Lost Waters: A History of a Troubled Catchment by Erica Nathan

By Erica Nathan

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The 1200 acres at Beales, ‘entrusted’ to the councils in 1862, were not temporarily reserved until the end of 1863, as the reservoir was being constructed. A further 1000 acres of land to the north of the dam, with Borders sawmill community at its centre, were not reserved for a further few years. 7 The shifting status of land confused those in authority and those wanting to maximise opportunities to occupy land legally, a situation aggravated by the lack of regularly updated, easily available maps.

29 It was not noted that Oliver Monett had requested, unsuccessfully, to settle with the Committee six months before Bagge’s observations. Their entire holding was in the reserve which meant they couldn’t sensibly make new improvements but, equally, couldn’t afford to move without compensation. Bagge pressured the Committee to accelerate permanent reservation; it in turn pressured Melbourne to legislate for incorporation so that compensation and development funds could be sourced. Meanwhile, the Lal Lal Waterworks Association applied pressure to obstruct incorporation, until its settlement payment was made.

It was a huge earthmoving task that severely disrupted the largely uncompensated residents, including the sawmill families, on land temporarily reserved two years prior. Bagge became the Committee’s front-line general, leading a northern offensive into the heartland of the swamp community. His engineering skills were very much on show, having missed out on the initial reservoir construction. He recommended, without disguising his contempt, that the numerous little huts, privies, piggeries and sawdust heaps be removed, speedily.

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