A field trip to Roebourne: floods and flora

Road to Roebourne

The Essential Environmental team undertook a two day site visit in Roebourne on 24th-25th October 2012, as part of the environmental and hydrological studies that they are preparing for the Shire of Roebourne.  Roebourne is situated approximately 30 km east of Karratha and 1,300 km north of Perth, positioned between the most-welcoming Mount Welcome and the lush, tree-lined Harding River.

The township was established in 1864 to support pastoralism, mining (gold, copper and lead) and pearling, and is the oldest active town north of Geraldton. The town is named after John Septimus Roe, the first Surveyor General of Western Australia.  It is also home to the Ngarluma people, the original inhabitants of the coastal areas around Roebourne. Tropical cyclones after  long dry spells are not uncommon and the town experienced the full wrath of the weather gods in 1975 when Cyclone Trixie created wind speeds over 250 km/h, causing major property damage in Roebourne, as well as Wickham and Point Samson. Fifty people also required evacuation as floodwaters from the Harding River rose to the lower steps of the Police Station due to Cyclone Chloe in 1984.  However, a number of historic buildings have managed to survive the years.

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The Essential team spent two hot and sticky days looking at drainage infrastructure (culverts, drains and floodways), existing development, and the noisy, bird-filled Harding River.

We also observed construction of a new development undertaken by the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation, who has recently contracted NASH to develop the first stage of a new housing community in the north of Roebourne.  The Yaburriji Estate will comprise 400 housing lots on approximately 50 hectares of land,  to provide land for educational, community and commercial facilities for Indigenous people in Roebourne.

A meeting in the air-conditioned offices of the Shire of Roebourne in Karratha provided a welcome break while the environmental and planning context of the township was discussed with planning officers.  Staying overnight on the coastal town of Point Samson, swimming at Honeymoon Cove and relaxing at the Point Samson tavern was one of the high-lights of the site visit!

The five hours waiting in Karratha airport due to departure delay and flight re-routing via Port Hedland, however, was not!

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