Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Saltwater Creek renamed Crystal Creek

In 1935, Saltwater Creek was renamed Crystal Creek, in an effort to make the area more appealing to tourists. It was also hoped the change of name might help to garner public support for an expensive scheme to source the city’s water
from Mt Spec.
View of Crystal Creek (formerly called Saltwater Creek) and arched bridge, 1957.
Photo: Fred Carew, held by Townsville City Libraries.
At a special meeting of the City Council in late November 1935, it was decided by majority vote that “no further expenditure in the development of the Ross River Water Supply Scheme be undertaken, other than maintenance of the existing works.”

The motion further provided that the “Saltwater Creek Gravitation Scheme be adopted as Townsville’s future water supply”, as soon as money was available.

The scheme, which was put forward by Mr J. Mulholland, of the Water and Irrigation Department, involved the construction of an 84km pipeline and a rock-fill storage dam at an estimated cost of £639,000.
Near the source of Saltwater Creek, March 1922.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
During spirited discussion of the motion, Alderman Keyatta argued that: “it would be unwise to spend further money on the Ross River”.

“Even the expenditure of £113,000 for another weir would be a sheer waste of money,” he said.

“The Council should now conserve its finances for the Saltwater Creek Scheme.”

Alderman Keyatta’s opinion was based on the assumption that considerable savings over time could be made by adopting the Saltwater Creek Scheme - which was based on gravitation - instead of expanding the costly system of pumping which was in operation at the Ross River.

Alderman Hayes, who was in favour of the scheme, remarked: “Then we will have water, not muddy slush like we get now.”

But the name of the scheme – Saltwater – implied that the water was salt- rather than fresh- water and the concern was that ratepayers might be opposed to the scheme on that basis.

Alderman Hayes assured those at the meeting that tidal (salt) water had never reached more than 450 metres beyond the railway bridge.

In March of that year, a deputation from the Townsville branch of the RACQ and the Townsville and District Development Association approached the Minister for Labor and Industry, Mr M.P. Hynes, about the possibility of changing Saltwater Creek’s name to Crystal Creek. The Minister agreed that the name was rather misleading to tourists, as “excellent water was obtainable in the creek”.
Upper Saltwater falls source, March 1922.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
The water situation in Townsville at that time had reached a crisis point, with only 238mm of rain falling by December. This was the lowest rainfall on record since 1870.

Despite the potential for panic, the Mayor, Alderman J.S. Gill, thought the Council should first wait and see how well the new weir on the Ross River would serve the city. He urged the aldermen not to rush into a scheme that would “put a mill stone around the necks of the people”.

The Mayor believed that the Ross River would provide sufficient water for Townsville for the next 10 to 15 years, “even if the population doubled”.

Alderman Gill felt that instead of rushing into the Saltwater Creek Scheme, the Council should investigate the matter more fully.

Alderman Hayes retorted impatiently: “And spend 50 years on it.”

Not to be outdone, Alderman Gill snapped back with: “We will all be dead in that time.”

It was December 1954 before water from Crystal Creek was connected to Townsville. 

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