Sinking feeling for dredge
Council waits for advice from Heritage Victoria on what to do with gold relic
HISTORIANS fear a vital piece of Myrtleford’s past is about to be buried – again.
Early last month contractors working at Sandy Beach on the Ovens River, part of a campaign to beautify the area, uncovered a bucket ladder from the gold dredge that worked the river at the start of the last century.
The 10m long rusted “arm” was duly removed and now sits in the Alpine Shire Council depot on the Great Alpine Road at Myrtleford.
Myrtleford Historical Society president John Taylor said it was a link to a past that is yet to be acknowledged.
“There has always been a question over the extent of gold dredging in this area,” he said.
“But in 1998 the dredge was uncovered after being buried almost 90 years earlier.
“It was owned by the Ovens Junction Bucket Dredging Co., 1907—1912 and it sank, according to witnesses and reports at the time, ‘when it struck a solid rock bar just above Nimmo Bridge’.
“The dredge had travelled up the river from the junction with the Buffalo River and been partly dismantled to fit under the bridge before hitting the rocks.
“It was buried right there, the chimney and boiler taken away at some stage to be used at the butter factory.”
Alpine Shire Council’s assets director Charlie Bird said they were awaiting advice from Heritage Victoria before making any decisions.
“Council engaged an external contractor to carry out improvement works at Nimmo Bridge as part of the Stronger Communities Project,” he said.
“During these works, which commenced in January, the contractors inadvertently unearthed an historic dredge arm.
“The dredge arm was removed from the site as it posed a potential danger to members of the public and is now being stored at a council site.
“Given the historic impor- tance of this equipment to the Alpine Shire, we immediately contacted Heritage Victoria and informed them of this discovery.”
A dredge bucket, recovered in 1998, remains at the popular waterhole, catching leaves.
Mr Taylor believes the latest discovery opens up an opportunity to further promote Myrtleford’s history.
“This is a chance to acknowledge the role of dredging in this part of the Ovens River,” he said. “It is a chance to think about how these pieces can best showcase that history.
“We certainly don’t want to see it sit in the council depot and be scrapped forever.”
HIGH AND DRY: The dredge arm unearthed at Sandy Beach now sits in a storage yard in Myrtleford.