Part 1 – Lake Mul­wala Fore­shore rec­ol­lec­tions by John Grant, 26/2/1999

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - I remember when ... -

No doubt the great­est sin­gle event in the his­tory of Yar­ra­wonga was the de­ci­sion made, in July 1934, to con­struct the Yar­ra­wonga Weir which re­sulted in the for­ma­tion of Lake Mul­wala, so pro­vid­ing the on-go­ing ben­e­fits of ir­ri­ga­tion, recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties and, more re­cently power gen­er­a­tion.

Yar­ra­wonga and Mul­wala cer­tainly owe their pop­u­lar­ity as a ma­jor tourist re­sort to Lake Mul­wala and its en­vi­rons. In ad­di­tion to which it has largely in­flu­enced the de­ci­sion of many peo­ple to re­tire in this area, so cre­at­ing a sub­stan­tial in­crease in our per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

Right from the out­set the weir project was a real God-send to our com­mu­nity, com­ing as it did dur­ing the de­pres­sion years, and pro­vid­ing work for a large force of men who would other­wise have been on the dole.

When I ar­rived in Yar­ra­wonga, at the end of 1937, con­struc­tion of the Weir was al­ready well ad­vanced. The foun­da­tions had been ex­ca­vated, and poured, the su­per­struc­ture was start­ing to arise, and the dig­ging of wa­ter chan­nels was well ad­vanced.

Early in 1937 some mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, led by Harry Hae­bich, drew at­ten­tion to the fact that when the Weir was com­pleted a large area of the river flats, ad­ja­cent to our two towns, would be in­un­dated, and hun­dreds of trees would be­come wa­ter-logged and die, thus cre­at­ing an un­ac­cept­able land­scape right up to the edge of both towns.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the au­thor­i­ties to have some of this area cleared was not well re­ceived by the Mur­ray River Com­mis­sion, as they con­sid­ered these dead trees would be a use­ful buf­fer against ero­sion on both sides of the lake.

As more po­lit­i­cal pres­sure was bought to bear, the com­mis­sion re­luc­tantly agreed that, whilst they were not pre­pared to play a part in the op­er­a­tion, they would of­fer no ob­jec­tion to the lo­cal com­mu­nity clear­ing what­ever area in the lim­ited time avail­able.

A gov­ern­ment grant of 500 pound was ob­tained, and to­gether with lo­cal sub­scrip­tions, and a do­na­tion from the Grove Pic­tures, some pro­fes­sional help was ob­tained. How­ever most of the clear­ing work was car­ried out by vol­un­tary labour, through a suc­ces­sion of work­ing bees.

It be­came com­mon prac­tice each evening to take an axe down to the bends and cut down a num­ber of saplings.

Each week­end, most mem­bers of the com­mu­nity would at­tend work­ing bees, the men cut­ting down the trees, and the women pro­vid­ing meals and re­fresh­ments.

The big red gums were left to the pro­fes­sion­als, such as the King & Jones Sawmill staff.

The Yar­ra­wonga Mul­wala cit­i­zens of to­day owe an enor­mous debt of grat­i­tude to those men and women who, through sheer hard yakka, pro­vided the cleared area on which we now en­joy our aquatic ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Yar­ra­wonga Weir was com­pleted in July 1939, and the first ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter reached Co­bram on the 13th Oc­to­ber of that year.

The out­break of World War 2, in September de­layed the of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mony for 50 years.

When Lake Mul­wala filled, there was no fore­shore as we know it to­day. The wa­ter just lapped the shore­line, be­low Bank Street and Hunt Street. In be­tween was a soggy de­pres- sion, known as Sul­li­van’s Folly, so named after the Yar­ra­wonga Shire En­gi­neer of that era.

I can rec­ol­lect a small creek, or wa­ter­way, which flowed into the lake, in the area where Han­ra­han’s home still stands. It was crossed by a small wooden bridge.

The out­break of war, in September 1939, meant that all projects, not di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with the war ef­fort, were placed on hold for the du­ra­tion, and any devel­op­ment of the fore­shore had to wait un­til late 1945, when the first re­tain­ing wall was com­menced.

Vol­un­teers helped clear ar­eas of Lake Mul­wala.

Pho­tos cour­tesy Yar­ra­wonga Mul­wala Pioneer Musem.

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