Gundagai Township Flood
Morning Chronicle, Sydney
22 February 1845
The late inundation of the Murrumbidgee having proved that the present situation of that township is such, that most disastrous floods may occur therein, rendering it therefore utterly unsuitable for the site of a town - the Commissioner of Crown Lands on the Tumut, Mr. Bingham (of course at the solicitation of the inhabitants), wrote to the Colonial Secretary the following letter, to which he received the answer as below; which answer we are sorry should have contained such an expression as this:-
"His Excellency further directs me to inform you that he cannot, however, sanction the proposed exchange of the flooded, allotments, as he considers what a man buys he buys for better or worse."
We very much regret the use of such language, and the application of such sentiments by the official organ of the viceroy of a great colony they may be mercantile - they may be even legal, but assuredly they are neither statesman like nor just.
Not statesmanlike, because a Governor should represent majesty in being the father of the people he rules; and it is paternal care alone which can attract, and locate, and fix a resident body of settlers, so as to grow up at length into a great people.
Neither are these sentiments in our opinion just: a settler who buys land on which to build and settle, does not assuredly buy it that he may be drowned in his house, or beggared in his property by a flood he cannot know a priori, or from previous knowledge, whether he might or not: and when time and events have proved the affirmative, is the pound of flesh to be levied from him which he contracted for, believing the value he received to be very different from what it turns out?
The Gundagai people agreed to pay for Rachel, (or dry land,) and in the morning, behold it is Lia (or a flooded alluvium).
Is it equitable then to oblige them to build where they may be drowned, and refuse them dry land in exchange? We hope his Excellency will reconsider this case, and bestow the desired boon.
In our opinion, however, the men who solicit it are those who in reality bestow the favour on, government, and not the government on them, (even if their reasonable request were granted,) by making wild and useless land available and profitable. We are, astonished His Excellency should have refused or hesitated a moment to grant the request:-
Commissioners Office, Tumut River, November 4, 1841,
I do myself the honour to submit for His Excellency the Governor's consideration, that from the late floods in this part it would be highly essential to the future welfare and advancement of the township of Gundagai to have a surveyor sent up to lay out part of the township on the south bank of the Murrumbidgee River, on moderate high ground, well adapted for building on; and some few allotments might be laid out north and by east of the present township, giving the parties who have now allotments on the recently flooded land, allotments on the high land. The water was from four to five feet deep in the huts at Gundagai, and parties suffered severe losses of property, and with a prospect of similar inundation, all chance of the advancement of Gundagai as inland township in its present site I would say is at an end, as no person would now think of purchasing allotments for building in such a precarious situation.
I have the honour to be, &c. H. Bingham.