The Interests of This Settlement

The Sydney Herald

1 October 1832

Our attention has lately been turned to several of the outer districts of the Colony, by the sensible letters of various correspondents resident in those quarters, which appear to be advancing with surprising rapidity in the scale of improvement, and whose capabilities are only beginning to be estimated, and to excite interest.

Our correspondent at Port Macquarie, whose letter was published in our last, has done a most important service to the settlers in that part of the country, by his lucid observations, and many settlers arriving on these shores will now be induced to pause, before selecting their grants, and to enquire, whether it may not be preferable to pitch their tents at Port Macquarie, with the certainty of good land and water carriage, than to travel to the Murrumbidgee, where every pound of tea, or yard of slop clothing they require, must be conveyed by land carriage by the strength of bullocks.

The country requires no more than a fair and disinterested statement of its properties to induce persons to visit it with a view to settlement; for though nominally further distant than many of the settled districts in the older parts of the country, the difficulty of access, and the distance, will vanish by the certainty that steam navigation will be employed at no distant period to bring Port Macquarie nearer to the metropolis, a point that can never be argued in favour of many districts of the interior.

The man who wishes a good farm - who is not alarmed by distance from Sydney - who has capital to expend, and feels no reluctance to wait for a few years till be can draw an adequate return for his money, or till the value of his property shall be advanced by the accession of wealthy settlers, should examine the capabilities of Port Macquarie, once a penal but now a free settlement, capable of producing, in great excellence, every tropical production, and destined at a future period to form one of our most effective maritime establishments.

Whilst advocating the interests of this settlement, our attention has also been directed to the opposite extremity of our colony - a district of country hitherto unknown; and which, when a small portion was opened up, nearly ten years ago by those enterprising travellers, Messrs. Hovell and Hume, excited the liveliest interest and expectation. We refer to the country south of the Murrumbidgee; and we are induced to ask, why have the discoveries of Captain Sturt been neglected, or not followed up with a zeal commensurate with the efforts employed at the outset.

In this Colony and the Mother Country the discovery of so noble a stream as the Murray produced a great sensation; and which, our fellow Colonists may remember, was supposed to open up a large portion of our unexplored interior to the benefits of water carriage, so that those settlers who dwelt on the Murrumbidgee, a great distance from Sydney, might at moderate charges and risk, be enabled to convey their produce by water to that place.

In Britain, the discovery had scarcely been published till proposals were issued for establishing a Colony on Kangaroo Island, or somewhere in the vicinity of the entrance of that river; and such zeal was manifested in filling up the subscriptions necessary to carry it on, and to expedite the necessary arrangements for procuring favourable terms from Government, that the highest advantages were anticipated from it by the sister Colonies: but whether the Colony has been founded, or is in embryo, or has proved abortive, or is awaiting the issue of further discoveries, has not been ascertained.

The scheme appears to us quixotic; for it seems unreasonable that settlers should purchase land from a Company, so as to ensure a remunerating profit after an outlay to a large amount, when, by crossing the channel, or "turning the corner" at Cape Howe, the same parties could procure abundance of land by purchase, at a cheaper rate, directly from the Government, in the neighbourhood of settled districts, with facilities for receiving supplies, carrying their agricultural produce to market, or shipping their wool to England.

It is well known that if the fortunes of these settlers were expended, or the funds of the association dilapidated, they will probably have to find their way to our shores; it was therefore the duty of the Executive to have instituted the minutest enquiries regarding the termination of the Murray, and its approach from the sea, to give every facility to such an establishment.

It is much to be regretted, therefore, that this important discovery made by Captain Sturt and his associates, has not been prosecuted with an ardour corresponding to that manifested at its outset.

The chief difficulty was removed by proving the identity of the Murray and Murrumbidgee; but whilst we neglect to examine the mouth of the river, or to explore its banks, and open them up to the advantages of internal commerce, the discovery is rendered useless, and these rivers might have still been permitted to pour their tributary streams in the desert wilds, as they have hitherto done, unvisited by the eye of civilized man.

We require no other stimulus, as every disinterested person must admit, than that supplied by navigable streams to render this colony one of the most flourishing countries. North America owes her national importance to her Missisippi, Missouri, and St. Lawrence.

Australia seems doomed to a partial sterility by the absence of rivers, the largest of which hitherto discovered flow only like diminutive lines of silver in her sequestered wilds. It is the more inexcusable, therefore, that the expectations of all parties should be tantalised by uncertainty regarding the capabilities of the river in question.

Had Captain Barker survived, his unostentatious expedition might have settled the point, whether there is immediate and easy access from the sea almost to the Blue Mountains behind Sydney, or whether the river is closed by an impenetrable barrier of land and rock.

Let this point be once determined by research at public expense, and we shall leave it to private en erprize to follow up the discovery.

Private individuals will rarely think their patriotism a sufficient motive for the heavy outlay attendant on local researches of great magnitude, with a view to discovery; but open up a path of access, point with the finger of interest to the profits of speculation, and let no mystifying influence thwart the adventurer's penetration, and the State may leave all future discoveries to private exertions.

"Something may then be made of it," to use a common phrase; private gain will stimulate to exertion, and individual enterprise, with a view to profit, will accomplish for this country what it has already done for the wilds of America, and what it has done, we may say without exception, for all the inhabited and cultivated portions of Australia.

Remove, if possible, the bar at the mouth of the Murray, and no other obstacle will be a bar to the progress of discovery in that most desirable part of our continental island.

During the last ten years the English Ministry have used unceasing efforts to ascertain the geographical features of this country. Captain Flinder's and Captain King's voyages round the coast of the island, left little to be discovered, with respect to islands, headlands, reefs, and capes.

But without the slightest disparagement of their valuable and strenuous exertions, it is undeniable that the discovery of rivers, requires a degree of management, and arrangements altogether different.

A ship sailing six or eight miles from the coast, drifting past a large portion of shore during the night, or in a gale, exposed to cloudy and tempestuous weather, and, not at all times exercising vigilance in discovery, must pass many rivers, wholly unknown, and whose existence is not suspected.

This was the case with the Murray, and with several rivers on the coast towards Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay; and it may be averred, that since it is morally certain some large river receives the surplus waters of our continent, and since no great river has been discovered on the coast by any of our circumnavigators, the modes employed for the purpose is not the best adapted for effecting the end in view.

We consider therefore less expensive modes of investigation should be adopted. A small vessel should be employed on discovery with instructions to run into all the creeks and bays, till every part of the coast was surveyed, and till it was ascertained where the outlets of the larger rivers were placed, after which, discovery in the interior would be carried on with ease and success.

According to our former mode of procedure, we have beaten about the bush for our game, in place of following it up fairly on level and open ground.

A few hardy navigators in a small well-found vessel, with boats to ascend the streams, would in the course of a period inconceivably short, relieve us from all the anxiety regarding rivers and roadsteads, and access to the interior.

Upon any other plan we may squander larger sums than those required for this purpose in vain; and private enterprise may by a happy accident accomplish at length that which talent and science were unable to realise.

Having made these statements with a view to call the attention of the Executive to the subject we shall not pursue it farther at present; but shall conclude, by strongly recommending the adoption of some plan for opening up the Murray, or at least ascertaining whether it is accessible by sea through Lake Alexandrina, for which uncouth appellation, let the next explorer substitute the native name of the place.

An attempt should be made by sea to penetrate to the very head of the Murrumbidgee or at least as far as it is navigable for boats; and the Executive can be at no loss for qualified and competent persons to conduct it, should any of the spirited and indefatigable gentlemen who accompanied Capt. Sturt in his expeditions, be willing to encounter the hardships of a second series of adventures for a similar purpose.

The discovery of the mouth of the Murray and the settlement of the question whether that stream is accessible from the sea or is locked up by the land, are points which should not be left unsettled, since a great portion of our future importance as a colony will depend on the issue.

If it is navigable for a thousand miles, and open at its mouth, a settlement may be formed at no distant day, which will become the intermediate connecting link between Eastern and Western Australia and the various settlements that may be made on both sides of Bass's Straits.

The whole of our previous attempts are left undone while this point remains open to investigation.

Archibald Belli Esq. of Belmont, near Windsor, has been appointed member of the Legislative Council, and entered on duty during the last week, being appointed one of a sub-committee on colonial accounts.

Mr. Bell is a very old resident in the colony, having served his Majesty in the 102d and the company of veterans. He has a deep stake in the country, and is well qualified by his extensive knowledge and business habits, for the duty to which he has been appointed.

We have to call the attention of our readers, in every part of the interior, who fell interested in tendering for supplies, to the advertisement, in this day's publication, requiring tenders for various quantities of beef, flour and provisions in general, for parties under the charge of the Government.

As we have the advertisement in full, and as it points out everything required, with the minutest detail, we are not called upon to recapitulate the leading points in this place. We refer our readers to the advertisement, which they will find amply qualified to satisfy their enquiries.

The tenders now given, it should be remembered, will have very considerable influence in regulating the market price of provisions for the next year.