge in the Isaac Region Council area. The Development Road connects the Capricorn Highway at Dingo to the Peak Downs Highway near Mt Flora in the north. The Mackenzie River, a tributary of the Fitzroy River, is about 75 km north of Dingo.

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Mackenzie River School

The nearest town, Middlemount about 40 km to the north-west, is a mining town established in the 1980's to house workers of the German Creek coal mine. The Mackenzie River State School which serves the Brigalow agricultural area is about 7km north-west of the point (see the school's web site at www.mackrivess.eq.edu.au).

Location: The site is to be found on gentle sloping pasture land just south of a minor watercourse. The original vegetation has been cleared and Buffel Grass pasture established as part of the 'Brigalow Lands' development. The pasture is well managed and this is reflected in the excellent condition of the cattle.

The Landscape: The site is located at about 100m above sea level on gently sloping land below remnants of the old Tertiary land surface. These features are evident by nearby mesas and tablelands on the property and in the district to the north-west. Geologic erosion of the old land surface has provided the alluvium of the plains along the Mackenzie River.

Aerial imagery shows soil variation along the lines of the underlying strata of sandstone, siltstone, claystone and shale. Generally the soils alternate between cracking clays and brown texture contrast soils. The underlying geology is the Blackwater Group of Permian age (298 to 251 million years) sediments.

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Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) pasture is now established to replace the original Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) open-forest. Remnants of the old vegetation are recognized in occasional Yellow wood (Terminalia oblongata) and False Sandalwood (Eremophila mitchellii) still surviving in district pastures. Invasions of Harrisia cactus (Eriocereus martinii) were noticeable along the road verges. At the time spent on site no native fauna were observed.The well managed Buffel Grass pasture were reflected in the condition of the cattle noticed at the nearby dam.

Within the Degree Square

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The Country: The Mackenzie River and its tributaries are the main drainage features within the square. The Mackenzie is one of the major northern tributaries of the Fitzroy River. Elevations range from around 600m above sea level in the Broadsound Range in the north-east corner of the square, to around 50m along the Mackenzie River floodplain in the south-east. Landscapes vary from steep hilly country in the mountain ranges to low undulating ground in the floodplains.

 The oldest rocks in the square are the Devonian-Carboniferous age (410 to 298 million years) Connors Volcanics of the Broadsound Range. The main coal seams, known as the Blackwater Group, are of Permian origin (298 to 251 million years). They run diagonally from the south-east to the north-west of the square. The bulk of the area is of much more recent origin and is composed predominantly of sediments.

The original vegetation of the area was dominated by Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) woodland.

The Climate: The area has a typical sub-tropical and sub-humid climate that has wet and hot, dry and cool seasons with a high degree of variability. The climate is greatly influenced by the trade wind belt. Annual rainfall at Mackenzie has a mean of about 600 mm and is received mostly between November and February. The nearest climate station is the former Emerald Post Office site about 100km to the south-west.

Emerald Post Office (site 035027) 1882-1992

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

34.2

33.2

32.0

29.4

25.7

22.7

22.4

24.8

28.3

31.6

33.7

37.8

29.4

Mean min
(ºC)

21.4

21.0

19.4

15.7

11.5

8.4

6.9

8.1

11.8

16.0

18.9

20.7

15.0

Mean rain
(mm)

103.4

99.7

69.3

35.9

35.2

33.9

28.8

20.7

23.5

39.2

58.8

91.0

640.1

Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

The highest temperature recorded was 46.2°C in December 1919, and the lowest was -5.6°C in July 1899. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1 407.2 mm in 1956, and the least was 205.6 mm in 1919. These and other climate statistics for Emerald can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_038000_All.shtml, or newer statistics since the Post Office site closed can be found from the Emerald Airport site, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_035264_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: Given the area's tropical location, it is very much subject to the impact of cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 31 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence since 1906, 6 of which passed within 50 km (all unnamed TCs, in 1908, 1917, 1940, 1946, 1949, and 1959). These cyclones bring with them potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall. Cyclone information for this area and all of Australia can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi.

Extreme heat is also a potential danger. Records show that Emerald experiences 62 days annually with temperatures over 35°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.

The Indigenous Story: The Gabalbara tribal group occupied the area to the north of the Mackenzie River and the Gangulu group to the south.

European Exploration and Settlement: In 1961 it was identified that Queensland had a resource of land that could be developed into improved pastures and even for cropping. The Payne Report for the Land Settlement Advisory Commission in 1959 concluded that there was a resource of about 60,000 sq km of Brigalow scrub that could be developed.

While some southern Brigalow areas had been converted to pasture in the 1950's, it was in the Fitzroy Basin (Brigalow) Land Development Scheme that saw major change in the central and northern shires. Landholders when allotted their blocks of Brigalow land were required, under the terms of the lease to clear and develop a specified portion of land within a time frame. Initially the land was used for improved pasture but more recently it is used for cropping.

Today

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 2675, with 1907 of that total living in Middlemount.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

2589

2554

2529

2675

Total males

1414

1476

1409

1490

Total females

1175

1078

1120

1185

Under 5 years

249

231

267

302

65 years and over

33

59

39

78

Indigenous

28

28

43

76


The vast area north and west of the Mackenzie and Isaac rivers and out to the Peak Range has seen a major change in recent decades. The development of the Bowen Basin coal fields in the north-west required the provision of railway to transport coal out to the seaboard near Mackay also provided a transport means for prospective grain-growers. A grain handling facility was built at Dysart in 1980 and within 6 years 12,000 tonnes of grain grown on newly cleared and cultivated land was railed from the siding. The western boundary of the Degree Square coincides approximately with the location of minable coal and many mines now exist down this boundary. From Saraji mine in the north there are now Norwich Park, German Creek, Foxleigh, Oaky Creek, and Gregory mines all established in the last 40 years. Although Middlemount, with a population of 2041 in 2006 is the only dormitory town within the degree square, Dysart, Tieri, Blackwater, Emerald, Capella, Clermont, Moranbah and Coppabella have been established or greatly expanded to meet the mining industry's demands.

The change over the last 50 years in this area has been enormous - a massive population increase, provision of electricity, sealed roads, water reticulation from the Mackenzie River to northern mining areas, electrified rail to the seaboard at Mackay and Gladstone.

The small Junee National Park is in the north of the degree square to the east of Middlemount.

Location

8 km north of the Mackenzie River

Nearest town

Middlemount

Access

900m NE of the Fitzroy Development Road

Terrain

Flat to low undulating country

Geology & soils

Permian sediments with cracking clays

Vegetation

Pasture land replacing the original Brigalow woodland

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Sun-tropical with a marked dry winter

Population in degree square

2529 in 2006

Complier: Ray Kelly 2008. Photos Ray Kelly.

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

References to come