Bush Capital with Brett McNamara | How Googong Foreshores became part of the ACT

Have you ever wondered why the ACT Government manages Googong Foreshores? After all, it sits on the Queanbeyan River in the state of New South Wales. Or does it? 

WORTH A VISIT: The London Bridge geological formation that made up part of the Commonwealth’s heritage listing for the Googong Foreshores site.

WORTH A VISIT: The London Bridge geological formation that made up part of the Commonwealth’s heritage listing for the Googong Foreshores site.

History tells us that when tasked to locate a site for the nation’s capital in 1909, Surveyor-General Charles Scrivener had a grand vision. With an eye to the future, Scrivener looked to secure the water supply for an innovative inland city, a city that would evolve with time in a dry continent.    

Appreciating the life-giving qualities of a precious commodity, Scrivener moved to protect not just the rivers, but the entire water catchments that feed these majestic rivers.  

Locating the source of the Cotter, Molonglo and—importantly—the Queanbeyan rivers, Scrivener proposed that the entire length of these meandering waterways be encapsulated within the territorial borders of the new national capital. The Surveyor-General’s rationale was that the good residents of the bush capital would be masters of their own destiny. Put simply, an inland city as grand as Canberra would be shouldn’t be reliant on the good will of those upstream for crystal clear water. 

At the time the NSW Premier, Charles Wade, didn’t exactly share Scrivener’s far-sighted dream. A quaint little village had formed on the banks of the mighty Queanbeyan River, a community somewhat sceptical of the proposed new territory. After all, a site for the Commonwealth’s proposed capital city had been in the pipeline since Federation, back in 1901.    

A political compromise was required.  

It was agreed that those parts of the Queanbeyan River upstream of the fledging village would form part of the water catchment to supply the nation’s capital, but not the village of Queanbeyan. It is to this historic compromise that the Commonwealth Government then acquired an area that today we call Googong Foreshores.  With the political nuances associated with the proclamation of self-government, the ACT Government, through the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, are now custodians for the water catchment values of Googong, just as Scrivener had intended all those years ago.  

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth Government announced that Googong Foreshores had been included in the Commonwealth Heritage List of national significance, now sitting alongside the Lodge, the Carillion and the Royal Australian Mint. This wonderful heritage registration acknowledges the rich intrinsic values associated the indigenous, pastoral, geological and natural historical landscape that is the amazing Googong region.    

Glean an insight to this incredible heritage and check out some great walks at www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation 

  • Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service