23°S 150°E Marlborough – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

 

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Confluence point location (Google Earth image)

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Looking west

Location: The confluence is located virtually in the centre of the Princhester Conservation Park. The Park itself occupies the Eastern slopes of the Princhester Range and adjoins the Western Boundary of Glenavon Cattle Station. The park is unfenced but lack of water within the park, combined with difficult surface terrain, and plentiful water in Princhester Creek serves to keep the cattle out. 

To the east of the reserve, Princhester Creek runs in a southerly direction into the Fitzroy River; Just to the east of the Princhester Creek is Atkinson's Road, which used to be a Cobb and Co road in the 1800's. The geographic significance of this is that it demonstrates that there is permanent water in the Princhester Creek. The old coach roads always followed waterholes. The area was drought affected during the visit yet waterholes were plentiful.

The area forms the catchment for the Fitzroy River wetlands.

 

The Landscape: The confluence is located about half way up the side of the Princhester Range, a steep sided range with a narrow crest. The Princhester Range consists of a largely metamorphic rock known as Princhester Serpentinite. It was formed during the Neoproterozoic age (1000 to 650 million years). A close up photo of a rock at the confluence shows the distinct green banding associated with serpentinite.

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Princhester serpentine (Frank Birchall, 2009)

Vegetation around the site is overwhelmingly Spinifex grass. The Princhester Conservation Park is  one of the locations of Pimelea leptospermoides, which is listed as vulnerable. The red flowered Kurrajong Brachychiton bidwilli  is present, as well as are well developed native grass trees Xanthorrhoea sp.

 

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Pimelea leptospermoides (Frank Birchall, 2009)

Brachychiton bidwilli (Frank Birchall, 2009)

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Xanthorrhoea sp (Frank Birchall, 2009)

 

Mr John McCabe, Senior nature refuge officer with the Department of Environment and Resource Management in Rockhampton advises in regard to Princhester Range:-

 " there are two cycads present in the area. Cycas ophiolitica, also known as the Marlborough occurs only in the Marlborough serpentinite areas and around Rockhampton/Yeppoon.  Macrozamia serpentina is a dwarfish form of the more common species along the ranges. Leucopogon cuspidatus should be there as a 1-2 metre shrub with small heath flowers and prickle points to the leaves, both CQ serpentinite endemics. Stackhousia is unusual in that it can store up to 1% nickel in its leaves."   

No native fauna were observed within the Park. To the east of the park, Glenavon is a working cattle station running Brahman derivatives. Glenavon is only lightly cleared with significant regrowth.  There is significant Open Ironbark Forest, some woodlands and some paddocks have been "pulled" (cleared). There is some dense wattle growth within the native ironbark.

The property is drought affected but the plentiful long grass currently gives little sustenance. The owner supplements the cattle feed with a molasses and (minor) urea mixture. Despite the drought it is obvious that the current owners are expert and are implementing good land management practices.

Point information and photos: Frank Birchall, 2009

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: With the notable exception of the Berseker Range and those parts of the Great Dividing Range, almost all the balance of land is alluvial plains which developed over the past 2 million years.

Within the degree square significant mineral deposits occur. The large magnetite deposits east of Yamba actually overlay large shale oil deposits. At Canoona in 1858 Queensland's first gold rush occurred with about 1 tonne of gold recovered. For further reading see "Rocks and Landscape Notes, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton to Mackay", by Kyle Way, of the Geological Society.

The vast alluvial plains of the Fitzroy River basin have contributed to the immense wealth generated by the cattle industry. It is reported that the Fitzroy River basin is the second largest in Australia, second only to the Murray-Darling Basin.


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The Climate: The climate of the area is classified as being subtropical with a moderately dry winter. The Bureau of meteorology climate station at Rockhampton Airport provides representative statistics.

Rockhampton Airport (039083) 1939 to 2009 (elevation 10 m ASL)

 

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

YEAR

Mean max (0C)

31.9

31.3

30.5

28.8

26.0

23.5

23.1

24.7

27.3

29.6

31.2

32.1

28.3

Mean min (0C)

22.1

22.1

20.8

17.8

14.2

10.9

9.5

10.6

13.6

17.0

19.5

21.2

16.6

Mean rain (mm)

127.6

143.0

95.5

44.4

47.6

38.6

29.2

27.2

23.1

50.2

69.8

101.4

795.5

The highest temperature ever recorded in Rockhampton was 45.3oC in November 1990 while the lowest temperature was -1.0oC in June 1949. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1631.0 mm was recorded in 1973 and the lowest total of 360.0 mm in 2002.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of tropical cyclones on a regular basis. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 37 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the point in the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7. Of these two passed within 50 km of the point. They were: an unnamed cyclone in January 1943; an unnamed cyclone in March 1949. All of these storms bring destructive winds and intense rainfall that can produce wide-spread flooding.

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

The Fitzroy River is Australia's second largest catchment after the Murray-Darling and it has a long history of flooding. At Rockhampton the well documented history of flooding with flood records dates back to 1859. The highest recorded flood occurred in January 1918 and reached 10.11 metres on the Rockhampton gauge. The floods of January 1991 were very destructive and isolated Rockhampton by road, rail and air for several days. It reached 9.3 on the gauge. This flood was significant in that heavy rain fell across both rhe northern parts of the catchment and the southern parts of the catchment at the same time and the flood peaks from both directions coincided in the river just above Rockhampton. The most recent flood for the Fitzroy River was in 2008 and reached 7.50 metres on the Rockhampton gauge.

The area experiences around 20 to 25 thunder days each year. Such storms can bring intense rainfall leading to flash flooding. They can also bring strong winds and lightning strikes. Lightning can start bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain a fire.

Bushfires in the rural areas and in the Shoalwater Bay area can be difficult to control but are unlikely to do significant damage. Stock and fencing losses are likely.

The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Rockhampton having an average of 18 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or 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 National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains one earthquake epicentres within the degree square, a ML 2.6 event located on the eastern edge of the Goodedulla National Park in November 1991. No damage was reported from this small quake.

The Indigenous Story: The Darumbal people have occupied the area of the degree square, their wanderings are reported to have ranged from Gladstone in the south to the Shoalwater area in the north. They are currently active in local issues including health, employment and opposition to military exercises in the Shoalwater bay area. Their Dreamtime Cultural Experience is located on the Bruce Highway north of Rockhampton.

European Exploration and Settlement: The Archer brothers settled near Gracemere on August 1855.The short lived Canoona gold rush, 60km north of Rockhampton in 1857 quickly populated Rockhampton which was proclaimed in 1858. Early settlers were, by and large, separationists and even to-day people in and around Rockhampton may be identified as particularly independent.

In the last 50 years, the development of the Bowen Basin has had the most significant affect on the population. No comment on social change in Rockhampton could be complete without a passing reference to Rex Pilbeam, Mayor of Rockhampton from 1952 to 1982. He was regarded by his supporters as a ‘benign despot', stronger terms were used by his detractors. What cannot be denied is his contribution to the transformation of Rockhampton from a hot dusty, town to a vibrant city with a water supply and no water restrictions even in the droughts.

Today: 

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 24,606.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

22,568

20,470

21,470

24,606

Total males

11,119

9540

10,811

12,262

Total females

11,449

10,594

10,659

12,344

Under 5 years

1669

1471

1323

1735

65 years and over

3075

2562

2900

3240

Indigenous

682

815

1045

1228

The population of Rockhampton that falls within the degree square was 9709 at the 2011 census. Gracemere, to the west of the city had a population of 7995.

Rockhampton provides a wide range of wholesale and retail outlets and has high order services including manufacturing, hospitals, the University of Central Queensland and other educational facilities. Most of these are located in the adjoining degree square (23oS 151oE). Gracemere is probably the largest cattle selling centre in Queensland, if not Australia.

The wealth of coal mining taking place in the Bowen basin to the West of the Degree Square has swollen population and added upward price pressures to housing in Rockhampton and indeed to cattle property; very well paid miners rent Company housing in the mining towns and invest a significant portion of their earnings in and around Rockhampton.

Cattle grazing is the most extensive form of land use in the square.

The most significant infrastructure in the square is the Stanwell Power Station. It now generates all the power required for the Rockhampton area. There are 4300 km of public roads within the square including the Bruce and Capricorn Highways. The main northern railway parallels the Bruce Highway and the coal railways linking the Bowen basin fields with the port facilities at Gladstone parallel the Capricorn Highway.

There are seven national and conservation parks within the degree square with a combined area of 492,700 ha. They are: Bukkulla Conservation Park, Goodedulla National Park, Long Island Bend Conservation Park, Mount Etna Caves National Park, Mount O'Connell National Park, North Pointer Conservation Park, Princhester Conservation Park and Tooloombah Creek Conservation Park. The largest area of public land within the square is the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. The Rockhampton Regional Council occupies the bulk of the square. There is a small section of the Isaac Regional Council in the north-west corner and a section of the Central Highlands Regional Council in the south-west corner and a very small sliver of Woorabinda Shire also in the south-west.

Site Summary:

Location

In the Princhester Conservation Park

Nearest settlement

Marlborough is 24 km to the north

Access

By vehicle along Atkins Road the on foot

Terrain

Steep ridge side

Catchment

Princhester Creek which flows to the Fitzroy River

Geology & soils

Princhester serpentine of Neoproterozoic age

Vegetation

Open grassland with Xanthorrhoea, and wattle saplings 

Land use

Conservation; cattle gazing near by

Climate

Subtropical with a dry winter

Population in degree square

21,470 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Stanwell Power Station, 4300 km of public roads, main line railways

National Parks

8 conservation and national parks, largest is Goodedulla NP

Compilers: Frank Birchall, 2009 with additional material by Ken Granger, 2010

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

References: various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.