14["The Great Nor'-West", The West Australian, Thursday 02 September 1909, page 6]
The Great Nor'-West.
To the Editor.
With regard to the port of Onslow, on arrival at the anchorage a visitor has to pay 4s. to come ashore in the agent's cutter, 1s. to pay for his tram fare, and 3d. for each package. Goods are brought to jetty by lighter, and frequently it takes hours to bring passengers from steamer to jetty--distance about one mile--owing to no wind. The shipping people will deliver no goods to anyone but their agents.
Wool.--There will probably be 5,000 bales sent from here this season. To ship this costs per bale, 6d. carriage on tram to wharf, 6d. wharfage, and 2s. from jetty to steamer., ie., 3s. per bale for six miles. To land a horse in or out costs 30s. Why cannot a jetty be built at the place spoken of by Mr. Burt, where there are three fathoms of water at low tide? It would mean thousands of pounds of revenue to the Government in the way of stock, which at present has to go to Carnarvon or Port Hedland, and what is now sent to Minginew (for sale) overland would probably find its way to Geraldton and Perth or Fremantle.
I would like to point out that this has been an exceptionally good season, but good or bad seasons should make little or no difference in this district, in as much as the Ashburton River is some 600 miles in length flowing through some of the finest agricultural, pastoral, and mining country in the world (in which there is about one person to every 1,000 square miles, instead of thousands of people). Why can this river not be conserved? A weir across the river at the five-mile or two-mile crossing would give permanent water for irrigation and any other purpose for from 12 to 20 miles back. There is any quantity of clay on the spot, and the construction presents no difficulties of any kind from an engineering point of view - that is to a layman's mind. Further back at "The Gorge," some 300 miles up the river, a reservoir could be constructed which would hold from 300 to 400 ft. depth of water from 12 to 15 miles long and average five chains and over wide, in diorite and granite rock. What an asset this would be in the way of electrical motive power can only be conceived by seeing the capabilities of the place; plenty of fuel on the spot or close handy.
There are lead, lead and silver, copper, and gold lodes all through the district. Some of them are being worked in a perfunctory way, and apparently are paying propositions - some of the private ones are anyhow - but a prospector in this district has a bad time; he cannot get tucker. The squatters won't supply it. There is gold being won quietly in different places, up the river, but the winners don't and won't talk. If they did, they probably would have what supplies the get stopped.
Your correspondent "R.M.C." (August 2) says, "Go North, young man; go North." When the young man comes North he finds a great country in the hands of a few squatters, who don't apparently want ayone else in the place. Mr. Burt appears to be an exception in this district. And if the young man wanted to take up land, how is he going to get it? When the Premier was passing through here going south on the Koombana, he is said to have told a member of the local Roads Board that "if an application signed by 20 or 30 bona-fide people were made for land in blocks of 2,000 acres he thought it would be granted." Acting on this, those likely to take up land have been interviewed and the petition will be sent on as soon as signed. They are all working men, shearers from New South Wales and Queensland, teamsters from Victoria, and others, and they know what can be done with this class of country--with water. Some of them have gone so far as to say, "Let us be sure we can get the land and we will build the weir"--or place themselves, their teams, and plant at the service of the Government to do it, free; the only thing the Government would have to find would be tools, an efficient staff of supervisors, and cement, which would be much the better plan. Therefore, when it is an established fact that blocks can be got either on the Gascoyne or the Ashburton, let the young man and woman come along--thousands of him or her--there is plenty of room.
The only drawback in this glorious country is the "willy willy." Now the earliest known has been in January and the latest in May. They can, like all other ills, be guarded against: From May to January is eight months, the wettest and driest part of the year. Supposing the mailman had put in 100 acres of wheat and oats three months since, he would be cutting it now. How much hay to acre he would have got can best be imagined. Lucerne thrives luxuriantly in Carnarvon; we have summer rains here (tropical) and it should do better here, as also should any other fodder. I omitted to say that the mailman also planted potatoes, pumpkins, water-melons, and maize, every one of which turned out a success. When you come to consider that he only visited his camp once a fortnight, you can understand what attention they got. The natural feed prevailing and obtaining in the district is spinifex; there is nothing better for stock-raising. This year thousands of tons of ensilage could have been cut from natural grass 3 to 5 ft. high. It will seed, dry and be blown away in the summer; then the squatter complains there is no grass. No wonder. Dates are growing wild round nearly every house in Onslow where date stones have been swept out or thrown. How long this country is to be locked up remains to be seen. It is good to see that some interest is being aroused in the matter, and as (in the event of this petition being granted) the men who take up the land are taking the risk of sunccess they should be the best judges of their chances. Mr. Brockman, Mr. Burt, "R.M.C.," and others say the country will grow these and other tropical products. These men will be prepared to prove it, and also that dairying can be carried on as successfully here and on the Gascoyne as well as if not better than in many other places not possessing natural grass foods for stock. Should the petition be granted, the squatters will not suffer in any way. Their country is not more than half stocked, nor ever has been, and a few thousand acres of idle land being utilised and fertilised will be rather of a boon to them than otherwise. Some of their rights as to access to the river need be transgressed, but if they irrigate they should be made pay for the water, if conserved. Settlers will want stock horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, etc., which they can supply; and I may mention here that the whole district possesses excellent qualities of all stock, which, being acclimatised, would be better for a start than any importation, probably. Such, in effect, is what might be done with the water which runs to waste every year, and is likely to do so if something is not done to utilise it for the benefit of the State. There are other matters in connection with the river, such as transport. A succession of weirs or locks would make a waterway. The rise and fall of the tide is 8ft., but salt water does not reach further up-stream than what is known as the "five-mile," which seems to show the fall of the country is about 18in. to the mile. At the ten mile the pool there has never been known to be dry. At the five-mile the banks in long reaches are from 10 to 15 ft. above the stream at ordinary level. I trust someone abler than myself (perhaps from the Gascoyne district) will take the matter up for the good of the State we have elected to live in and future generations that will come to live and thrive in it and build up our and their share of the nation that should occupy Australia.
Onslow, August 16. PROGRESS.