Federal Capital Site. Visit of the Board of Experts

The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser

27 January 1903

The Board of Experts on their itinerary for the inspection of the sites laying claim to be considered for the Commonwealth arrived here on Friday evening. The Board consists of Mr. John Kirkpatrick (chairman), architectural expert, of Sydney; Mr. Graham Stewart, water conservation, of Adelaide; Mr. Stanley, engineer and lands, of Brisbane ; Mr. Howitt, geological, of Victoria. They are accompanied by Mr. Pridam, of the water conservation branch, Sydney; Mr. J. F. Furlur (secretary), and Mr. J. J. Keenaa (official shorthand writer). They were driven out to Adelong on Saturday morning, and were piloted over by Mr. R. Donaldson, M. L. A., Mr. Jas. Blakeney (Mayor of Tumut), Mr. S. Groves (general secretary to, the local committee), Mr. George Clout, sr., of Brungle, and others.

A view of the valley of Gadara was taken en route from Kurrajong Hill, and, notwithstanding the effects of the drought on all vegetation, a capital sight was presented. The party arrived at Adelong for lunch and spent a couple of hours in conversation with residents who called upon them with a view to enlightening them upon the resource fulnesss of the district. Granite and marble were shown them. On their return to Tumut, they viewed the head of Gadara Valley from Broughton's Hill, and were delighted with 'the splendid appearance of the site. This they freely expressed.

The Commission sat at Donelly's Commercial Hotel on Saturday night and took evidence from Dr. H. Wharton Mason, Government Medical Officer at Tumut.

The doctor stated that he had lived in the town of Tumut for 19 years next April.

An epidemic of typhoid broke-out in the distance 5 or 6 years ago, and during the two succeeding years while it raged 300 cases passed through his hands, the patients being principally children and grown-up persons. He considered the epidemic was brought about by neglect of the sanitary affairs of the town in effecting a change in the system of dealing with n.s. deposits from cesspits to an infecting system of pans. The use of proper pans was   not insisted upon by the municipal authorities, old kerosene tins and such like receptacles being brought into requisition by householders, vessels unsuited for the purpose and which were subject to leakages. Those were removed and emptied without regard to proper methods of cleansing afterwards and were replaced in an offensive state. Fermentation of fecal and other matter produced odorous gases and putrifaction. The district of proper sanitary conditions was the result of ignorance of the municipal council at that particular time. A new system was inaugurated. It turned out very effective, and could not be improved upon. The pans are taken out, the contents carefully treated, and the pans thoroughly cleansed and tarred before being replaced. Since the new order of things was introduced the epidemic had disappeared from the town, and only cases from the country caused through drinking impure water from the creeks, &c, had occurred.

The chairman: On from some other insanitary place such as Adelong.

Dr. Mason: Yes; cases from there to here. They have no arrangement in Adelong for carrying out sanitation. We will never have typhoid in Tumut again if the ordinary accepted system of emptying the pans is carried out and cleanliness observed.

The old system of disposing of n.s. in cesspits was the safer method for the health of the town, as the cesspits were very deep and the matter deposited was as a conterence kept at a lower temperature and did not ferment or emit the offensive gases as when the pans were on the surface and the contents subjected to the effects of high temperature. He went on to say that he preferred the cesspit system to the pan system. He questioned whether anyone had more typhoid to deal with in any part of the state as he had to treat while the epidemic lasted in Tumut. Since the time of the epidemic only odd cases had cropped up; but there must still be a great amount of infection, in different parts of the town which would take time to wipe out. He could, not give the precise dates of the outbreak and its cessation. There had been no cases in town for a considerable period.

In reply to questions from the Board the doctor said he did not think there were any cases in February or March last year. The manager of the Bank of New South Wales did not have typhoid in March last; in fact neither manager of the Tumut branch banks were affected. A creek in the district had supplied the typhoid cases that occurred about Tumut during the last 18 years. He could recall a case which had its origin and was treated at the head of that creek. He believed it was called meadow Creek. It was a swamp at the top and water flowed down on either side, but there was no chance of it contaminating the Tumut river, as the water ceased to flow before reaching it and filtered through the flats, Such swamps were a danger to public health, no matter where located, even if at Kiandra.

His experience at Tumut told him that there was not a better climate than is to be found in this district; in-fact, he would not have lived here s0 long had it been otherwise. An epidemic of scarlet   fever broke out in Tumut some 18 years ago, but very little indeed has since been known of it amongst the inhabitants. Six years have elapsed without a case of whooping cough or other complaints of the lungs occuring in the district. One case of whooping cough was brought from Gundagai. In 18 years only 18 cases of phthisis were in the district, the patients bringing it with them from other parts.

There were very few other infections complaints. He hadn't treated a case of diptheria for years, but three years after, there came an exceptionally wet season and there were about 50 cases. He had not treated many bad throats.  Tumut was not a foggy locality, but on the contrary it was a clear atmosphere in winter. They had had very dry seasons, but in going back to the very wet ones they might have fogs on the flats but there would be none in the town. The proposed  Federal Capital site of Gadara was higher than Tumut. He had never seen a fog there, although he had driven through that part of the district dozens of times during the winter months.

He thought that this year the temperature had reached the highest ever attained in these parts. He would call Tuesday last, when the thermometer went up to over 100 degs., a very hot day. During the last two or three years there had been hot periods which were very unusual here. Prior to that we might expect to have two or three hot days in summer, but ordinarily at night a sheet and blanket were necessary for covering. In crass-examination, Dr. Mason said he attributed the outbreak of typhoid referred to the cause mentioned (insanitary conditions) and not to the water supply.

The origin of typhoid was a matter in which the opinions of medical men vary. It arose from   putrefaction, and the germs might be contained in water or milk, or in gases emanating from decomposing matter, even in a temperature of 80 degs.

Butt, in his treatise on typhoid, derived all his knowledge from experience in a small country place, where it was followed from one house to another up to its source. The epidemic at Tumut was not attributed to water in wells and was preventable. He wouldn't say positively that any water was absolutely wholesome, but in ordinary times the Tumut river ranked first for wholesomeness against any stream in Australia. He knew all the country up to Kiandra and on there to where the snow streams took their supply, and he did not think it possible for the waters flowing thence to become contaminated.

He had not considered the question of a water supply for the Federal Capital, but he could say that the supply in this district was unlimited. There were creeks of pure water in every direction. The supply for this district could be taken to the Riverina and other lowlands in the southern part of the State. He was certain typhoid arose from noxious gases, and maintained that the germs floated in the atmosphere. In many cases persons who looked into a sewer got typhoid, and he had personal knowledge of such a ease. The patient had inhaled a germ. This was a new theory, but it is now accepted by many.

On Sunday they were driven out a few miles from Tumut and shown over some of the beauty spots. Yesterday the Board proceeded to   Batlow, whence they went to Pilot Hill forest and the Buddong Falls. In the evening the evidence of Mr. R. Timmis and Mr. John Hides was taken, the latter on the timber supply. They return to Tumut this morning, and on Thursday take evidence at the court-house.

The itinerary from Tumut as set down is as follows:- January 30, leave Tumut for Kiandra; 31st, leave Kiandra for Cooma; Feb. 2, leave Cooma for Bombala, via Wyndham and Cathcart; 12th, leave Bombala for Cooma, and the same day take train for Bungendore; 19th, leave Bungendore for Sydney;

This completes the first group of sites. On February 25 a start will be made for Armidale where they will remain until March 6. The third group includes Bathurst, Lyndhurst and Orange. Bathurst will be visited on March 18, Mundarama (or Lyndhurst) on the 19th, Orange on the 25th, returning to Sydney on April 2;

The Board then proceed to Melbourne on April 5, they remain six days in Melbourne and return for Sydney on April 18.