Wivenhoe Dam Levels – Background – Before the 1974 Flood

Posted on Thu 01/20/2011 by


Our family moved to Queensland from Victoria in 1960, when I was a young boy of only 9 years of age, the eldest of five children. We moved into a home at Labrador, three miles from Southport at the Northern end of that famed holiday destination, The Gold Coast.

What we noticed most were three things, other than it was so much warmer than where we had come from.

The first was that a lot of the houses were ‘on stilts’, as we said at the time, mainly tall wooden stumps, lifting an average sized house around 8 feet off the ground, mainly for cooling purposes in the Queensland heat.

The second was the plethora of outdoor ‘dunnies’, outhouses, toilets outside the main structure of the home.

The third was that a lot of houses had large water tanks as their only supply for water.

It just seemed that way to a child’s eyes I suppose, as quite as lot of homes were in fact on town water, and most homes had an internal toilet connected to an outdoor sump, and this was still prior to a complete sewerage system being installed on The Gold Coast.

As to water supply, the home we moved into had town water.

In 1962, the Little Nerang Dam came on stream, and this became the major water supply for the Gold Coast, still nowhere near in size the city it has become these days.

In 1966, our large family moved into a new home, a larger 3 to 4 bedroom house in Anglers Paradise, now the trendy suburb called Runaway Bay, but at that time ours was one of only a few homes in that area, prior to its huge expansion over the years. This new home was on reinforced concrete stumps around nine feet off the ground, and the only room at that ground level was the laundry.

As the Gold Coast grew, and by an ever increasing rate, water supply became almost critical, and there was a crying need for a new way of supplying that extra water.

The Hinze Dam was proposed, and this was in days long before greenie environmentalists were around to oppose on principal something like a new dam.

So Hinze Dam was proposed and then, finally constructed.

By this time, I had already joined the Air Force, in 1967 straight from High School. Even though I was stationed elsewhere, my home was still Anglers Paradise, and I would still come home there often, even when I moved from a Base close by, well 75 miles anyway, to a new base 500 miles away. It also helped that I had a girlfriend there, so that prompted those journeys home on a regular basis.

Hinze Dam was a couple of years in the construction. Our Church Young People’s group would often go on small trips each Saturday to local spots in the Hinterland behind the Gold Coast, that area having some of the most beautiful National Parks and State Forests, all of which had picnic areas and walking tracks.

I was actually a little sad when Hinze Dam was finished and that area closed off, because it flooded a small village in part of the dams holding area, Advancetown. There was only a wonderful old Pub, a general store and around 2 dozen or so homes. However, there was also an old country home cafe that made the best Devonshire Tea I have ever had in my life, even to this day.

A Devonshire Tea consists of two scones, cream, strawberry jam, and a large pot of tea. There’s an art to making a good Devonshire Tea, and this small cafe had it down pat. The scones had to be fresh, tall and fluffy, and warm, and keep in mind this was in a time long before microwave ovens, so the scones were always freshly made. The cream was from local dairy, also wonderfully fresh and whipped on site, and they made the strawberry jam at the small cafe. The Pot of Tea was huge, at least two and half cups, the way I like Tea.

Those Devonshire Teas were something I looked forward to, whenever we passed through Advancetown.

Sadly the small village was relocated, well it vanished really.

Hinze Dam was originally proposed to have three stages, and when it was initially constructed, it was only to Stage 1.

Being a new dam, there was a lot of curiosity attached to it and it would get a lot of visitors. It was actually thought at the time to be quite large, and there was one school of thought that it would even be a dud, and never fill, and if it ever did, it would take years and years.

However, all that was put to rest, as not long after it opened there was a huge dump of rain in the catchment behind the dam, and it filled in less than a week to 100%.

What happened from that point on is that people came to the realisation that where the dam was situated was almost perfect. The catchment behind the dam was the Springbrook Plateau and Numinbah Valley, and this area consistently received wonderful rainfall, and all of flowed into Hinze Dam.

Over the years Hinze Dam has always provided a regular water supply for The Gold Coast, as it expanded at such a great rate to end up now as the sixth largest city in Australia. It has consistently been at a level to do this quite comfortably, and the Gold Coast has never had the need at any time to worry about its water supply.

Hinze Dam was expanded to Stage 2  in 1989, and this more than tripled its water holdings. Even so, it remained at or near capacity, and even when it started to get low in the midst of the very long drought, Springbrook, and its wonderful capacity to back up clouds against it in that tall mountain rain forest, always had a good rainfall, even in drought, and all that water flowed into Hinze Dam, so while other areas had decreasing water supply, the Gold Coast always covered what it needed adequately and even better than that.

Political will in this day and age saw Stage three becoming problematic, but a Gold Coast City Council persevered and stage three was finally completed late last year, 2010, securing an even far greater water holding for this area, and now also including flood mitigation compartments as well, also part of the original proposal from way back in the early 70’s.

The came the flood of 1974