I have been writing something about the Hobart Rivulet, the small river which can become mighty torrent which runs off kunanyi, Mount Wellington, which towers over Hobart in Tasmania. I wrote about its long history of association with people, from the mouheneener people who lived and walked by it for nearly ten thousand years, to the white British colonialists who arrived to use what they then called Van Diemen’s Land as a jail for their unwanted prisoners. Here is the next part, what happened as Hobarton developed into the city of Hobart – if you notice any mistakes or errors, please do let me know!
In the early days the Rivulet served many purposes apart from providing water for drinking, for power and for domestic and industrial purposes; it was used to transport people and goods, and it was also used – (as so many watercourses worldwide in the past and still today) as a sewer. This dire situation was inevitable, despite Lieutenant Governor David Collins (the founding Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land) best efforts; the day after he landed in February 1804, he gave out that no-on was to pollute the river at all, in any way, by any means.
However, his fine words and sensible pronouncements were soon ignored; it wasn’t just domestic sewerage (the Rivulet was declared a sewer in 1843) but as industry increased, especially with the introduction of steam-powered machines, other waste, including from tanneries, quarries and sawmills – as well as the original flour mill – along the Rivulet rendered it so foul that people living nearby complained. Various not very successful efforts were made to improve it the situation, but didn’t prevent several typhoid epidemics breaking out during the latter part of then nineteenth century. Action was only taken in 1912 – almost within living memory, when a drainage and sewerage system was introduced.
As the city grew bridges were built over it at key points until it became necessary, or was deemed necessary to send the water through pipes and tunnels under the buildings and streets of the state capital. When we visited we noticed this as we walked around the city, we kept finding bridges over the hidden river, and could sometimes glimpse it as it ran towards its meeting with the Derwent. It seemed sad to see it, sometimes having to peep through a little viewpoint from above, spoiled with rubbish and bits of branch and twig, leaves and grass choking it.
The Rivulet is four and a half miles long, and descends over one thousand seven hundred and eighty feet from its birthplace on the mountain. There is a riverside walk which is delightful; as I mentioned it we loved our amble along its course until it disappeared under Molle Street. We saw plenty of birds, on the water, on the grass, in the shrubs and trees, but we sadly didn’t see any platypus which live in the Rivulet; apparently further up there is a wonderful range of Tasmanian creatures, devils, quolls, wombats and Bennett’s wallabies… we saw no sign of any of these!. We were not the only ones to enjoy the walk on that day in February; there was a constant stream of walkers, joggers, pram pushers, bike riders, people young and old – people who obviously lived in the area and visitors like us. Before white people came to this place, the first people would have followed this same path from the mountain to the river, going back generations.
Here is a link to part 1: