Bob Baade looks back on a ca­reer in civil en­gi­neer­ing span­ning more than 50 years and shares some of his sto­ries with Moya Stevens

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Bairns­dale born, Bob Baade was en­cour­aged into an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree by his fa­ther who worked for Vic Roads.

“My early years in Bairn­sale were re­ally great – swim­ming and sail­ing,” Bob ex­plained, “although the weather was pretty dread­ful.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing his en­gi­neer­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions in Bendigo in 1961, Bob fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s foot­steps, work­ing for Vic Roads in Bairns­dale.

“At that time, the coun­try was scream­ing for engi­neers as most the of roads still needed se­ri­ous work af­ter the war,” Bob said.

In 1965 Bob, now mar­ried with a fam­ily, took on an ap­point­ment in Suva, Fiji, as an ad­viser to the king.

Bob taught the lo­cals a diploma course in en­gi­neer­ing and said that when or­gan­is­ing gangs to work on the roads, two of the 30 peo­ple em­ployed were re­spon­si­ble for serv­ing kava to the work­ers.

In 1968, with Fiji’s in­de­pen­dence im­mi­nent, the Baade fam­ily moved to Dar­win (as Deputy City En­gi­neer), then de­cided to es­cape the trop­ics by re­turn­ing to Victoria in 1970.

“Af­ter find­ing Dar­win too hot we now found our­selves not han­dling the cold of Victoria, so af­ter three years I took the po­si­tion of shire en­gi­neer at Cal­liope,” Bob said.

“When I left I heard they had named a park af­ter me in Tan­num Sands,” he laughed.

The fam­ily, now with four chil­dren, made its last move in 1976 to the Dou­glas Shire. Bob was the first en­gi­neer to be ap­pointed to the Coun­cil.

“There was no Parks and Gar­dens sec­tion – the cane farm­ers just wanted Coun­cil to build roads.

“Port Dou­glas was just a lit­tle tin pot place of about 300 res­i­dents,” he ex­plained, “with no sew­er­age so I had plan drawn up for that.

“It was a pretty trau­matic time for the Port Dou­glas res­i­dents with all the beau­ti­ful veg­e­ta­tion which had to be dug up for the sew­er­age sys­tem to be in­stalled.

“Dur­ing the wet sea­son the place look like a third world coun­try,” Bob said, “and the wa­ter ta­ble was al­most at ground level caus­ing ef­flu­ent to flow into the streets.

“I would get a least one com­plaint a day dur­ing that project, but once we had fin­ished in a street and re-land­scaped their gar­dens we were all friends again.”

It was the need to prop­a­gate the re­place­ment plants to re­in­state the res­i­dents’ gar­dens that in­sti­gated the es­tab­lish­ment of the Coun­cil nurs­ery at the South Mossman de­pot.

“We also drew wa­ter straight from Rex Creek for the Shire, so with the Health De­part­ment on our backs, I ar­ranged a fil­tra­tion sys­tem for our wa­ter sup­ply.”

By the late ’70s Bob’s mar­riage came to an end how­ever, af­ter a chance meet­ing at a pub, a few years later he mar­ried Jean Cowe, a lo­cal Mossman lady who had three chil­dren.

“We lived in an old house Coun­cil pro­vided which was pretty dread­ful,” Bob said, “and, as I had three of my four chil­dren and Jean had her three, it was un­ten­able.”

The Coun­cil made ef­forts to im­prove the Baade’s liv­ing con­di­tions by paint­ing and up­dat­ing the floor­ing.

In 1983 the Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil, with the back­ing of the state gov­ern­ment, fi­nalised the plan to con­struct and seal the Cape Tribu­la­tion to Bloom­field track.

“I was to su­per­vise the pro- ject and as we know, there was con­sid­er­able op­po­si­tion to the project which in­cluded a block­ade by protesters,” Bob said.

“As we were un­able to ac­cess the road from the south due to the block­ade, we com­menced con­struc­tion from the north, and I was chop­pered in to the site weekly.”

Protesters made life dif­fi­cult for the Baade fam­ily with ha­rass­ment and abuse aimed not only at Bob, but sadly also at his wife and chil­dren.

“We would get abu­sive phone calls in the mid­dle of the night, our home was graf­fi­tied and our dogs would be let out of the yard,” Bob re­calls. The road was opened in 1984.

The Shire had 32 tim­ber bridges when Bob started at Coun­cil and many of these were in a poor state. “I con­vinced Coun­cil we should re­place a bridge ev­ery two years with pre-stressed re­in­forced con­crete bridges and when I re­tired in 2012 we were on tar­get.”

Bob con­tin­ued to up­date and ex­pand his qual­i­fi­ca­tions which served him well.

In 2008 the Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil amal­ga­mated with Cairns City Coun­cil.

“From my ex­pe­ri­ence, af­ter work­ing with Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil, the de-amal­ga­ma­tion of Dou­glas Shire was cer­tainly the cor­rect de­ci­sion,” Bob said.

In re­cent years Bob has un­der­taken var­i­ous civil en­gi­neer­ing project man­age­ment con­tracts. He and his wife, Jean, moved to Ju­lat­ten 16 years ago but are now plan­ning to down­size and re­lo­cate to Port Dou­glas.

“I’m al­ways build­ing and con­struct­ing some­thing around our five acres, so my next project is a new house,” he said.

Bob Baade has left a pos­i­tive legacy in Dou­glas and the com­mu­nity reaps the ben­e­fits of his vi­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to en­gi­neer­ing on a daily ba­sis.

It was a pretty trau­matic time for the Port Dou­glas res­i­dents with all the beau­ti­ful veg­e­ta­tion which had to be dug up for the sew­er­age sys­tem to be in­stalled.

Bob Baade


At his home with its fine gar­den in Ju­lat­ten. Inset: In younger days

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