AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located to the west of the Carnarvon Highway which links Roma with St George. The point is on a property known as "Montclova" and is 52 km south-south-east of Roma and 20 km north-north-west of the town of Surat which is the closest town to the point. With guidance from the Flower family at Garrabarra it was possible to drive to the point, with an accuracy of +/- 3 metres. The land around the degree point has been held in the same family for the past five generations. The point lies with the Maranoa Regional Council area.
The Landscape: The landform pattern is of low relief and the point has an elevation of 319 metres. The surface geology at the point is sandstone of Cainozoic age (less than 66 million years). The main watercourse near the point is the non-perennial Bungil Creek which joins the Balonne River 23 km to the south. There are numerous small dry lagoons scattered around the point location.
Much of the vegetation around the point has been cleared for grazing however to the south of the point there were some open woodlands containing some Ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra), Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and Cypress Pine (Callitris glaucophylla). Fauna in the area included parrots, magpies, crows, kookaburras and emus. Red and Grey Kangaroos were also sighted. The land is currently used for the raising of cattle.
Point information and photos: Keith Hall 23 September 2008.
WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The general landform in the degree square has an average elevation of 300 m and slopes gradually from north to south towards the Balonne River which is the area's major river. It forms part of the Murray-Darling catchment. The fall of the land towards the river is <1 m per km. The dominant geology across the square is sedimentary, with sandstone of the Griman Creek Formation of Early to Late Cretaceous age (around 100 million years) across the south-east and mudstone and siltstone of the Wallumbilla Formation of Early Cretaceous age (120 to 100 million years) across the north-west. Sand plain and sandstone of Cainozoic age form a band running diagonally across the square which separates these two older zones. Alluvial material of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years) is found in the floodplains of the Balonne River and Bungil Creek.
The area forms part of the Surat Basin which in turn is part of the Great Artesian Basin. The area contains coal and natural gas. There are producing gas fields in the area.
Flock of Galahs at Roma (KG, 2005)
For the most part the native vegetation has been cleared for grazing. The remnants are similar to that at the confluence point. The densest vegetation exists in the riparian zones of the Bungil Creek and Balonne River. In those area River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) and Coolibah (E. coolabah) are the largest trees.
The native fauna across the square is similar to that seen at the confluence point. Land use is dominated by cattle grazing and fodder crops. Exploration and exploitation of natural gas is also significant.
The Climate: The climate of the square is classified as being hot persistently dry grassland. Climatic averages for the Bureau of Meteorology's weather station at Surat are representative of the area. Surat is also the closest weather station to the confluence, and lies 20 km north, with an elevation of 246 m.
The highest temperature recorded was 44.0°C in January 1980 and December 1981, and the lowest was -5.9°C in May 1987. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1 278.9 mm in 1980, and the lowest was 166.5 mm in 1915. These and other climate statistics for Surat can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_043035_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: Since 1906 a total of 12 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the confluence point, however, none has come no within 50 km of the point. TC Wanda reached to within 100 km of the point in January 1974. Cyclones that penetrate to this area typically bring very heavy and wide-spread rain. Destructive winds generally not a major concern. 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.
Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
Major floods in the Balonne at Surat are quite frequent - there have been 32 such floods since around 1920. The worst flooding occurred in 1942, 1950, 1956, 1975, 1976, 1983 (twice), 1988 and 1996. Major floods generally only occur in the first half of the year although records indicate that they may also occur in late spring. These floods can spread across a wide area though their depth and velocities are typically relatively. They can lead to stock and fencing losses and properties can be isolated for more than a week due to flooded roads.
The area experiences, on average, between 15 and 20 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and lightning. Some thunderstorms may trigger tornadoes with extremely destructive winds across a narrow band. Storms in the dry winter period can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.
Bushfires can pose a very significant threat to property and agricultural land. In the late autumn and early summer bushfires can be especially dangerous given that fuels such as grass and forest litter is well cured and strong dry westerly to north-westerly winds are common.
The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Surat having an average, over 45 years of records, of 50 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C and 4 days with over 40°C. The hottest months are December to February, all of which experience on average over 10 days with 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 two earthquake epicentres within the degree square. The strongest was a ML 3.6 event of 28 September 1991 located 44 km south-east of Surat. The other event had a magnitude of only ML 1.6 and was located about 5 km south of Yuleba. No damage was reported from either event.
The Indigenous Story: The tribal group in this area is the Mandandarji group centred around the Balonne River. Little is known or recorded about this group.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The Surat district was first mapped by Thomas Mitchell in 1846. His deputy, Edmund Kennedy, followed up with another survey through the area in 1848. By the end of the 1840s pastoralists had penetrated the area, and in 1849 Mitchell directed a surveyor, Burrowes, to select a township site on the Balonne River. Burrowes did so and named it Surat, after his former place of residence in Madras Province, India.
Surat was appointed as a place for holding Courts of Petty Sessions, and a Police building was erected. A hotel was opened in 1859 and there were seven buildings in the town by 1863. In 1872 Surat's population was 108, and the district was mostly occupied by grazing (119 000 sheep and 21 000 cattle). A school was opened in 1874. Surat had been the administrative centre of the Maranoa District until St. George superseded it in 1865. In 1879 a Cobb and Co. coach run was started from St. George to Surat and thence to Yuleba. The last coach run in Australia was from Surat to Yuleba (75 km), on 14 August, 1924.
On 7 May 1846 Mitchell reached Mount Abundance, 8 km west of the location of Roma, which he named it because he was impressed by the richness of the region. In his book Tropical Australia (1848) he recalled his first impression of the area.
"I ascended an elevated north-eastern extremity of Mount Abundance, and from it beheld the finest country I had ever seen in a primeval state - a Champaign region, spotted with wood, stretching as far as human vision or even the telescope could reach."
Historic drilling rigs at Roma's Big Rig museum (KG, 2005)
In 1848 Allan Macpherson reached the region and laid claim to about 400 000 acres (162 000 hectares) of land which he called Mt Abundance Station. Here Macpherson built a simple wooden hut. On 4 April 1848 he was visited by Ludwig Leichhardt who was attempting to cross Australia from east to west. Leichhardt wrote his last letter in Macpherson's hut.
The first sign of a township occurred in 1861 when a couple of crude public houses were built near to the Mount Abundance homestead. The owner at the time, Stephen Spencer, objected to this change in land use finally agreeing with a Government surveyor that a town could be laid out at a place known as Reid's Crossing. The town was gazetted in 1862 and it had three hotels before any homes were built. The new town, or rather the three pubs, was named Roma after Lady Roma Bowen, the wife of the Queensland Governor of the time. Before her marriage she had been known as Countess Diamantina Georgina Roma. The locals resisted the change and continued to call the settlement either The Bungil or Reid's Crossing.
Roma has the distinction of being the first town gazetted in the new colony of Queensland. It grew quite quickly once the area had been surveyed and by 1863 it had its own court of petty sessions, police station, doctor, chemist, and postmaster. It was proclaimed a municipality in 1867. The railway reached the town in 1880 and the census a year later revealed that the town had grown to a point where it had a population of 1838. Natural gas was first discovered in Australia at Roma in 1899 and the town had the first natural gas-fired power station, commissioned in 1961.
The smaller settlements such as Wallumbilla and Yuleba grew from Cobb and Co. staging posts and later railway towns to service their surrounding grazing properties.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 8577.
Of this total 6306 were living in Roma. Surat had a population of 426; Wallumbilla had 262 residents and Yuleba had 212. The remainder were scattered over the rest of the square on rural properties and gas exploration or production camps.
Roma sits on the west bank of Bungil Creek. It is the main commercial and administrative centre much of the central west including the Surat Basin. The town provides a wide range of commercial and public services including a hospital and several schools as well as being a transport node and selling centre for the district's cattle industry. It has an all-weather airstrip and is linked to Brisbane by the Warrego Highway and by rail. The pipeline which carries natural gas to the coast also follows the Warrego Highway.
A feature of the Roma streetscape are the many large Bottle Trees (Brachychiton rupestris), some of which are huge! An avenue of Bottle Trees has been established as a living memorial to those people from the area who died during the two world wars.
Roma (Google Earth image)
Surat is located between the Balonne River and Jones Creek and sits at the centre of several production fields of natural gas and extensive exploration permit areas. It offers a limited range of commercial and public services. The town has an all-weather airstrip and is linked to Roma, to the north, and St George, to the south, via the Carnarvon Highway.
Surat (Google Earth image)
Cattle grazing remains the principal form of land use across the square with some cropping. The area is serviced by an extensive network of both public and station roads.
The square is contained within Maranoa region Council's area, the headquarters of which are in Roma. There are no national parks within the square.
Compilers: Keith Hall, with additional material by Ken Granger, 2009
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.