27°S 152°E Blackbutt Range – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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Degree confluence 27°S 152°E, Google Earth

site

n

Looking north

e

Looking east

s

Looking south

w

Looking west

 

Location: This confluence point is located on private land on the eastern fall of the Blackbutt Range, an offshoot of the Great Dividing Range, about 16 km east of Cooyar. It is located about 600 m south-east of Mt Binga Road, some 900 m north of its junction with Blackbutt Range Road in a steep gully that is heavily infested with Lantana (Lantana camara). The point was not reached because of the dense Lantana. The photos were taken from a point on the edge of an overgrown fire break about 400 m north-west of the point and 200 m from Mt Binga Road. The point falls within the Toowoomba Regional Council area.

The Landscape: The site is on the moderately dissected eastern slope of the Blackbutt Range at an elevation of around 550 m ASL. The area drains to Emu Creek, a major tributary of the Brisbane River. Steep-sided gullies are common on these slopes, though the crest of the Range is broadly undulating. The underlying geology is slate and schist of Devonian age (410 to 354 million years), though on the crest of the range, where the photos were taken, the geology is lateritic duricrust of Cainozoic age (less than 65 million years) which gives rise to a red gravelly clay soil.

 

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Lateritic soil near the point (KG, 2009)

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Abandoned farm near the point (KG, 2009)

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27oS 152oE point location Close up (Google Earth image)

Vegetation is a heavily disturbed, and possibly logged-over, mid-height eucalypt forest with a dense shrub layer of wattles and other species. Parts of the area have become heavily infested with Lantana and other weeds. The main eucalypts noted were various ironbark, and bloodwood species as well as forest red gum. Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) is common in the cleared areas.

Fauna seen around the point included red necked wallaby, goannas and several species of bird including Dollarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Galah and Magpie.

Land use at the point appears to be minimal though there are orchards of macadamia and other tree crops within 1000 m of the point. An abandoned farm house and yards is also nearby. The Booga State Forest is located immediately to the north and the Mt Binga National Park is located just to the west and south-west.

Point information and photos: Ken Granger, October 2009 and Audrey Johnston.

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: There are four major landscape elements in this square: the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, the rolling downlands, the upper catchment of the Brisbane River and the creeks that form part of the catchment of the Condamine River.

The Great Dividing Range reaches its highest level within this square in the Bunya Mountains where Mt Kiangarow has an elevation of 1146 m ASL. The range is predominantly basalt of Late Oligocene age (34 to 24 million years). These volcanic rocks have been eroded into steep sided hills with deeply entrenched streams producing a rugged landscape. South of Crows Nest the range trends north-south and is composed of sandstone with coal beds of Triassic age (251 to 205 million years) and fine-grained sandstone of Pliensbachian age (around 180 million years). The eastern edge of the Range in this area is marked by a steep escarpment, as much as 500 m high in places. This escarpment extends well to the south of Toowoomba.

Within the Bunya Mountain National Park section of the range the hills retain a cover of subtropical rainforest, including the largest remaining area of Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwillii). The Bunya Pines tower over tall, moist rainforest along the range crest, while Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii) dominate dry rainforest on lower slopes. The National Park also protects open eucalypt forests, woodlands, brigalow scrubs and the largest protected areas of vine thickets dominated by Bottle Trees (Brachychiton sp) in Australia.

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The area is home to about 120 species of birds and many species of mammals, frogs and reptiles. Several rare and threatened animals live here including sooty owls, powerful owls, paradise riflebird and the black-breasted button quail.  Outside the Bunya Mountain National Park the remnant vegetation is mostly mid height forest or woodlands dominated by eucalypts, though much of the range has been cleared for grazing.

The landscape extending from the foothills of the Great Dividing Range out onto the downlands in the north around Kingaroy or to the south towards Jondaryan is mostly rolling hills with a relatively low relief. The underlying geology in the north is a mixture of Late Triassic sedimentary rocks (230 to 205 million years) such as the sandstone and coal measures of the Tarong beds, Late Permian granite (270 to 251 million years) and Quaternary regolith (less than 1.6 million years. The coal measures of the Tarong beds are mined at Meandu to serve the Tarong Power Station and bauxite deposits in the area are also being investigated for exploitation. To the south-west of the Range there are significant areas of Pliensbachian age sandstone (around 180 million years) and Quaternary alluvium.

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Bauxite gravel near the Meandu mine (KG, 2009)

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Profile of the Meandu mine open cut pit (KG, 2009)

Much of the original vegetation on the downs and foothills has been removed or greatly thinned to make way for grazing and more intensive agriculture. Remnant vegetation consists mainly of low or medium height woodland of eucalypts and, in some areas, Bottle Trees and Cypress. In some of the more protected gullies, especially where spring-fed streams exist, such as in the Palms National Park near Cooyar, there are patches of rainforest dominated by Bangalow Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) and canopy trees such as Black Bean (Casnospermum australe). 

There are plantations of Hoop Pine around Benarkin, Blackbutt and Yarraman. There are also remnants of the vast thickets of the exotic Prickly Pear that severely infested much of this landscape until brought under control by the introduced beetle Cactoblastis cactorum in 1925.

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Vine thicket near Ravenbourne (KG, 2009)

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Ironbark woodland near Maclagan (KG, 2009)

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Bangalow Palm grove (KG, 2009)

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Rainforest tree The Palms National Park (KG, 2009)

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Hoop Pine plantation at Yarraman (KG, 2009)

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Prickly Pear grove near Maclagan  (KG, 2009

The fauna of the downs and foothills is quite rich. A group of birdwatchers from the U3A group on the sunshine coast in October 2009, for example recorded over 160 species of birds within 50 km of Crows Nest over a period of three days. They included Emu, Brown-headed and Striped Honeyeaters, King Parrot, Glossy Ibis, Satin Bowerbird, and Grey Goshawk. Mammals sighted included Koala, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and, at The Palms National Park, a large colony of Flying Fox. Reptiles seen included Bearded Dragons and Eastern Brown Snake.

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Emu near Crows nest (KG, 2009)

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King Parrot near Cooyar (KG, 2009)

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Flying Fox colony The Palms NP  (KG, 2009)

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Bearded Dragon at Muntapa Tunnel (KG, 2009)

The upper catchment of the Brisbane River within the square includes its western tributaries such as Cooyar Creek, Emu Creek and Cressbrook Creek. These flow from the Great Dividing Range through deeply entrenched gullies, some with small waterfalls.  The Brisbane River itself is also well entrenched in this section of its course. The geology of the upper Brisbane River area is made up of Devonian age (410 to 354 million years) mudstone (along the western side) and volcanic conglomerate of Triassic age (251 to 205 million years) along the eastern side.

Several of the creeks, such as Cressbrook Creek have been dammed to provide water supply for urban areas such as Toowoomba (just south of this square). The upper reaches of Wivenhoe Dam, the major water storage for Brisbane, also extends into this square near Esk.

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Upper reaches of Emu Creek (KG, 2009)

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Cressbrook Dam (KG, 2009)

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Cressbrook Falls

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Vegetation at Crows Nest

Much of the natural vegetation has been removed to make way for grazing and, on the alluvial flats, cropping.

On the western side of the Great Dividing Range the drainage flows to the Condamine River, part of the Murray-Darling Basin. The tributaries of the Condamine in this square include Myall Creek, Lagoon Creek and Oakey Creek. The country through which they flow is generally low lying to moderately undulating and composed of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years) alluvial sediment. This area has also beeN largely cleared of its original vegetation for grazing and more recently for cropping.

The Climate: The area has a climate that is classified as subtropical with a distinctly dry winter. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Nanango in the north of the square provides representative statistics.

Nanango Wills Street (040158); 1882 to 2009; elevation 375m ASL

 

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

YEAR

Mean max (0C)

30.4

29.0

27.9

25.5

22.2

19.6

19.3

21.0

23.8

26.8

29.1

30.1

25.4

Mean min (0C)

17.3

17.2

15.4

11.0

6.9

3.8

2.7

3.2

6.5

10.7

14.0

16.1

10.4

Mean rain (mm)

107.9

102.8

81.2

47.8

43.4

42.0

41.2

32.2

39.2

65.3

76.0

103.3

782.4

The highest temperature ever recorded in Nanango was 40.0oC in January 1980 while the lowest temperature was -6.7oC in July 1968. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1347.9 mm was recorded in 1890 and the lowest total of 409.4 mm in 1919.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. In the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7 there were 23 cyclones that passed to within 200 km of the confluence point. Of these, only two cyclones, TC Emily in March 1972 and TC Wanda of January 1975 passed within 50 km. Each cyclone that approaches to within 200 km brings potentially destructive winds and torrential rains.

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Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

Major floods occur regularly in the Brisbane River and its tributaries such as Emu Creek, as well as the creeks flowing to the Condamine River. Between 1887 and 2005 there have been 12 major floods in the Brisbane River. The worst flooding occurred in 1893 as the result of extremely heavy rain over the Stanley River catchment around Peachester, just to the east of this square. That episode, which produced 923 mm in 24 hours, remains the Australian 24 hour record rainfall. There have also been nine major floods in Myall Creek (at Dalby) since 1908. Major floods generally only occur in the first half of the year although records indicate that they may also occur in late spring.

The area experiences, on average, around 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.

Destructive tornados and hail storms have been recorded in this square on several occasions. In October 1937, for example, a hail storm left hail 25 cm deep at Esk and in December of the same year hail destroyed crops and damaged property across much of the square. In February 1959 two shops and a house were unroofed by strong winds in a severe thunderstorm. In December 1961 hail the size of cricket balls and destructive winds were reported again from the Esk area. In about 2008 a tornado caused localised damage in a palm grove in The Palms National Park near Cooyar. Bangalow palms were knocked down in a circular pattern indication the small but very intense nature of the event.

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Storm damage to a palm grove near Cooyar (KG, 2009)

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 a 27 year average at Nanango of 6 days on which temperatures are hotter than 35°C. The hottest months are December to February. 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 area can also experience chilly conditions, having a 27 year average of 32 days annually with minimum temperatures equal to or less than 2°C and 15 days at or below zero.

Drought is also a frequent occurrence in this area. Water storages that serve Toowoomba and the other towns of the area were at 9% of their capacity in late 2009. The storages formed by the Cooby and Cressbrook Dams, for example, were clearly well below capacity.

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Disused tap at Cooby Dam (KG, 2009)

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Cooby Dam wall from upstream! (KG, 2009)

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Launching ramp and jetty at Lake Cooby (KG, 2009)

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Spillway at Cressbrook Dam (KG, 2009)

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains 15 earthquake epicentres within the degree square. None of these events had magnitudes in excess of ML 2.7. Most of these small events occurred in the 1980s and 1990s and were located in the Brisbane Valley. They may have been triggered by the filling of Wivenhoe Dam. Such a small quakes were probably not even felt in the area.  No damage was reported from this event.

The Indigenous Story: Much of the square is the traditional country of the Waka Waka people. Their territory covers the area in the north, north-east and east of the square. In the south-west the land is the traditional country of the Barunggam people.

The Bunya Mountains form the border between these two major groups. During the Bunya season the Aborigines would temporarily set aside their tribal differences and gather in the mountains for great Bunya Nut Feasts. These feasts were attended by Aboriginal from as far away as Bundaberg.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The first European to penetrate the country within this square was probably the botanist Allan Cunningham in 1828-9. The Brisbane Valley was one of the first areas settled by Europeans outside the Moreton Bay penal settlement. By the 1840s squatters were taking up land in the valley and onto the darling Downs and around Kingaroy. These early selections were very large. Taarbinga station near Kingaroy, for example, was originally 300 square miles (780 sq km) in area but was progressively broken down by government edict to make way for more settlers. Sheep grazing and horse breeding were the main agricultural pursuits on these early stations.

Settlers began grazing sheep in the area around present-day Blackbutt in 1842 and in the following year selectors took up land around Tarong and Nanango. A shanty had been established at Nanango by 1848. The most rapid growth followed the discovery of gold around Blackbutt and later at Nanango (in 1866).

On the Downs, Oakey and Jondaryan were taken up in the 1850s. Here again sheep and horses were the main animals grazed.  

Transport gave rise to settlements such as Crows Nest which was originally a stopping point for bullock teams travelling between the Darling Downs and places such as Nanango. There are at least two different versions of how this town got its unusual name. One has it that there was a large crow's nest in a tree near the teamster's favoured watering point which came to be known as ‘The Crows Nest' stop. The other version is that a local Aboriginal, who gave information and directions to teamsters in the early days and known to them as ‘Jimmy Crow', made his home in a large hollow gum tree. His home became known as ‘Jimmy Crow's nest', hence the name of the settlement that developed there. The reputed hollow tree is now memorialised in the centre of the town.

Jimmy Crow monument at Crows Nest (KG, 2009)

Early settlement was not without its tragedies. At Cooyar, for example, in 1904 young Ethel Tebbs drowned in Cooyar Creek when she followed her mother to the place where the women did there washing. Her grave was refurbished by the Council in 2005 as a memorial to the pioneering days.

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Ethel Tebbs grave at Cooyar (KG, 2009)

By the early 1900s closer settlement was expanding and the government of the day turned t the construction of railways to service these areas. A link was built from Oakey (on the main western line to Roma and Charleville) with Cooyar on the eastern Downs. The area along this route was settled by mainly German immigrants. Construction of this line would also open up the timber resources of the Nanango area and boost development of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. Construction commenced in 1909 and the line came into service following completion of the Muntapa Tunnel at the crest of the Great Dividing Range. The line was eventually closed in 1964 but the tunnel, Queensland's longest straight tunnel, has been preserved as a heritage site.

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Muntapa Tunnel and cutting (KG, 2009)

Dairying, beef grazing and crops of corn were established across the area by the early 1900s with rural incomes supplemented by work in the logging industries that flourished around Kingaroy, Nanango and Blackbutt. Peanuts were first grown commercially around Kingaroy shortly after the end of WW I and by 1922 the district was producing over 250 tonnes of peanuts annually (the annual crop today is around 35,000 tonnes annually). Navy beans were introduced as a crop during WW II.

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Old combine harvester at Cooyar (KG, 2009)

Oakey was established as a RAAF repair and maintenance base (6th Air Depot) in 1943 to maintain and repair service aircraft. It was also occasionally used as a forward base for bomber raids into New Guinea. It was decommissioned in 1946 and remained idle until it was established as the base for the recently-formed Army Aviation service in 1968. The base is now a major Defence establishment.

The largest infrastructure development in the square is the Tarong power station which was built in the 1970s. It has been expanded several times since then.

Today: 

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 61,202.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

47,336

50,272

55,413

61,202

Total males

23,921

25,452

27,772

30,609

Total females

23,415

24,820

27,641

30,593

Under 5 years

3671

3658

3757

4261

65 years and over

5337

6155

7815

10,038

Indigenous

746

1079

1515

1884

Much of the population lives in urban centres ranging from regional towns to rural villages. At the 2011 census Kingaroy had a population of 7450; Highfields, which is essentially an outer suburb of Toowoomba, had a population of 7943, up from 5113 in 2006; Nanango had 2338; Oakey had 4099; Crows Nest had 1594; Esk had 1256, Yarraman had 910; Toogoolawah had 961; and Goombungee had 665. The most densely populated rural area is in the south-east corner of the square in the area around Lake Atkinson, south of Esk. Within a radius of between six and 10 km of the lake there are around 2000 people living.

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Kingaroy (Google Earth image)

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Nanango (Google Earth image)

All of the larger centres provide a good level of wholesale and retail outlets as well as a limited range of medical and emergency services. Highfields provides services to its immediate community and has a range of tourist attractions but it relies largely on the higher order services provided in Toowoomba. Kingaroy and Nanango are key centres which service a significant regional population. The intermediate settlements such as Yarraman, Esk, Oakey and Crows Nest have a lower order of services. Many of the smaller centres such as Maclagan and Cooyar service their immediately surrounding areas with limited retail outlets.

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Nanango main street (KG, 2009)

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South Burnett Council office Nanango (KG, 2009)

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Crows Nest town square (KG, 2009)

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War memorial Crows Nest (KG, 2009)

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Maclagan main street (KG, 2009)

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Yarraman Bunya Pines (KG, 2009)

Many of the smaller towns have annual festivals or community activities to attract tourists. Maclagan, for example, hosts an annual Sqeeze-box festival which attracts musicians from across Queensland (the photo of the Maclagan main street was taken during the 2009 festival, hence the numbers of cars!). Crows Nest hosts an annual worm racing festival; Nanango has an annual arts festival and country music festival; Kingaroy hosts an annual Peanut Festival; Jondaryan hosts an annual Australian Heritage Festival which features steam engines, bullock teams and heavy horses.

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Crows Nest annual worm race (KG, 2009)

Land use across the square is quite varied and ranges from intense cropping of peanuts and navy beans; to grain and fodder cropping; to orcharding and vineyards; to cattle grazing; to forestry plantations and the logging of native forests. Coal mining associated with the Tarong Power Station, the most significant infrastructure development within the square, is also a significant employer.

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Vineyard near Lake Cooby (KG, 2009)

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Tarong Power Station (KG, 2009)

Apart from the Tarong Power Station, other infrastructure in the square includes water supply dams such as Lake Cooby, Lake Perseverance, Lake Cressbrook, Lake Atkinson and Lake Wivenhoe. There is an airport at Oakey that is primarily used as the base for the Army Aviation Regiment but it is also used for commercial flights and as an alternate airport to Toowoomba when that field is closed by weather such as fog. There are 9138 km of public road within the square including sections of the New England, D'Aguilar, Brisbane Valley, Burnett and Warrego Highways. The main western rail link to Charleville passes through the south west corner of the square.

The square is divided more-or-less evenly between three local governments: Toowoomba Regional Council (in the south and south-west), Somerset Regional Council (in the east) and South Burnett Regional Council (in the north-west). There are 11 national and conservation parks within the square. They are: Bunya Mountains National Park, Cressbrook Conservation Park, Crows Nest National Park, Esk National Park, Geham National Park, Hampton National Park, Mount Binga National Park, Pidna National Park, Ravensbourne National Park, Tarong National Park and The Palms National Park. Between them they comprise a total of 371,500 ha. There are also several State Forests spread across the square. The Oakey and Cabarlah Defence bases also occupy significant areas of public land.

Site Summary:

Location

On the eastern fall of the Blackbutt Range about 600 m from Mt Binga Road

Nearest settlement

Cooyar is 16 km west

Access

By road to within 600 m then on foot as far as vegetation and terrain allowed

Terrain

Broad ridges with steep sided gullies

Catchment

Emu Creek which flows to the Brisbane River

Geology & soils

Devonian slate and schist with lateritic duricrust

Vegetation

Disturbed mid height eucalypt forest with understory of wattle and lantana

Land use

Minimal use at the point, orchards within 1000 m

Climate

Subtropical with a distinct dry winter

Population in degree square

 55,413 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Tarong Power Station, Oakey airfield, several water supply dams, 9138 km of public roads

National Parks

11 national parks and conservation parks including Bunya Mountain NP

Compilers: Ken Granger, 2010

Edited by:  Hayley Freemantle

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