|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (23/06/2011)|
|Place File No||5/04/161/0049|
|Nominator's Summary Statement of Significance|
|In 1987 the Institution of Engineers Australia awarded its ultimate accolade, the National Engineering Landmark, for historic engineering works of outstanding heritage significance, to the Coolgardie Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.
The Goldfields Pipeline has exceptional and unique cultural significance for the nation as one of the greatest engineering and infrastructure schemes of the late nineteenth century. It attracted worldwide attention since never before had water been pumped so far nor lifted so high. It was also the first major pipeline in the world to be constructed of steel.
The Goldfields Pipeline is highly significant as a key element in the pattern of population, development, economics and resource exploitation in Western Australia and the nation. It has been the lifeline to the Eastern Goldfields gold and nickel mining province which has made an enormous contribution to the prosperity of Western Australia and the nation in turn over the past one hundred plus years. The extension of the scheme has also had a significant impact on the development of the Western Australian wheatbelt.
a, f, g, h
a - the place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia's natural or cultural history The Goldfields Pipeline is important to Australia's cultural history as it tells a national story about the driest inhabited continent in the world. In fact, a section of the original steel pipe is on loan in display in the National Museum in Canberra at present to illustrate an exhibition about this very theme.
The pipeline was built to overcome the shortage of water in the inhospitable interior, to provide a reliable source of water for the goldfields. The extensions of the scheme in the 1940s and 50s encouraged and allowed for the development of the Western Australian wheatbelt. As such it has contributed to the growth of not only Western Australia but also the nation as a whole. Some historians argue that the discovery of gold and the pipeline are linked to Australia becoming a nation of federated states. Many "t'othersiders" rushed to Western Australia in the 1890s in hopes of finding fortunes. Their allegiance to the eastern states of Australia came to the fore when, despite the Forrest government only agreeing to a referendum at the last possible opportunity, Western Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of federation.
f - the place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period The Goldfields Pipeline is highly significant for its instigation and application of Australian technological innovation. It was typical to this point that water pipes were made from cast iron. Due to the prohibitive costs and difficulty in transporting, O'Connor ruled out this as an option. In terms of technological achievement the Goldfields Pipeline, opened in 1903, was the equivalent of the Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland, built in the 1880s, the world's first major railway bridge built of steel. However, the 54,000 tons of steel required for the Forth Bridge were dwarfed by the 70,000 tons of steel required for the goldfields pipeline. Manufacture of the pipes had to be split into two equal contracts, each of which was the largest pipe fabrication contract ever let and, to that time, also the most costly Australian construction contract ever carried out.
In addition, the pipes were made to an innovative design. At a time when welding was in its infancy and riveted pipes were the norm, a Melbourne engineer, Mephan Ferguson, came up with a design for a rivetless pipe. This so-called locking bar pipe obviated the need for rivet holes, sites of potential leaks, and rivets, the heads of which slowed down the flow of water in the pipe.
g - the place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons The Goldfields Pipeline holds special significance for the numerous members and their descendants of the "pipeline communities", the small settlements that grew up at each of the eight pumping stations. The communities existed to operate and maintain the pipeline. With the workers came their families, requiring small one-teacher schools and resulting in a rich and close community life. Individuals were born and died on 'No 2' or 'No 7' as former residents affectionately and with pride refer to their homes.
The pipeline also has strong associations with the small wheatbelt towns through which it passes. The pipeline not only supplies these towns with water, it also contributes to their wellbeing, both directly and indirectly. People living in Southern Cross might be employed as welders working on the pipeline, for example. The pipeline gives security to farmers in these wheatbelt communities and allows them to diversify. Six million sheep rely on the pipeline!
Many displaced persons from war torn Europe served out their contractual agreements with the Australian Government by working on the water supply scheme, either on the raising of the weir wall as part of the agricultural expansion or at one of the pump stations. Many of these men continued to work with the water supply scheme after the completion of their contractual obligations becoming an integral part of these small and remote communities.
h - the place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, or importance in Australia's natural or cultural history.
The Goldfields Pipeline is highly significant for social and political imagination and ambition. The driving political force behind the decision to build it was Western Australian's first Premier, Sir John Forrest. After Federation in 1901 John Forrest represented his state as a Minister in the Federal Parliament until 1918 at which time he became the first Australian born citizen to be elevated to the peerage of the British Empire.
It is also associated with the brilliant engineer Charles Yelverton O'Connor who tragically took his own life before the pipeline was completed. As the Engineer-in-Chief for Western Australia, O'Connor, "The Chief", was involved in laying the foundations of WA's infrastructure. As Premier John Forrest telegraphed him, he was responsible for "Railways, Harbours, everything". The Chief is celebrated in artwork, literature, film and oral tradition, not only in Western Australia. Robert Juniper, who enjoys a national reputation, has painted several works relating to the pipeline and O'Connor. Robert Drewe's award winning novel "The Drowner" is centred on the pipeline. A popular piece of public artwork is a statue in the sea off South Fremantle depicting CY O'Connor. Renowned sculptor Pietro Porcelli's bust of him overlooks the weir and his more than life-size statue of O'Connor overlooks Fremantle Harbour.
The Natural Context |
The pipeline component of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme stretches 560km from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie. The terrain which the pipeline occupies is not included in the place, rather the extant fabric of the pipeline (including the remaining original steel pipes, the 1930s refurbished continuously welded pipe, 1950s replacements and concrete anchor blocks) constitute the boundary of this element of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. The following section describes the natural context which the pipeline traverses and the natural corridors which it occupies.
The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is found within the south-west Australian biodiversity hotspot, which is the only Australian biodiversity hotspot amongst 34 described globally. This biodiversity hotspot rating is a reflection of the number of species restricted to the region also known as endemic species and the degree of historical land clearing for agriculture (Myers et al 2000; Conservation International: 2007).
The flora of south-west Australia is notable for its diversity with around 8000 species, and high endemism with 75-80% of species restricted to the southwest region. This floristic diversity occurs at the species rather than at the genera level, which is in contrast to other regions of Australia such as the rainforests of Queensland, where there is a great diversity of plant families and genera but relatively few species within each genus. The south-west Australian flora is dominated by speciose genera from the following botanical families: Myrtaceae (eucalypts and allies), Proteaceae (banksias and allies), Fabaceae (native peas) and Epacridaceae (southern heaths) (Hopper 1992).
Within the south-west, the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme pipeline corridor runs through three broad biogeographic regions that have been identified under the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) classification scheme (Thackway et al 1995). These IBRA are the Jarrah Forest, Avon Wheatbelt and Coolgardie IBRA regions.
Along the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme corridor the vegetation grades from wetter eucalypt forests in the Jarrah Forest region through to sparse open eucalypt woodland, which is a reflection of the change in rainfall of 1300mm in the west at Mundaring to around 200-300mm around Coolgardie.
The Jarrah Forest Bioregion vegetation is dominated by jarrah - marri (Eucalyptus marginata - Corymbia calophylla) forest on the Darling scarp (300m high) grading to wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) and marri woodlands in the east, with extensive Banksia low woodlands on localised sandsheets (Mackenzie et al 2002).
The Avon Wheatbelt Bioregion has proteaceous heaths, rich in endemics on the higher weathered (lateric) and residual uplands, with mixed eucalypt and Jam-York (Acacia acuminata - Eucalyptus loxophleba) woodlands on lower areas of the region. The Avon Wheatbelt Bioregion is characterised by low relief, and is especially notable biologically as it straddles a transitional rainfall zone of 700mm in the west to 400mm in the east, which contains the south-west’s most species-rich areas. This rainfall transition zone is thought to have been periodically drier in the past, for example during the last glacial maximum 18,000 years ago, and plant population expansion and retraction is theorised to have driven the south-west flora’s higher speciation rates (Hopper 1992 & Mackenzie et al 2002).
The Coolgardie Bioregion vegetation has mallee (multi-stemmed) eucalypts, Acacia thickets and shrub-heaths on sandplains. The area is rich in endemic Acacias and highly diverse Eucalypt woodlands, rich in endemics, occur around salt lakes, on ranges and in valleys. The salt lakes have dwarf shrublands of samphire (Mackenzie et al 2002).
Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is a very narrow corridor, as it is a 30-inch (76.2cm) diameter pipeline, which intersects the bioregions described above. Much of the corridor has been cleared for agriculture, especially in the Avon Wheatbelt Bioregion. Reserves along the corridor include the Boorabin and Goldfields Woodlands National Parks in the Coolgardie Bioregion, however the values of the listing only encompass the pipeline itself.
Historically eight steam pump stations along the pipeline used timber for fuel, which were located at Mundaring Weir, O'Connor (2.5 km from Mundaring Weir), Cunderdin, Merredin, Ghooli, Gilgai, Yerbillon and Dedari. Further information on the impact of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme on the environment is provided in subsequent sections.
The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme
The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is a late 19th century/early 20th century inter-basin transfer water system which extends from Mundaring Weir (Dam) in the west (approximately 41.5 km east of Perth), to Mount Charlotte Reservoir at Kalgoorlie in the east. The Scheme stretches from the Darling Ranges across the arid interior of Western Australia, a total distance of some 560 kilometres. Included are:
· the main reservoirs: Mundaring Weir (Dam) and Mount Charlotte Reservoir;
· the main conduit of the pipeline (including all locking bar pipe, wood stave pipe and continuously welded pipe) which stretches 560km from Mundaring in the east to Kalgoorlie in the west;
· the remaining six of the eight original pump stations (Nos 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8) including remaining equipment;
· the remaining four associated holding tanks (located at Steam Pump Stations Nos, 2, 4, 7 and 8); and
· the four regulating tanks located at Bakers Hill, West Northam; Bullabulling and Toorak Hill.
How the scheme operated
Pump Station No1 pumped water directly from the Mundaring Weir. The water was pumped the short but steep distance (over a lift of 128.3 meters) to the receiving tank at No 2 Pump Station known as O’Connor. Pump Station No 2 pumped the water to the highest tank on the pipeline: Bakers Hill. The water was gravity fed to the regulating tank at West Northam. Continuing under force of gravity, the water arrived at the former railway tank (also referred to as a reservoir) at Cunderdin. The adjacent Pump Station No 3 pumped the water to the receiving tank at Cunderdin. From Cunderdin the remaining pump stations and associated receiving tanks are generally located an even distance apart. The water continues to be pumped the round tank at Merredin (Pump Station No 4), onto the tank and Pump Station at Yerbillon (Pump Station No 5) followed by Ghooli (tank and Pump Station No 6); to Gilgai (tank and Steam Pump Station No 7) to the final tank and Steam Pump Station No.8 located at Dedari. From Dedari the water was pumped to the Bullabulling Reservoir and on to the Toorak Hill Reservoir which was gravity fed and delivered the water to its final destination the Mount Charlotte Reservoir in Kalgoorlie (Ghassemi and White (2007).
CY O’Connor’s 1903 pipeline is commonly referred to as the ‘main conduit’ of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme and is approximately 560km in length (National Trust of Australia (WA) 2002). It commences at Mundaring Weir and terminates at Mount Charlotte Reservoir. Much of the pipeline is aligned with the current Great Eastern Highway. The pipes were made of 30-inch diameter steel. Originally (1903) the pipeline was buried underground, however, refurbishment in the 1930s raised the pipeline and it now rests on reinforced concrete anchor blocks (RICHCU 1999a). It is estimated that 60% of the pipeline is original. Still in use today (2009), the pipeline is in operating condition and continues to service the community.
The pipeline is a visible icon stretching across Western Australia’s arid interior. The pipeline consists of:
Mundaring Weir (Dam)
Mundaring Weir (Dam) is located at Weir Road, Mundaring, Western Australia. The site is in the valley of the Helena River on the western slopes of the Darling Range, 30 kilometres east of Perth City Centre and approximately 560 kilometres west of Kalgoorlie. The weir (dam) is located at the narrowest part of the steep-sided valley with the impounded lake stretching in a south-easterly direction for 16 kilometres (RNE Entry Mundaring Dam and Helena River Reservoir). The two main arms of the lake to the east and south-east are fed by the Helena River and the Darkin River respectively. Mundaring Weir is recognised as a large dam (Cole 1999 p.4-27). The spillway occupied such a large proportion of the crest that it lead to people referring to it as a weir (Doherty 1999 p. 4-16).
Mundaring Weir (Dam) represents the start of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. The Mundaring Weir (Dam) was completed by 1902 and damed the Helena River. Mundaring Weir (Dam) was the highest gravity dam constructed in Australia between 1871 and 1910 (Doherty 2000: p.21). It is a curved concrete face dam and when completed measured 61 meters in height above the lowest foundation level (Doherty 2000: p. 26). This type of dam was selected as its design could assist in managing the predicted flooding from the 1,450m² catchment area (Cole 1999: p.1-6). The height of the wall was raised to 71 meters in 1951 which increased the dam’s capacity to 60,000m³ (Doherty 2000: p. 39). While the weir (dam) wall has been raised it retains its original 1902 appearance and profile. The Mundaring Weir (Dam) spillway has been identified as a nationally significant example of an early twentieth century ogee spillway (Kinstler 2000 p.191). It is located on the left hand side of the dam and allows the discharge to flow over the dam face onto the granite rock foundations. The capacity of the spillway is 1,000m³ (Kinstler 2000: p.191).
· the weir (dam) wall;
· the footwalk across the crest of the weir (dam) which is a reconstruction of the original; and
· the inner and outer valve houses.
Mount Charlotte Reservoir
Mount Charlotte Reservoir is located on Hannan Street, some 560km from Mundaring Weir (Dam). It is a round reinforced concrete tank which is dug into the crest of the hill(National Trust of Australia (WA 2002 p.112) . It is the final receptacle and the terminus for the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, Western Australia. The capacity of the reservoir when it was completed in 1902 was two million gallons (4,540,000 litres). Sir John Forrest officially turned the valve at Mount Charlotte Reservoir on 24 January 1903 as part of the opening celebrations. Mount Charlotte Reservoir is currently used to service the Kalgoorlie community as a reserve tank by the Water Corporation (WA) (National Trust of Australia (WA) 2002 p.112) . A metal roof was added in the 1970s to prevent evaporation and for security reasons (RICHCU 1999k). Mount Charlotte Reservoir includes (RICHCU 1999k) :
· the reservoir including the walls;
· the valve pit; and
· the valve pit to the pipe trench.
The Bullabulling Reservoir is located at Bullabulling between Pump Station No 8 at Dedari and Coolgardie. It is located approximately 30km west from Coolgardie along the Great Eastern Highway and then north along a gravel track for approximately 3km. It is situated approximately 0.7 km from the current electric pump station.
Completed in 1902, Bullabulling Reservoir is a rectangular holding tank. Plans from 1901 indicate that the tank was used to receive water from pump station No 8 at Dedari which was then gravity fed to Toorak Hill. Features of the tank include an overflow pipe which is located in the centre of the north wall. Excess water is discharged via the channel and ditch. The constituent material is reinforced concrete. Barbed wire was used to reinforce the concrete to assist in overcoming concrete cracking induced by temperature extremes. The walls of the tank are more than two feet (0.61 metres) thick (RICHCU 1999j). The capacity of the tank is 45.4 million litres. The site is currently enclosed by a mesh security fence. The reservoir is still in use.
Toorak Hill Regulating Tank
Toorak Hill Goldfields Water Supply Reservoir is located on Moran Street (Lefroy Street), 1.5km north of Coolgardie. It consists of:
Eight steam powered pumping stations were required to transport the water the 560km from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie. The pump station buildings are aesthetically pleasing, architecturally designed, purpose built industrial structures. It is believed that the Pump Stations were designed by George Temple Poole (RICHCU 1999x, during his time as a consulting architect with the Public Works Department of the Coolgardie Water Supply Branch. They were constructed by the Western Australian Department of Public Works (RICHU 1999m p.52). Architecturally the Pump Stations are not indicative of a single style or type. However, a number of stylistic elements contribute to the symmetry and form of these industrial buildings. Of notable importance are the large Romanesque arch, Baroque style canopy, bulls-eye windows, long Georgian windows with deep sills reported by RICHCU 1999m p. 83) as reflecting generally Baroque characteristics. The pump stations themselves were substantial buildings of wire cut red brick constructed in an English bond, with cut and struck lime mortar joints. Roof fabric was generally corrugated iron roofs supported on steel trusses with timber fascias. Each pump station had a similar layout consisting of a boiler and pump room separated by a passage way (Foxley 2008 and RICHCU 1999m). The pump (also known as engine rooms) contained the engines, pumps and working benches for maintenance works. The lower levels of the pump rooms were constructed of concrete with a cement mortar. Steel joist provided the formwork for the upper work levels, which were finished with Jarrah floors. Boiler rooms contained the boilers, an economiser, boiler feed pumps and a large arched doorway where coal was delivered for the boilers. Each pump station also featured a circular chimney constructed from steel. Some were later replaced with brick chimneys due to corrosion damage. Those with brick chimneys’ retained the circular profile and featured an English brick bond a with lime mortar. The chimneys height was generally approximately 135 feet (41 metres) high and gently tapered. Chimneys were connected to the boilers and economisers by a brick tunnel flue. The Steam pump stations were initially powered by coal, but later changed to run on wood (RICHCU 1999m).
At six of the pumping stations, concrete lined holding (also referred to as suction and regulating tanks) were constructed adjacent to the pump stations. Water was pumped into the holding tank through the previous stage of the pipeline and was drawn from these tanks by the pump for transmission through the next stage of pipeline to the holding tank at the next pumping station. The exceptions were at Station No 1, which drew water directly from Mundaring Weir (Dam) and Station No 3, where a nearby 10 million gallon (37.8 million litres) capacity reservoir had been previously constructed for the railway (National Trust 2000, Vol 208).
No 1 Pump station (Mundaring)
No 1 pump station is located at the base of Mundaring Weir and is currently operated by the National Trust of Australia (Western Australia). It is operated as a visitors centre and has been known as the CY O’Connor Museum since it opened in 1963 (RICHCU 199b) . Pump station No 1 was operational by December 1902. Sir John and Lady Forrest opened the pump station on 22nd January 1903(National Trust of Australia (Western Australia 1999) . Unlike the other pump stations, water was delivered directly from the Mundaring Weir (Dam) via a pipe which ran under the pump station (Foxley 2008). Pump station No 1 ceased operating in 1955. It consists of (RICHCU 1999b and 1999m):
The site of the No 2 pump station is located 2.5 km from No1 (Mundaring Weir/Dam). The positioning of the pumping station was thoroughly investigated (consideration was given to the geology and topography) and the final position selected was a flattened area on the eastern slope of the hill. From pump station No 2 (O’Connor) water was pumped to the tank at Bakers Hill. Pump station No 2 ceased operating in 1956 and was demolished in March 1968. Interpretive signage has been installed, indicating the presence and function of the former pump station. The site is important for its relationship with the original Coolgardie Water Supply Scheme as designed by CY O’Connor (RICHCU 1999c). The site is managed by the Water Corporation (WA) and was not in use at the time of the site visit (2008). Extant fabric includes (RICHCU 1999c):
No 3 pump station is located at 100 Forrest Street, Cunderdin. Pump station No 3 ceased operating in 1956 (National Trust of Australia (WA) 2002). It is open to the public and serves as a local district museum. Pump Station No 3 was completed in 1902. A receiving tank was never constructed for this steam pump station. Rather, No 3 utilised an existing reservoir previously constructed for the railway. It consists of (RICHCU 1999(d).:
No 4 pump station is located at Merredin approximately 3 kilometres west of the Merredin township along the Great Eastern Highway. It is approximately 219 kilometres from the Mundaring Weir and was completed around April 1902. It is one of three generations of pump stations at this location (RICHCU 1999g and 1999m. Operations ceased at pump station No 3 in 1956, when replaced by an electronic control system. The pump station has been fenced in with chain mesh to protect it from vandalism and can be viewed from the outside. It consists of:
No 5 pump station is located at Yerbillon, approximately 45 kilometres westward of Southern Cross along the Great Eastern Highway. Pump station No 5 is located 270 kilometres from Mundaring Weir (Dam). This Pump Station ceased operating in 1968, with the introduction of the electronic pump station. The site has been fenced in with chain mesh fencing to protect it from vandalism and can only be viewed from the outside. All associated machinery and fittings have been removed. It consists of (RICHCU 1999g and 1999m):
No 6 pump station is located on the Great Eastern Highway, Ghooli and is approximately 10km east of Southern Cross. Pump station No 6 was completed in 1902 and is located 342 kilometres from Mundaring Weir (Dam). Operations ceased at this site in 1969. The site has been fenced in with chain mesh fencing to protect it from vandalism and can be viewed from the outside. It consists of (RICHCU 1999g and 1999m):
Steam Pump No 7 was located at Gilgai, approximately 40 kilometres east from Yellowdine along the Great Eastern Highway. One of the engines from this site was relocated to Pump Station No. 3 at Cunderdin. All buildings have been demolished and no extant fabric remains. The site consists of (RICHCU 1999h and 1999m):
Pump station No 8 is located on the Great Eastern Highway at Dedari (Benari) and is approximately 45km west of Coolgardie. The site has been vested to the National Trust of Australia (Western Australia) and is currently used as a visitors and interpretation centre. Pump station No 8 was the last of CY O’Connor’s original pump stations to cease operation in 1970.
The building is intact and contains all its original Worthington pumping engines and all three of the Babcock and Wilcox boilers, air compressors and the economiser. It is the only steam pump station to retain its original overhead gantry. The receiving tank survives along side the pump station. It retains both the inlet and outlet pipes which remain connected to the pumps. Outlet pipes from the pumps are also still connected to a stretch of the original 1903 pipeline. Remnants of the original railway siding remain, including the best preserved of the wooden trestles which are located at this site. This siding is still covered by the corrugated iron framed lean-to, attached to the side of the main pump station. No 8 pump station at Dedari is the most complete and representative of the stations of all the pumping stations. This station was the last of the original Pumping Stations to cease operating in the 1970s. The site has been enclosed and has a caretaker. The site consists of (RICHCU 1999i and 1999m):
A number of regulating tanks were constructed to assist in managing the flow between the pump stations. The regulating tanks were imperative in maintaining water pressure and flow. They were used at the places listed below.
Bakers Hill Regulating Tank
Located at Bakers Hill the regulating tank was built to control the water flow at the highest point between pumping stations 2 and 3. It consists of:
Located at West Northam the regulating tank was built to maintain water pressure at the standard required for working order. Just after Station No 2 the pipeline crossed a high ridge, and the Station pumped the water for 37 km with a net lift of 104 metres to Bakers Hill. It appears that there is no extant fabric relating to this individual element.
Sites of significance in Aboriginal culture are often associated with water. Approximately eighty Aboriginal sites are identified along the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme pipeline (DIA 2009). The highest densities of sites occur in three places: at the beginning of the pipeline, at Mundaring Dam and Helena River; about 80 kilometres from Mundaring at Northam, and at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, at the end of the pipeline (DIA Sites Register, 2009). As a result of environmental disturbances associated with the building of the pipeline and earlier infrastructure, many Aboriginal sites have been disturbed. The greatest environmental impact occurred at the beginning of the pipeline, at the Mundaring Dam.
Webb (2004) notes that few of the water sources on Hunts Track have been recorded as Aboriginal sites, and that there are issues with the accuracy of site locations and the lack of a systematic archaeological survey of Noongar Aboriginal sites and complexes, including rock art sites.
The most important totem in the south of Western Australia is the snake Woggal, also known as Waugyl/Waugal (Bates 1985). The Mundaring area, a highly significant and sensitive mythological area, has ongoing associations with the Waugyl spirit. The Mundaring (Mundjalline) myth links the Helena River east via Mundaring to the Swan River and west to York (Villiers 2007). Aboriginal people moved via the Helena River and Canning River valleys through the Darling Escarpment (Villiers 2007). “It is noted that a number of Aboriginal see the construction of the Mundaring Weir as a desecration of a highly significant site which should not have occurred” (Villiers 2007, 15).
The Mundaring Dam and weir has eleven registered DIA sites and the Helena River has four, including a total of three ceremonial/mythological sites and one quarry. The remainder are artefacts/scatters. A local history of the area identifies a ceremonial one-metre high rock site that depicts two intersecting snakes below the weir (Quicke 1979). The Mundaring Corroboree Grounds (Booralyn) below the weir wall is listed as interim on the DIA register due to lack of information (Villiers 2007). Maamba Reserve is registered as Welshpool Reserve.
Many Aboriginal sites along the pipeline are of ongoing significance to Aboriginal people who visit them regularly today. Sites identified on the pipeline include corroboree grounds and soaks associated with trade routes, wells, granite outcrops, birthing rocks on the Avon River at Northam, cave and rock paintings near Kellerberrin and a number of secret/sacred sites (The National Trust 2001). Bates (1985) recorded the presence of cave paintings as the identifier of Karatjibbin initiation grounds and cites Kellerberrin as an example.
The Goldfields Pipeline traverses the traditional lands of Aboriginal people who identify themselves as Noongar, Ballaruks peoples and Ballardong, all represented by the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, the Gubrun and Kalamaia Kubun, represented by the Central West Goldfields People and the Widji represented by the Goldfields Land and Sea Council Aboriginal Corporation Central Desert Native Title Services (National Native Title Tribunal).
Justice Wilcox noted the ongoing relationship contemporary Noongar Aboriginal people have to their country.
“I have concluded that the contemporary Noongar community acknowledges and observes laws and customs relating to land which are a recognisable adaptation to their situation of the laws and customs existing at the date of settlement. In particular, contemporary Noongars continue to observe a system under which individuals obtain special rights over particular country – their boodjas – through their father or mother, or occasionally a grandparent. Those rights are generally recognised by other Noongars, who must obtain permission to access another person’s boodja for any traditional purpose. Present day Noongars also maintain the traditional rules as to who may ‘speak for’ particular country” (Indigenous Law Bulletin 2007).
Conditions on the eastern goldfields|
Western Australia made little progress in the first fifty years following its foundation in 1829. By 1891 the colony was teetering on the verge of collapse. The Government's coffers were empty, the railway system about to collapse, urgent public works were needed across the colony, and the port at Fremantle was so unsafe that most ships bypassed it in favour of Albany 400 kilometres by road to the south. The 1890s were a watershed in Western Australia's economic and political history. Discovery of large deposits of initially alluvial and later reef gold in the eastern Yilgarn district attracted thousands of miners from other colonies and overseas. On 17 September 1892, Bayley and Ford found gold at Fly Flat (later to become Coolgardie). Then on 17 June 1893 Paddy Hannan struck gold at what developed into one of the richest goldfields of all time centred on the 'Goldern Mile' between Kalgoorlie and Boulder. In a couple of days of fossicking, Hannan and his partner collected over 100 ounces of gold. These rich goldfields drew prospectors from all over the world, particularly from the eastern Australian colonies (IEA 1986: p.1). By October 1895 Coolgardie was the undisputed capital of the goldfields and centre of the colony's gold mining industry. The town itself had a population of about 8,000, while within a radius of some 65 kilometres, there was a floating population of another twenty to thirty thousand. At the time Kalgoorlie was a village of tents and dust, and Boulder did not exist. (Hartley 2000: p.727).
Large international investment in mining and related ventures made a dramatic impact on the slow growing colony (Appleyard 1981: p. 218). In 1890 the population of Western Australia was 48,502, and by 1900 it had increased to 179,967. In just on a decade the small, isolated, rural-based economy saw an almost fourfold increase in population and a massive increase in capital which lifted infrastructure to a level previously thought impossible to achieve (Appleyard 1981: p. 219). By 1911 the population had reached over 293,923, with the bulk of this population increase being on the eastern goldfields themselves (IEA 1986: p.1). Over the same period the value of gold exports rose from £86.664 in 1890 (12.9% of the gross value of WA colonial exports), to £5,549,879 in 1900 (81.0% of export value) (Appleyard 1981: p. 236).
As the Western Australian gold rush gathered momentum in the 1890s, one of the biggest problems facing gold seekers on the eastern goldfields was the lack of adequate water. The Coolgardie region had an unreliable rainfall, with annual falls during the early 1890s varying from 90 mm to 260 mm (Hartley 2000: p.727). The region lacked any surface supplies of fresh water, and geologists reported that there was little prospect of finding useful artesian supplies. A variety of short-term water supply works were installed by the WA Public Works Department (PWD), including earth dams, catchments on rock outcrops, condensing plants, wells and bores. However, it became increasingly difficult and costly to provide the rapidly expanding population with uncontaminated water supplies using these means.
By the mid 1890s over 40 percent of Western Australia's population lived on the eastern goldfields under appalling conditions and paying exorbitant prices for domestic water (NTWA 2000: vol 208). A contemporary report complained "The seriousness of the problem can be gauged by the usual prices paid for water - 25 shillings per 1,000 gallons when the occasional rains filled the tanks - and £4 per 1,000 gallons when only water condensed from wells and shafts was available" (quoted in IEA 1986: p.1). The harsh unhealthy conditions on the goldfields raised death rates to 16 per thousand in the period 1896 to 1898, due in most part to the prevalence of typhoid fever in the arid Yilgarn where clean water was difficult for prospectors to obtain (Appleyard 1981: p. 221). For so long as these miners were deprived of an adequate safe water supply for domestic use, they refused to bring their wives and families from the eastern colonies. As a result, the masculinity ratio rose dramatically in the colony. By 1896 Western Australia contained twice as many males as females (Appleyard 1981: p. 220).
The problem was compounded by the method of extraction used in the mining process. In 1895, the few small processing plants on the Golden Mile were using 2,000 gallons of water per ton of ore crushed (Hartley 2000: p.728). This was a high usage by international standards, particularly in an area where water was so scarce. However, the high usage was necessary because the talc-like nature of the oxidised ore tended to clog stampers and screens unless washed through with a good flow of water. The extraction rates were also poor because the stamped ore readily formed slimes from which gold could not be easily recovered by the usual method of amalgamation with mercury (Hartley 2000: p.728). Tailings, therefore, had to be ponded in dams until such time as they could be treated.
The adoption of the filter press in 1897, to contain these slimes while gold was removed by cyanide treatment, allowed the recycling of water with important consequences. Water usage fell dramatically from 2,000 gallons per ton in 1895 to around 500 gallons per ton by 1900. However, this increasing economy of water usage was offset as the scale of operations on the Golden Mile changed dramatically. In 1896, only 33,000 tons of ore were processed on the East Coolgardie Goldfield using 66 million gallons of water. By 1903 when this goldfield had become one of the most productive in the world 967,000 tons of ore were processed - almost thirty times more than in 1896 and using 483.5 million gallons of water (Hartley 2000: p.728). Infrequent rains together with a high evaporation rate and lack of suitable dam sites ruled out the development on the goldfields of impounding dams large enough to store water sufficient to accommodate this level of heavy usage (Hartley 2000: p.727).
A source outside the goldfields was needed.
The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme
A number of schemes were suggested, including bringing sea water from Esperance Bay to the goldfields for use in the government condensers (Alexander 1954: p.32). However, the Premier Sir John (later Baron) Forrest did not support the scheme and the decision was made to investigate the possibility of piping water from the Darling Ranges east of Perth to the goldfields, a distance of some 352 miles (566 km).
In mid-1895 Premier Forrest asked Charles Yelverton O'Connor, Engineer-in-Chief of the Public Works Department, to prepare data for a scheme to pump water from a reservoir in the Darling Ranges to the goldfields. O'Connor had been recruited from New Zealand and arrived in Western Australia in June of 1891. Prior to his work on the pipeline, he had completely rebuilt and restructured the state's railway system. He was also responsible for the construction of the inner harbour on the Swan River at Fremantle. He had argued for an inner harbour in opposition to the panel of overseas experts who had recommended an outer harbour based on a causeway ending in a curved breakwater running a half a mile out to sea on the northern side of the river mouth (Trust News 2000: Vol 208).
The first trial designs for a pumped water supply were completed in November 1895 and were based on three different supply rates: one million gallons per day, five million gallons per day and ten million gallons per day. In 1896, the processing requirements of the whole of Western Australia's gold mining industry could have been met with water supplies totalling one million gallons per day - assuming a usage of 2,000 gallons per ton of ore (Hartley 2000: p.730). O'Connor argued that a one million gallons per day capacity pipeline would only be adequate for short term requirements. Because of its smaller diameter, such a pipeline would have had a friction head nearly twice that of a five million gallons pipeline, and its operating costs would have been greater in the same proportion. He estimated that a one million gallons capacity pipeline would require some twelve to fifteen pumping stations compared with the eight or nine needed for a five million gallons line (Hartley 2000: pp.730-1). O'Connor also argued that, as the cost of pumping was proportional to the quantity pumped, it would be no more expensive to pump 11 million gallons daily through a pipeline of five million gallons capacity than it would be to pump the same quantity through a one million gallons capacity pipeline. In fact it would be cheaper because of the reduced friction in the larger pipe. He estimated that a supply of one million gallons would entail a capital cost of about £1 million, while a five million gallons supply would cost £2.5 million: five times the capacity for 2½ times the cost (Hartley 2000: p.731).
On 16 July 1896, Premier John Forrest introduced into the WA Parliament a Bill to authorise the raising of a loan of £2.5 million to construct the pipeline scheme. The Bill passed through the Parliament in September 1896 (Trust News 2000: Vol 207).
O'Connor supported the view that a group of experienced overseas engineers should be appointed to advise on major issues, such as: the type, thickness and diameter of the pipe; the spacing of the pumping stations; and the power requirements and capacity of the pumps themselves. A Commission of three experienced English engineers was appointed in December 1896, and in January 1897 O Connor travelled to London to discuss the proposed scheme with them. The Commission was led by Sir John Carruthers, previously head of the PWD in New Zealand (Evans 2001: p.164), and included Professor William Unwin, widely regarded as the pre-eminent authority of the day on the transmission of power, and Dr George F Deacon, engineer-in-charge of the Liverpool Water Supply (Evans 2001: p.167). In their interim report of 3 August 1897 the Commission indicated that the proposed scheme was theoretically practical although of a greater scope and size than any similar scheme attempted elsewhere in the world to that time (Trust News 2000: Vol 209). Although they had originally recommended nine pumping stations, in their final report of 31 December 1897 they revised this to eight stations. The ninth station was omitted when the decision was made to deliver the water to a large distribution reservoir at Bullabulling instead of Mt Burgess, north of Coolgardie. From this reservoir at Bullabulling the water would flow under the influence of gravity 21 miles (33.8 km) to the Coolgardie service reservoir at Toorak and eventually down the extra 23½ miles (37.8 km) to the Kalgoorlie service reservoir at Mt Charlotte (Trust News 2000: Vol 209).
The Mundaring Reservoir
When the scheme was first proposed and until shortly before the construction of the weir was begun, there were no river-gauge water flow measurements available for rivers in the Darling Ranges. Calculations based on results obtained in other countries were necessary in order to estimate the probable inflow into any proposed reservoir. In order to identify potential dam sites for the scheme O'Connor's principal assistant, Thomas Hodgson, made an exhaustive examination of the Darling Range watershed and rivers in late 1895 and 1896 covering about 3,000 square miles of the ranges. Hodgson, an extremely qualified and experienced water supply engineer from Victoria, had been appointed in late 1895 as O'Connor's principal assistant on the water supply project. He identified thirteen potential sites, but recommended one on the Helena River which he was confident would have the capacity to provide the required supply of five million gallons of water per day. It was finally decided that the most economical place for the reservoir was at Mundaring on the Helena River, where it was estimated that the cost of construction per million gallons of storage would be least.
Mundaring Weir (Dam), which was built at the recommended site, was a one hundred feet high concrete dam capable of impounding over 4,600 million gallons. At the site chosen for the weir, the valley through which the Helena runs converges abruptly into a deep gorge flanked on both sides by high hills. The river's width at its bed is 15 feet (4.6 m) and it is only 750 feet (228.6 m) in width at a height of 100 feet (30.5 m) above the bed. There was ample evidence to show that the Helena and other streams in the area were liable to heavy floods and the usual method of disposing of flood-waters, by means of a by-wash, was precluded by its cost. It was therefore decided to pass all floods over the weir crest. Calculation showed that to provide a safe margin for the passage of flood waters as much as 5 feet (1.5 m) in depth over the whole length of the weir would have to be allowed for (Strickland 1986: p.19).
The country at the reservoir site consisted largely of undecomposed granite traversed by intrusive basaltic dykes whose direction was mostly at right-angles to the course of the river. At the site of the weir, however, the granite showed out particularly clearly and trial-shafts reached solid granite at no great depth, the deepest of the shafts being only 20 feet (6.1 m) deep from the ground surface (Strickland 1986: p.20). During the later excavation of the foundations, however, it was discovered that the rock was not as solid as surface indications and the trial-pits had originally promised. On the right bank a large portion of what at first appeared to be bed-rock was found to consist of an immense boulder with a large cavity below it. Additionally, under the bed of the river the granite was very badly fissured over the full width of the foundations, and the disruption was found to extend both up and down stream for a considerable distance. There was no alternative but to follow the fissure down, which eventually required excavation to a depth of 90 feet (27.4 m) below the river bed. At this level the filling material in the fissure was found to be compact, and it was concluded that the fissure at this depth was safe as the base of the weir. Where the fissure occurred under the foundations and the wall would be highest, the excavations were carried down about 15 feet (4.6 m) from the building-line in a vertical direction on the up-stream face (Strickland 1986: p.20). However, as one of the basalt dykes crossed the valley a short distance away on the down-stream side, it was considered necessary to remove the whole of the material between this dyke and what would otherwise have been the toe of the weir. A concrete-lined spill-water basin, about 150 feet (45.7 m) long by 100 feet (30.5 m) wide, was constructed in the bed of the river at the toe of the wall, with a depth of water in the basin of about 10 feet (3.1 m). The concrete filling of the foundations was carried up to bed level on the up-stream face, but on the lower side the mass filling was stopped 18 feet (5.5 m) below bed-level and the parabolic section of the weir wall proper was begun. The granite beds under the foundations were deeply chased in longitudinal rows about 6 feet (1.8 m) wide and 3 feet (0.9 m) deep, and the toe of the wall-batter where it met the granite floor was channelled the whole length in order to key in the concrete foundations (Strickland 1986: p.21).
The reservoir is provided with two valve-towers constructed of concrete. The inner tower is situated on the reservoir side of the weir and was built into and concurrently with the main wall. The inner valve-tower has provision for drawing water from the reservoir by means of cast-iron bell-mouthed pipes passing through the valve-tower wall into a cast-iron stand-post, at three different levels: 25 ½ feet (7.7m), 53 feet (16.2 m), and 80 feet (24.4 m) below full supply level (Strickland 1986: pp.21-2). The outer valve-tower is situated 175 feet (53.3 m) down stream from the centre of the weir-wall, being connected to the reservoir by a viaduct which carries the outlet and scour-pipes.
The excavations for the foundations were begun in May. 1898 and completed by January 1900, with the building of the reservoir wall being completed in June 1902.
The pipeline as originally constructed runs approximately 566 km from the reservoir at Mundaring to the Yilgarn district, terminating in holding reservoirs at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. It was designed to follow as closely as practicable the railway line which reached Kalgoorlie in early 1897. From Northam eastward the pipes were laid parallel with the railway at a distance of 45 feet (13.7 m). This meant that pipes could be unloaded from rail trucks near to where they were required on the pipeline, an activity that had to be carried out quickly so as not to disrupt normal rail traffic. Another great advantage was the subsequent easy supply of water to the railway. The pipeline deviated from the railway between the weir at Mundaring and Northam in order to shorten the distance, and also for the purpose of traversing higher country and reducing the pressure on the pipe. Where the pipeline deviated from the rail line the pipes were unloaded at a siding and distributed using horse drawn wagons. The telephone was new technology and Perth only opened its first exchange in 1887, but a special telephone line was laid between the PWD Head Office in Perth and Kalgoorlie via each of the pumping stations. This was found to be extremely useful during construction and was retained as an on-going operational facility (Trust News 2000: Vol 208).
The English Commission of Engineers recommended that pipe for the line between Mundaring and the goldfields should be of steel throughout, supported above ground on concrete bolsters, and riveted up in lengths of about 110 feet (33.52 metres) with expansion-joints at these intervals and anchor joints midway. The pipes were to be fixed to the bolsters in order to prevent the pipes from creeping. The Commissioners were of the view that there were possibly alkaline salts in the soil of a large part of the district through which the pipeline would pass, and for this reason they recommended that the pipes should be laid above ground, uncovered, and with expansion-joints. Additional considerations were to avoid pressure on the empty pipes, to save the expense of trenching, and to facilitate detection and suppression of leakage from the pipes (Strickland 1986: p.26). The minimum thickness was fixed at 5/16 inch to give an allowance for corrosion, and the pipes were to be longitudinally riveted where the pressure could have been accommodated by pipe of a lesser thickness of 1/4 inch, and welded for all higher pressures (Strickland 1986: p.26). Tenders for the stipulated pipes for delivery in the Colony at a point 22 miles (35.4 kilometres) inland were invited from manufacturers in Australia, Europe, and America. Tenderers were invited at the same time to submit alternative prices for other types of steel pipe (Strickland 1986: p.26).
The first tenders received were for riveted, welded, and/or locking bar pipes, as follows:
Class of Pipe Lowest tenders received Lowest tenders received
In Europe in Australia
Rivetted pipe £782,708 £682,827
Welded Pipe £472,600
Locking bar pipe £239,868
TOTAL £1,255,308 £922,695
(Strickland 1986: p.27)
The locking-bar pipe, invented by the Australian, Mephan Ferguson, had been considered by the English Commission of Engineers and favourably commented on. They were not recommended for so large a scheme, however, because proof of their successful manufacture and use on any considerable scale was not at that time available (Strickland 1986: p.27). Subsequently, and before receipt of the tenders, 10 miles of main 25 ½ inches in diameter had been laid in South Australia. It had been found that these pipes made from 1/4 inch plate and fresh from the closing machine would withstand a pressure of 400 lbs. per square inch without weeping - nearly twice what had be stipulated by the English Commission of Engineers for the Goldfields pipeline scheme (Strickland 1986: p.27). Moreover, all pipes which did not stand this test could be passed back through the closing-machine to be reclosed, instead of being subjected to the usual caulking-processes which were necessary with riveted pipes and which had always been found to be injurious to their plates and jointings. Practical use on a fair length of main also showed that the joining of the sections of locking-bar pipes could be successfully accomplished. As a result, the question of comparative cost and usefulness became the determining factor in deciding whether the new locking-bar pipe should be used in place of welded and riveted pipes (Strickland 1986: p.27).
When the Australian price for locking-bar pipes was contrasted with that for welded pipes the savings were found to be almost 50 per cent. Additionally, the price of locking-bar pipes was but little more than that for the same quantity of riveted pipes. The lowest tenderers were asked to consider the matter again, and they quoted prices for the locking-bar pipes which contrasted as follows with those received for the riveted pipes:
Thickness of steel Rivetted pipe Locking bar pipe
pipe wall per foot per foot
3/16 inch £12.12.09 £13.10.00
¼ inch £16.05.00 £16.15.00
5/16 inch £20.03.06 £21.00.00
(Strickland 1986: p.28)
Moreover, it was found that the locking bar pipes could sustain a considerably greater safe head of pressure for each of the three thicknesses of pipe wall than comparable riveted pipe, enabling further economies to be made by utilising pipes with a thinner wall section.
As a result of the favourably low tenders for locking bar pipe, it was decided that 30 inch pipe with a minimum thickness of 1/4 inch could be provided throughout the whole of the pipeline, rather than the 5/16 inch thickness originally specified by the Commission of English engineers. By having one thickness and one diameter throughout, the tenderers were able to make further reductions in the cost per pipe. Locking bar pipes also reduced considerably the drag caused by the friction of water in riveted pipe flowing over the heads of the rivets protruding through the wall and into the interior of the pipe. The use of uniform pipe and the lessening of the friction drag of the water also had the effect of enabling savings in the capital cost of the pumps as well as in the cost of pumping (Strickland 1986: pp.28-9).
As the adoption of locking-bar pipes obviated the anticipated continuous loss of water from pipes having a multitude of rivet-holes, the potential advantage of whether the pipes could be trenched underground was considered. Careful analysis of the soils along the pipe-track showed that these ancient soils had been leached of many of their harmful salts and acidic properties. Although the recommendation of the Commission of English engineers had been for the pipeline to be laid above ground on bolsters, it was decided that only where the pipes traversed salt pans should they be laid on timber trestles. In the remainder of the line it was decided that the pipes should be buried, which had the advantage of stabilising temperature fluctuation and resultant expansion and contraction of the pipes, obviating the necessity for expansion-joints, and permitting the use of ordinary lead jointing at the joins (Strickland 1986: p.28). Another advantage of trenching the pipes was that it allowed a coating comprised of one part of Trinidad asphaltum and one part of coal tar to be applied both inside and outside each pipe, thus providing the steel with further protection from any corrosive action in the soil. It had originally been found that with pipes laid above ground, the fierce heat of the goldfields summer caused the mixture to melt and run off the pipes, while the frosts of winter caused it to crack and flake off (Strickland 1986: p.29)
Manufacture of the pipes
The locking-bar pipe was invented in Australia by Mephan Ferguson. Born on 25 July 1843 at Falkirk, Scotland, he arrived in Melbourne with his parents in 1854. Ferguson owed his early success to his entrepreneurial and technical skills and to the Victorian government's protectionist policy of awarding contracts to colonial firms. By 1885 he was well established and in that year, Alfred Deakin returned from California and decided that wrought-iron pipes should replace cast-iron in the Melbourne water supply. Ferguson acted promptly. He won government contracts for the supply of wrought-iron piping, and bought the Glasgow Iron Works in West Melbourne where he established a new factory and testing works. He also imported the latest hydraulic machinery and designed a plant said to match any in the world. He continually experimented with wrought-iron pipes, and perfected straight-riveted, longitudinal and transverse seams and pipes with spiral seams. Seventy miles (113 km) of this lighter piping was used in the Melbourne water supply by 1909, while Ferguson also supplied the pipes for many of the Victorian Water Trusts, the Chaffey brothers' irrigation scheme and similar ventures in New Zealand, Ceylon and Malaya (ADB 'Mephen Ferguson': http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A0140174b.htm)
Late one night in 1896, Ferguson was sitting at his desk with his son beside him. He opened a drawer and observed the dovetail joints. He hit on the idea of using a similar joint in steel. Producing a piece of lead he made a model of a lock bar joint in a few minutes. In the morning a joint was made in steel at the works and, when tested, proved to be 100% efficient. Ferguson quickly patented the process, and planned a production line suitable for the mass production of pipes (Ferguson 1992: p.19).
Under the new process, a pipe consisted of two plates, each of the full length of the pipe and each bent to a semicircle. Steel was delivered to one end of the works and passed from one machine to another, until a pipe came off the production line at the other end of the works, was tested under water pressure, and then dipped in the molten asphalt protective mixture (Ferguson 1992: p.20).
In the first machine the steel plate was passed through straightening rollers for the purpose of taking out all kinks and rendering the plates perfectly straight. They were then cut square and to the exact length of 28 feet (8.5 m). The second machine was the planer, consisting of nearly 100 tonnes of castings and components. The base was like a huge lathe bed and the sections of this bed had to be replaced for pipes of different diameter. The plate was clamped on to the top of the bed and a saddle moved along the bed. The saddle carried cutting knives which machined the edges of the plate, producing straight edges of the exact width required. After the knives had passed, rollers chamfered the edges of the plate to produce an edge similar to the 'dove tail' in a wooden joint (Ferguson 1992: p.20). After the rollers passed, the edges of the plate were ready to fit into the lock bar. Each plate then went to the plate bending rolls, which were nearly 10 metres long, and which bent the plate into a semi-circular half pipe. Roller supports were provided above the top roll to prevent its deflection, and ensure the correct radius in the finished product. The chamfered edges of two half pipes were fitted into two locking bars. The closing machine which then pressed the locking bars closed over the chamfered edges of the plates was a hydraulic press. A cantilever, as long as the pipes, supported the dies inside the pipe. An hydraulic cylinder, which produced a force equivalent to a weight of 1,200 tonnes, squeezed the metal of the locking bars closed over the chamfers in the edge of the plates and a length of the joint was made. The whole process was done "cold" (Ferguson 1992: p.21).
The clamps could then be removed and the completed pipe moved to the testing machine. The testing machine consisted of cast iron seals which fitted on to the ends of the pipe. Tension bars ran the length of the pipe to hold these seals tightly. The pipe was then filled with water and the water pressure increased to the specified amount. If there was any weeping of water from the locking bar at either side joint the pipe was returned to the closing machine for a second pass. Finally, the pipe would be dipped in molten asphalt mixture (Ferguson 1992: p.22).
The joining of pipes in the field required some innovation, and Ferguson took out and abandoned patents on a number of alternatives. The joint eventually developed by Ferguson could be mass produced and withstand a head of 140m of water. The pipes were butted together and a steel ring or "thimble" was fitted around the joint. This ring was made from rolled steel segments forced out radially by a steam press until the ring was of the required diameter. Two of the segments were specially shaped so that cavities were created at two places on opposite sides of the ring into which the locking bars of the pipe would fit. There was a 6mm clearance between the ring and the pipe, including around the lock bars. A mould was placed around the whole joint and molten lead poured into the space between the pipe and the ring. After solidification the lead was caulked (hammered into the space between the ring and the pipes) and a sealed water pressure proof joint was achieved (Ferguson 1992: p.23).
As the whole length of main was of uniform diameter the possibility of using machinery in place of hand-caulking of the lead joint was considered at an early stage. Initially, however, the calking was done by hand but this proved to be a major bottleneck in the progress of construction. In 1899 a Victorian engineer named James Couston developed a machine for calking the joints. The machine was clamped around the steel collar at the join in the pipes and after the molten lead had been poured in an electric motor was engaged to drive a series of hammers around the joint to make a tight seal. Not only did it prove to be quicker, but it also did a better job than hand calking (Trust News 2000: Vol 207). Careful trial of joints caulked by hand and by machine demonstrated that the machine made joints remained water tight when subjected to hydraulic pressure of 400 lbs per square inch. In the hand caulked joints, on the other hand, slight sweats and pin-squirts manifested themselves when the joints were submitted to the same hydraulic pressure (Strickland 1986: p.33). In comparison with hand calking, machine calking proved so effective that the WA PWD purchased the patent rights from Couston and built twelve of the machines for use on the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme (Trust News 2000: Vol 207).
At intervals of about 5 miles stop-valves were inserted, and where long rising gradients occurred reflux-valves were placed. The stop-valves were actuated by slow motion gearing and where the water hammer was likely to be considerable, small by-passes were introduced in order to bring the water to rest very slowly. Glenfield pattern air-valves were placed where the pipe passed over all summits, a nest of three being placed at the highest points, a nest of two at intermediate points, and a single valve at the lowest points. These valves enabled the escape of air when charging the main, and also enabled air accumulating in the pipe during normal pumping operations to be automatically discharged (Strickland 1986: p.30).
The pumping stations and holding reservoirs
Given the remoteness of the region through which the pipeline would pass, it was recognised that all pumping machinery should be of a uniform size and pattern, and that there be a standby pumping set available at each station.
The pumps needed to lift the water to a height which equalled the highest point between each station, and also had to overcome the frictional resistance caused by the water moving through the pipes. Across all eight pumping stations there was a total vertical lift of water of 832 metres. The eight stations were positioned so that the first four stations pumped against a head of between 110 and 126 metres, while the last four stations pumped against a head of between 55 and 64 metres (Trust 2000. Vol 208). To achieve this the first four stations were equipped with three identical pumping sets. Any two of these sets when operating together could lift the water to the required head height, leaving one set as a standby. At stations five to eight, two pumping sets were provided as one set only was needed to lift water the required head height, again with a standby set. A total of twenty pumping sets were required, of which only twelve would be working at any one time (Trust 2000: Vol 208).
Tenders for the twenty pumping sets were advertised in Europe and the USA in July 1899 There were difficulties in obtaining satisfactory tenders, mainly due to the abundance of work worldwide. It was not until March 1900 that a contract was awarded to the British firm of James Simpson and Company for the supply and installation of twenty Worthington type pumping sets complete with Babcock and Wilcox boilers at an aggregate cost of £242,750. Delivery was to commence in July 1901 and installation to be completed by June 1902 (Trust 2000. Vol 208).
At six of the pumping stations, concrete lined holding tanks were constructed adjacent to the pump house. Water was pumped in to the holding tank through the previous stage of the pipeline and was drawn from these tanks by the pumphouse for transmission through the next stage of pipeline to the holding tank at the next pumping station. The exceptions were at Station No.1 which drew water directly from Mundaring Weir (Dam), and Station No. 3 where use was made of a nearby 10 million gallon capacity reservoir that had originally been constructed for the railway (Trust 2000. Vol 208). Just after Station No.2 the pipeline crossed a high ridge, and the Station pumped the water for 37 kilometres with a net lift of 104 metres to a high level regulating tank at Bakers Hill. The water then flowed under the force of gravity to another regulating tank at West Northam and then to the holding tank at the pumping station at Cunderdin. Similarly, the No.8 pumping station pumped the water for 19 kilometres through a head of 56 metres to the main distribution tank at Bullabulling where the water was fed by gravity to the Toorak Hill reservoir at Coolgardie and eventually through to the Mt Charlotte Reservoir at Kalgoorlie (Trust 2000. Vol 208).
The pump stations themselves were substantial buildings of red brick with corrugated iron roofs supported on steel trusses (Foxley 2008) . The eight buildings were substantially the same design, with two rooms connected by a passageway. One room contained the steam boilers which provided the motive power to the pumps, which were contained in the other room. The chimney stacks were of steel 1.5 metres in diameter and ranging from 27 to 40 metres in height. The two at Mundaring and Cunderdin were later replaced by brick stacks. Six of these buildings remain today. Nearby to each pumphouse it was necessary to house the operational staff and their families, and small settlements of houses, schools and sporting facilities gradually grew up (Trust 2000. Vol 208).
Initially the boilers were to be fired using coal from the government coalmine at Collie, at an estimated cost of 32 shillings per ton (Hartley 2000: p.731). Although a 1,000 ton sample had been raised from the mine in 1893 for testing, it was not until 1899 that the first successful commercial production of Collie coal commenced. However, Collie coal was of poor quality, and in relation to its heating value per ton proved to be a high cost option. As soon as it became obvious that the far cheaper locally cut firewood was more efficient, coal was abandoned in favour of wood and the scheme's pumps operated on coal for less than a year (Hartley 2000: p.732). Enormous quantities of wood were utilised from the countryside surrounding each pumping station. Wood-cutters were paid on the basis of weight and weighbridges were established at each station to weigh consignments. Special railway sidings lead to raised trestles covered by a corrugated iron and steel lean-to beside each station to facilitate the delivery of wood. Over the period of steam driven pumping at each of the stations, increasingly large areas were denuded of timber to feed the boilers and even today the effects of this are noticeable around some of the stations.
Installation of the pipeline and completion
Once the decision was made to bury the pipeline, trenching was commenced along the route. The surface formation of the country traversed was very irregular. On the plains, ironstone conglomerate predominated but never extended continuously for more than a short distance, being broken by bands of sand, diorite, and granite. In the timbered belts sandy clay was the usual surface soil, but with outcrops of granite, diorite, and schist (Strickland 1986: p.34). It was found that the most economical depth of trench was about a metre in depth, and the bulk of the material was taken out of the trench by manual labour. It was necessary, however, to use explosives to remove material on more than one-fourth of the total trench line. The excavation of the trench was kept well ahead of pipe-distribution, laying and jointing, in order to provide continuous work for the gangs involved in these later operations (Strickland 1986: p.35).
The pipelaying work was divided into sections of about 14 miles each. Each stretch was worked on by one caulking team, and when the work was completed the whole gang went forward to the next available section. When the works were brought into full swing, seven such gangs were at work on several sections. As the work performed by each gang was identical, there was considerable rivalry between the parties. Bad work due to haste was prevented, however, by the appointment of an inspector on each section, who reported directly to the head office and was responsible only for the quality and not for the cost of the work. The rate of progress of the seven gangs when they were at their most experienced during the last 3 months before the completion of the pipeline and the disbanding of the gangs, was 1 and 2/5 miles of laying, jointing, and complete in-filling of trenches per eight hour working-day (Strickland 1986: p.35).
By the 13th April 1902, the works were sufficiently far advanced to enable pumping to be commenced with one of the engines at No. 1 station. No trouble was experienced in getting the engines underway and by the 22nd April the water had reached the Cunderdin Reservoir, at mile 77. Four months now elapsed before the laying and jointing of the next section was completed, and it was not till the 22nd August 1902 that the water reached the Merredin receiving tank at mile 140. Some trouble was experienced in charging this section, through the joints leaking due mostly to the subsidence of the pipes laid across soft ground in the bed of the Mortlock River. The water reached the Coolgardie service reservoir at mile 328 on the 22nd December 1902, and finally the Kalgoorlie service reservoir on the 16th January 1903, about 8 months after the charging of the main was started (Strickland 1986: p.37). The pumping was restricted to an amount sufficient to fill about 12 to 15 miles of main per day, and at this rate no trouble was experienced from air-pocketing. It was found that at this charging rate the Glenfield pattern air-valves had sufficient discharge capacity to pass the volume of displaced air (Strickland 1986: p.37).
The original scheme did not allow for any reticulation of water to townships for domestic purposes, or to mining centres. It was originally intended to bring the water to Mount Burgess a few miles north of Coolgardie, from where the local-government authority would then lay a subsidiary main to its own service reservoir for each township or mining centre. Eventually, however, the complete reticulation of the townships of Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Boulder, and the Kalgoorlie Mining Belt, had to be undertaken as part of the main scheme (Strickland 1986: p.42).
The pipeline was completed in early 1903, and the scheme was officially opened by Sir John Forrest at the Mount Charlotte Reservoir in Kalgoorlie on 24 January 1903. The total actual cost of the water supply pipeline, including all extras, contingencies, and establishment charges was £2,660,000, an excess of only £225,000 on the original estimate (Strickland 1986: p.43).
Patriotic sentiment and nation building
Sir John Forrest was committed to the development of Western Australia as a self supporting and viable colony. Western Australia had recorded a very low population growth rate in its early days of free settlement. For Forrest the transition of Western Australia from a frontier to settled society was to be undertaken by the building of substantial infrastructure projects such as ports, harbours and railways. Water supply was one of the fundamental and recurrent issues in the establishment of human settlement across Australia (Cathcart 2008), but one which was particularly pertinent in the drier west of the continent. The discovery of gold and the establishment of the ‘golden mile’ as outlined above, was an important catalyst in the development of the colony, its role as a state and its contribution to nation building. The value of gold for Coolgardie, and more broadly Western Australia, was multi faceted. The wealth it created was the most immediate, but long term it attracted a mass increase in population (for statistics see Appleyard 1981: p. 220), which had been experienced earlier in the gold rushes to the eastern states. For the Western Australian Government it provided a much needed boost to prosperity and revenue in terms of mining taxes and leases. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century patriotic sentiment was ‘specifically tied to a politically constituted state and the geographic territory over which that state exercises sovereignty’ (O’Keefe and Pearson 1998: p.2). Major infrastructure projects are closely aligned with the patriotic sentiment which contributed to nation building, particularly during the federation period of 1890-1915. Completion of public works such as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme represent a stage of national maturity. The development of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is an important part of the history of how Western Australia entered into federation.
O’Keefe and Pearson (1998: p. 81) identified Coolgardie as an important place, linked to an event, in the federation story. In 1899 the Eastern Goldfields Reform League formed to promote Goldfields separation and federation. Many of the gold diggers were from the eastern colonies and the majority, supportive of the federation movement (Bastin 1955: p.76). Highly critically of the Forrest Government, including the time taken to deliver a reliable water source, the diggers proposed to separate the eastern goldfields from Western Australia. Forrest was concerned about the implications for Western Australia should it become part of the new proposed Commonwealth of Australia. Clark (1986 p. 167) notes that Forrest …‘was plagued with anxiety about goldfields radicalism and about government revenues after the loss of the right to impose customs, which in 1898 comprised nearly ninety percent of the revenue of the colony.’ So he bargained. The Commonwealth was to facilitate the building of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta and the eastern state would continue to pay the levy. At the referendum in 1900 forty six percent voted yes, the highest in all the colonies (Clark 1986 p, 168). These large scale infrastructure projects were important in furthering the relationships between the eastern and western states. Forrest used the opening of the original Coolgardie Goldfields Water Supply, to further other nation building endeavours with the newly formed Commonwealth Government (Lowe 2001: p. 96).
Impact on the environment
Large increases in the population of the Coolgardie region with the discovery of gold had a dramatic impact on the arid environs. Water shortages and outbreaks of typhoid provided the impetus for a water supply scheme to be built. To construct the scheme it was necessary to clear large areas to accommodate the pipeline and provide ongoing access for maintenance. Clearing also occurred at most of the pump station and tank sites. One of the largest-scale clearings was that at Mundaring Weir (Dam) where Hartley (2007 p.340) estimates that 20,000 acres (8,093 ha) of the catchment were ring-barked to improve the run off rate of water into the reservoir. This practise impacted on the quality of the water and by 1910 there was a notable increase in the salinity levels. Railway water supply engineers were not surprised, as the water had become excessively saline for use in the locomotive boilers (Hartley 2007 p.203). The Pump Stations were originally designed to be powered by coal. However, in less than a year the pump stations were burning timber. The preferred source was locally available Jarrah or red gum (Marri) at Pump Stations 1, 2 and 3. From Stations No 3 and onwards species such as Salmon gum and gimlets were sourced locally (Hartley 2007). This ongoing need for fuel resulted in a local lucrative fire wood trade being established in the areas surrounding the pump stations. Land clearing around Mundaring Weir ceased in 1918 and the area allowed to revegetate naturally (Hartley 2007, p.207).
With the opening up of the areas for agriculture, land clearing continued. It is estimated that ‘Today less than 5% of the natural vegetation remains’ (National Trust WA 2000: p.28). In addition WA has lost 10% of the Wheatbelt to scourge (Lowe 2001: p. 99). Soil salinity and the raising of saline water tables are impacting on approximately 30 towns in the Wheatbelt (Lowe 2001: p. 99).
Subsequent operation and expansion
Early operational experience with the pipeline was dominated by problems of corrosion. External corrosion began to appear as early as March 1905 and internal corrosion about three years later. Initially it seemed internal corrosion posed the greater threat, because it was substantially increasing the friction head which in turn placed extra load on the pumping stations. The first attempt to counter the problem of internal corrosion was to add lime to the water, and a plant for this purpose was constructed at Pumping Station No l in 1910 (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.8). The lime treatment was not successful and in 1917 it was replaced by de-aeration treatment which removed dissolved oxygen from the water. A plant for this purpose was installed, again at Pumping Station No 1. This system of de-oxygenation bought the internal corrosion under control.
In the meantime the problem of external corrosion increased rapidly with more than 4,000 rust holes being repaired in 1921. This number had doubled by 1928 and the wastage of water was by then an issue of major concern (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.8). In the late 1920s two engineers, Norman Fernie and Reg Keating, from the Northam District Office of the PWD commenced a thorough investigation of the external corrosion problem in the locking bar pipes. Fernie and Keating could see no practical alternative other than to lift the pipeline and re-lay it above ground. This operation was a major technical development which was widely copied elsewhere. It placed the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme among the world leaders in pipeline technology for the second time in less than 40 years (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.9).
By 1930 it was becoming widely recognised throughout the water industry that a relatively thin lining of cement mortar applied in the factory by a centrifugal spinning process would effectively eliminate internal corrosion. The locking bar pipes presented difficulties for the centrifugal spinning process, however experiments in the field enabled the development of a satisfactory process whereby a lining of sand cement mortar could be applied to the interior of the pipes during the raising and re-laying process. The reconditioning of the buried pipeline commenced in 1933 with priority being given to the sections where external corrosion was most severe. By the time the work was halted in 1941 (due to labour shortages caused by World War II) the major problem of leakages had been brought under control (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.9).
The refurbishing of the pipeline in 1933 included a new method of lifting the pipeline out of the ground and relaying it above ground. The method involved lifting the pipes out of the ground, trimming-off the corroded end sections of the pipes, and replacing the flexible lead joints with rigid welded joints forming what was known as a 'continuously welded pipeline'. The outside of the pipe was recoated and painted with a sun-reflecting paint. During the pipeline reconstruction, the expansion forces were directed into reinforced concrete anchor blocks built over the pipe at 50 metre intervals, which prevented movement and transferred these forces into the ground. Although today such anchor blocks are familiar features of all above ground pipelines in Australia this was the first time anywhere in the world that pipe anchorages of this type had been used to permit such a large diameter pipeline to be laid above ground in such adverse conditions (Hartley 2000: pp.736-7).
The 1930s refurbishment of the pipeline also involved another innovation, the large scale use of wood stave pipes. During the depression of the 1930s, steel was in short supply and sections of the pipeline were in need of repair. It was decided that timber stave pipes would provide a viable alternative given the lack of steel. Orgeon timber had been used previously in a 33 chain (0.66 kilometres) long by-pass of the Coolgardie Reservoir in 1912 (Hartley 2007: p. 246). Between 1933 and 1937 a distance of 39 miles 30 chains of wooden stave pipes, in fluorised Karri (some were later replaced by Jarrah), were a laid between Kellerbin and Kalgoorlie. Hartley (2007: p. 247) reports that it was ‘...laid in a series of above ground diversions to the main conduit so that the 30 in locking bar pipes which they replaced could be refurbished and relaid above ground in other sections of the main conduit as part of the continuously welded pipeline’. It was the most extensive use of wooden pipes in Australia at the time (Hartley 2007: pp. 246-247) in a country water supply scheme.
In his report of l7 July 1896, O'Connor had stressed the importance of the pipeline for the development of agriculture, and soon after the scheme became operational water services were provided to properties adjoining the pipeline. In 1907 a branch main was constructed to serve farmlands north of Tammin and this demonstrated the value to farmers of an assured water supply for stock and domestic purposes. By 1910 it was obvious that the capacity of the Scheme was greater than was required on the goldfields and the Goldfields Water Supply Act was amended to allow farming properties to be rated for the purpose of supplying water for stock and domestic purposes (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.9). By 1928 the total area of farmland being serviced had increased to approximately 1 million acres (404,685 hectares). The pipeline was now operating to full capacity and the area of rated farmland had to be held at this size until after World War II (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.9).
In 1948 the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide financial support to Western Australia for construction of a Comprehensive Agricultural Areas Water Supply Scheme. The northern section of this scheme was based on the existing Goldfields Water Supply system and provided for a reticulated water supply to towns and farmlands over an area of 4 million acres (1,618,742.5 hectares) as far north as Koorda and Bencubbin (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.11).
In 1951 increased storage was provided by raising the wall of Mundaring Weir by 32 feet (10 m) which trebled the Weir's holding capacity. The enlargement of the dam wall involved the placing of 80,000 cubic yards (61,164 cu metres) of concrete and cost £720,000 (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.12). The line of the vertical upstream face of the wall was not altered, however, the wall was thickened by some 40 feet (12 m) at the base and a new sloping downstream face was created. The heritage value of Weir was recognised, and accordingly great care was taken to reproduce the style from the Victorian period that had characterised the appearance of the original structure. The original footwalk across the crest of the weir was salvaged and reused, and the control tower in the centre of the wall was faithfully reconstructed to the same design as the original (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.12).
A substantial upgrade of the original 30 inch (76 cm) pipe line was also undertaken and the original steam pumping stations were replaced with high powered electric pumps. Branch mains were laid north and south from the main pipeline, to reservoirs which were constructed on highest points in the area. From these tanks water was distributed to the surrounding areas by gravity (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.11). A ceremony to mark the completion of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme was held on 24th November 1961. However, these mains were subsequently extended to the townships of Dalwallinu, Pithara, Ballidu and Corrigin. Later again, four small areas of northern farmlands were included at Kalannie. North Koorda, north Bencubbin and Wilgayne. All work on the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme was finally completed in 1974 (Trust News 2001: Vol 210 p.11).
Today the Pipeline is operated by the WA Water Corporation. It is the Corporations largest asset and the basis of billions of dollars of annual economic activity. Approximately 10,000 services are provided within the agricultural area and the eastern goldfields through 8,000 km of pipelines and over 40 pumping stations (MHI 2008)
The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme extends from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, and traverses the traditional lands of Aboriginal people who identify themselves as Noongar (also referred to as Bibbulmun by Bates in 1904), Ballaruk, Ballardong, Gubrun, Kalamaia Kubun, and Widji (National Native Title Tribunal 2009). Noongar was the Bibbulmun word for man (Bates 1985).
Aboriginal occupation in the south-west of Western Australia dates to 47,000 years BP (before present) at the Devils Lair rock shelter (Dortch 2001). Other sites in the south-west with early occupation dates include the Upper Swan, (38,000 years BP) and a Helena River site above Mundaring Weir, (29,400 years BP). The Helena River provides evidence of continual use to the present day with seasonal camps and a permanent camp site (Schwede1983). There is also evidence of artefact manufacture occurring in the Mundaring Dam area 4,000 -1,000 years BP (Villiers 2007).
The Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA 2009) identifies numerous Aboriginal sites in close proximity to the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme pipeline. The highest densities of sites occur at the beginning of the pipeline at Mundaring Dam and Helena River, at Northam, about eighty kilometres from Mundaring, and at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie at the end of the pipeline. As a result of environmental disturbances associated with the building of the pipeline and earlier infrastructure, many Aboriginal sites have been disturbed. The greatest environmental impact occurred at the beginning of the pipeline, at the Mundaring Dam.
Many sites along the pipeline are of ongoing significance to Aboriginal people who visit them regularly today. Aboriginal sites identified on the pipeline include corroboree grounds and soaks associated with trade routes, wells, granite outcrops, birthing rocks on the Avon River at Northam, cave and rock paintings near Kellerberrin and a number of secret/sacred sites (The National Trust 2001). Webb (2004) notes concerns that few of the water sources on Hunts Track have been recorded as Aboriginal sites, and more generally, with the accuracy of site locations and the lack of a systematic archaeological survey of Noongar Aboriginal sites and complexes; including rock art sites.
The West Australian Government employed Daisy Bates to research the Aboriginal tribes of the state. Bates’ research was used as evidence in the Single Noongar Native Title application of 2006 to verify they were originally one group.
“Bates’ material comprises the largest available corpus of information dealing with the Aborigines of the Perth region obtained at least partly from people who were alive in the early years of European settlement … the first really serious ethnography for any part of the south-west… The cumulative effect of these writings is to provide an insight into Aboriginal life, including Aboriginal laws and customs, in and about the date of settlement, which is possibly not replicated elsewhere in Australia.” (Indigenous Law Bulletin 2009).
At the time of building the pipeline, two Aboriginal groups inhabited the three hundred and thirty miles it traversed. The Bibbulmun lived on the west coast, from Jurien Bay to Perth and Esperance and west as far as Kellerberrin. The Karatjibbin occupied land from Mt Jackson in the north through the Southern Cross district including Kalgoorlie (Bates 1985). The border between the two groups divided the circumcised from the non-circumcised southwest, crossing the pipeline at around Mooranoppin/ Kellerberrin.
Trade existed between the two groups in tools, raw materials and women with adjustments to in-law relationships to accommodate the two groups (Bates 1985).
“They used to induce the Bibbulmun to give their boys for initiation though the circumcised group never gave any in return. …These young boys grew up and married in their adopted groups, and as young men, and later as fathers and grandfathers they returned to the Bibbulmun” (Bates 1929).
Bates (1909) recorded thirty to forty Bibbulmun living on the first Aboriginal reserve “…for old and infirm natives of the Southern district” (Bates 1909) set up by Premier John Forrest in the 1890’s. Maamba Reserve was a 100-acre fertile plateau on Bibbulmun land at the foot of the Darling Ranges, approximately twelve kilometres east of the Mundaring Dam and included a “splendid” spring and camping ground called Gooininup (Bates 1909).
Bates lived at the reserve for two years with the Bibbulmun who relied on government rations but lived a semi-traditional lifestyle. She recorded information from Joobaitch, an 80 year old Bibbulmun man who died on the reserve near his sacred Kaanya tree (Bates 2004).
“He had parted with the whole site of the present Mundaring Weir, and both sides of the Swan River from beyond Perth Guildford to Perth Water, for some special meat food which pleased him in his old age” (Bates 1985, 64).
Corroborees or kenings were held at Maamba, including one for Governor and Lady Bedford. The last Bibbulmun corroboree Bates recorded at Maamba was in 1910 and included men for Kellerberrin, Gingin, Victoria Plains, Southern Cross, Guildford and Bunbury (Bates 2004).
At the head of the pipeline, the Mundaring area is a highly significant and sensitive mythological area. The Mundaring (Mundjalline) myth links the Helena River (Mandoon) east via Mundaring to the Swan River and west to York (Villiers 2007). The most important totem was the snake Woggal, also known as Waugyl/Waugal (Bates 1985). The DIA listing of the Helena River “as a ceremonial and mythological site … is consistent with the significance attributed to all waterways as having been created and inhabited by the primary Ancestor beings associated with the Creative Era, in this case the Waugyl” (Villiers 2007,13). Bates (1985) details physical landscape features such as strewn rushes, lime and saltpans that denote the life cycle of the Woggal and associated sacred sites. Villiers (2007, 17) also notes the presence of the Woggal at Mundaring
“The swamp and pools know as Mundjalline according to tradition, were located in a deep valley that has been inundated as a result of the construction of the Mundaring Weir…A powerful Waugal associated with rainmaking lived here. Disturbance of the swamp reeds at Mundajalline resulted in cyclonic winds and rain…”
Bates describes sites with reed disturbance as sacred Woggal camping places. She refers to a Helena River site called Beeragunning as a sacred (Janga) split rock, surrounded by reeds that Aboriginal people could walk through but became ill and died if they touched it or it closed up on them. A myth associated with another sacred stone marked with stick-like indentations at Dargain, in the Helena River area was also recorded by Bates (1985).
Aboriginal people and their water supply were impacted by several events prior to the building of the pipeline. These included diseases, explorers and the building of infrastructure prior to and during the gold rushes. Typhoid fever associated with poor sanitation, cramped conditions and lack of water was rife in Western Australia in the late 1800s (Wittington 1988).
Access to water was essential for survival in the semi-arid zone of south-west West Australia. In relation to the expansion of European settlement Hallam notes (1979, 68)
“…water supplies dictated that European movement and settlement must follow Aboriginal movement and settlement in Western Australia also. Bidi and Gongan, zones of easiest and habitual movement between water sources, were as basic to European as to Aboriginal ecology... ‘Native wells’ and ‘native paths’ marked their regular progress through and around their own country.”
Aboriginal people have rights to water in their territory. “Every Aboriginal knows the rocks, soaks, springs and anything that gives water on their hunting grounds” (Bates 1985, 262). Non-Aboriginal people were often unaware of traditional water sources until shown by Aboriginal people (Bates 1913; Carnegie 1871). Aboriginal people disclosed their sources either willingly, through coercion or as a result of force, as detailed by one early gold explorer.
“Sorry as I was to be rude to a lady, I had to make her prisoner, but not without a deal of trouble… I felt myself justified, therefore, in unceremoniously making captives from what wandering tribes we might fall in with. And in light of after events I say unhesitatingly that, without having done so, and without having to a small extent used rough treatment to some natives so caught, we could not by any possibility have succeeded in crossing the desert, and should not only have lost our own lives, but possibly those of others who would have made search for us after.” (Carnegie 1871).
In the 1860s Charles Hunt, a government surveyor, modified traditional water sources to receive and store rainwater to supply seasonably reliable water to expand European settlement. In 1863, the Gnarlbine Soaks at Coolgardie were disclosed by Kowitch, an Aboriginal assistant to M H Lefroy’s expedition, and were later incorporated into Hunts Track (Heritage Council of West Australia 2009). The Goldfields Pipeline followed the route of previously installed infrastructure including road, rail and telegraph which roughly followed Hunt’s Track. Bates (1909) also noted that “…most of the ‘roads’ of these tribes (including eastern goldfields) run ‘erratically’ east and west for a considerable distance, but not very far north and south”.
The absence of artesian water sources and unacceptable salt levels in ground water meant traditional sources of Aboriginal water were co-opted to supply not only huge numbers of European settlers but horses, camels and industry. As populations grew, Aboriginal water sources and bore water condensers were insufficient to meet demand.
The preparation work for the six-mile long, 4.6 billion gallon Mundaring Dam began in June 1898. Three hundred men and their families living on site supplemented their food by fishing, kangaroo hunting and collecting wild honey, staples for the local Aboriginal people. Eight hundred acres of land was completely cleared with two hundred acres of the lower catchments ringbarked and the riverbed cleared and burnt. A thousand cubic metres of local sand was used in the weir wall (Quicke 1978).
Fifty miles along the pipeline, the town of Northam became the manufacturing centre and food producer for the goldfields. Burlong Pool, a DIA registered mythological site and important Aboriginal water source, was turned into a camping ground for railway contractors, including their horses and camels (Garden, 1979). The last recorded corroboree took place in 1899 at the Northam Government Well, which later became the Northam Aboriginal Reserve. At that time, the desperate state of the local Aboriginals was documented. “The hundred who gathered on that occasion were near starving, and the children sick and miserable from want of food and clothing” (Garden 1979, 56). Northam was connected to the unfinished pipeline in 1902 due to a very hot summer and typhoid infected local water sources.
At Coolgardie towards the end of the pipeline, Aboriginal people were desperate for water and not receiving help from the local Council who saw it as a State government issue (Wittington 1988). Deaths due to typhoid peaked in Coolgardie during 1896-7. Tickenbutt, an Aboriginal man also known as Fred McGill, wrote to the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper complaining of the unavailability of water for independent Aboriginal people who could no longer get it from their traditional sources, as rations or from bore water condensers. Some people were more generous, one miner set up a small condenser for Aboriginal people who had helped his family (Wittington 1988, 63).
“The local Aboriginal contribution to the developments of the Goldfields cannot be ignored. It is well known that Aboriginal people led explorers and miners to both water and gold” (Wyatt 2006). Carnegie exploring the area from Lake Darlôt to Halls Creek and return in 1896-97 was also assisted by Aboriginal people.
“Throughout our journey we never once found water by chance—though chance took us to more than one dry hole—but found it only by systematic and patient work, involving many scores of miles of tracking, the capture of the wild aboriginals, and endless hours of manual labour” (Carnegie 2009).
It is unknown how many Aboriginal people worked on the pipeline or with associated contractors. A large part of the work for the pipeline was undertaken by the West Australian Public Works Department. Photographic evidence identifies an Aboriginal man working on the pipeline with a non-Aboriginal team (National Trust, 2001). Numerous photos portray Aboriginal people from Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in a variety of roles including accompanying explorers and working, for example as a butcher, a miner and police assistant. These photos also depict Aboriginal people attending church-sponsored Christmas dinner and interactions with non-Aboriginal people including taking part in mainstream sporting events and processions in the townships (Templeman and McDonald 1988; Wittington, 1988).
Developments along the pipeline depleted Aboriginal people’s traditional food and water sources through over use, carelessness or greed (Wittington 1988, and Carnegie 1871). Aboriginal people chose or were forced to move into settlements including reserves. If they maintained their independence, they were expected to purchase water from the pipeline (Templeman and McDonald 1988, Wittington 1988), be recompensed with water for services rendered or rely on the kindness of others (Wittington 1988). As one Kalgoorlie resident commented:
“The blacks are in a bad way just now…It’s a pity something can’t be done to help them, water being so scarce just now, all the soaks and gnamma holes are just about dry…so you see the poor blacks are robbed of their water. It’s cruel” (Templeman and McDonald 1988, 53).
|Condition and Integrity|
Components of the original scheme are still in use and in
excellent condition. Historic elements no longer in use have in general been
stabilized or conserved while some elements are in poor condition. Changes have
been made and continue to be made for operational purposes.|
Post World War 2 Mundaring Weir was raised by 32 feet [10m] to treble the capacity of the weir in order to supply agricultural areas north and south of the pipeline. As part of raising the weir wall, the upper valve house was dismantled from the original wall and re-erected on the raised one to preserve the appearance of the original wall.
Mount Charlotte has been covered for safety / water quality reasons.
As mentioned above, the pipeline was re-laid above ground. This was in the 1930s and was a state project initiated to create jobs during the Depression. Part of the pipeline was duplicated when the scheme was expanded post World War Two. However, although they are now concrete-lined to prevent corrosion, 58% of the original pipes are still in service.
The pumps, capable of delivering five million gallons of water per day, performed until they were decommissioned in the 1950s and 1960s and replaced by electric powered pumps. Two of the steam pumping stations are no longer standing and the six remaining are in various conditions, some with the original equipment, some with none. No 4 is simply a shell while Nos 6 and 8 still the majority of their machinery.
Mundaring Weir and Mount Charlotte Reservoir, Kalgoorlie, and comprising the following:|
1. the pipeline (main conduit) that extends from Mundaring Weir in the west to Mount Charlotte Reservoir in the east;
2. the Mundaring Weir wall, two valve houses, spillway and the basin;
3. the No 1 Pump Station located at the base of Mundaring Weir;
4. the site of No 2 Pump Station and the remains of the associated concrete receiving tank, Mundaring Weir Road;
5. the Bakers Hill Regulating Tank, Bowstock Street, Bakers Hill;
6. the West Northam Regulating Tank, West Northam, comprising the original rectangular shaped reservoir;
7. the No 3 Pump Station, Forrest Road, Cunderdin, comprising the whole of Lot 418 P220560;
8. the No 4 Pump Station and Holding Tank, Great Eastern Highway, Merredin, comprising an area bounded by a line commencing at the north east corner of Lot 1361 P216984, then south easterly to MGA point Zone 50 618062mE 6515200mN, then south westerly to MGA point 618011mE 6515173mN, then north westerly to the north west corner of Lot 1361 P216984, then north easterly via the north western boundary of Lot 1361 P216984 to the point of commencement;
9. the No 5 Pump Station and Yerbillon Reservoir, Smyth Road, Yerbillon, comprising an area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the western road reserve boundary of Smyth Road and MGA northing Zone 50 6525727mN (approximate MGA point 665555mE 6525727mN). then westerly to MGA point 665438mE 6525732mN, then southerly to MGA point 665433mE 6525492mN, then easterly to the intersection of the western road reserve boundary of Smyth Road with MGA northing 6525482mN (approximate MGA point 665504mE 6525482mN), then northerly via the western road reserve boundary of Smyth Road to the point of commencement;
10. the No 6 Pump Station and Ghooli Tank, Great Eastern Highway, Ghooli;
11. the site of No 7 Pump Station and the associated Reservoir (regulating tank), Great Eastern Highway, Koorarawalee, comprising the whole of Lot 1060 P031436;
12. the No 8 Pump Station and Holding Tank, Great Eastern Highway, Benari, comprising an area bounded by a line joining the following MGA points consecutively: Zone 51 279947mE 6557892mN, 28002mE 6557870mN, 279952mE 6557678mN, 279786mE 6557579mN, 279712mE 6557704mN, 279882mE 6557810mN, then directly to the point of commencement;
13. the Bullabulling Regulating Tank (Reservoir), Great Eastern Highway, Bullabulling;
14. the Toorak Hill Regulating Tank (Reservoir), Moran Street, Coolgardie;
15. the Kalgoorlie No 1 Tank, Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie, being an area comprising a circle of 70 metres radius centred on MGA point Zone 51 352593mE 6595880mN;
16. the Mt Charlotte Reservoir, Collier Place, Kalgoorlie, comprising the whole of Lot 2714 P043132 and that part of Lot 2713 P043132 to the west of Collier Place.
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Report Produced Sat Mar 8 15:21:00 2014