The town of Biloela, and its near neighbour Moura, have a long association with mining and energy in Queensland, with the region setting the scene for some the sector’s most significant – and tragic – events. However there’s a lot more to these towns than meets the eye…
The Banana Shire is a rich farming, grazing and mining region situated in Central Queensland. It is surrounded by the Rockhampton, Gladstone, North Burnett, Maranoa, Western Downs, and Central Highlands Regional Councils. The main administration centre of Biloela is situated 120 km west of the growing industrial city and Port of Gladstone, an easy drive to the city of Rockhampton and is serviced by the Leichhardt, Dawson and Burnett Highways.
The Banana Shire is sparsely populated, with its population of 15,593 people spread over 28,577 square kilometres. The Shire is an appealing mix of larger service centres, rural villages and farms with Moura, Taroom and Theodore being three other significant urban centres in the Shire. Other smaller population centres are Banana, Baralaba, Dululu, Goovigen, Jambin, Thangool, Wowan and Cracow. The shire’s major towns and smaller centres are all accessible via major inter and intra state tourist routes. The Biloela (Thangool) airport is located 11km from Biloela and has regular flights to Brisbane.
The Shire’s location, close to the Great Barrier Reef, makes it an ideal tourist destination. It has many natural attractions, including gorges, rivers and national parks together with human made attractions and other industrial development. Coal mining, beef production, power generation, dry land and irrigation cropping (mainly cotton and lucerne) are the Shire’s major industries. A variety of soil types suitable for the production of a wide range of crops, together with land suitable for beef cattle breeding and fattening, give the Shire enormous agricultural potential, with further potential for processing and value-adding. For those with an interest, many towns in the Shire have a rich history, which has been well documented in historical villages and museums while the Dawson River and Callide Dam provide more relaxed opportunities for fishing and recreation. The Banana Shire abounds with opportunities for the traveller to enjoy genuine country hospitality and experience a bush holiday abundant in National Parks, scenic gorges and human made attractions which make a country holiday an experience to remember. While most attractions are accessible to travellers via sealed roads, the region also offers opportunities for the four wheel drive enthusiasts.
In addition to an abundance of attractions, the Banana Shire hosts a range of events held throughout the year. Events such as country horse racing, freshwater fishing classics, markets and festivals celebrating individual community histories and cultures make the destination come alive with activity. For more information on events please visit www.banana.qld.gov.au/community-eventscalender or www.gladstoneregion.info/events/.
There is nothing like the adrenalin rush of landing a big fish. Hanging onto your rod while the redhot line screams off the reel as the scaly monster, hidden beneath the water attempts its escape. Then 10 minutes later, exhausted, you pose for a photograph with the big silver barramundi. This is just one of the simple pleasures you and the family can indulge in while visiting Biloela.
Lake Callide, located 12km east of Biloela, has developed a reputation as one of Queensland’s best inland barramundi fishing impoundments. Over the years, over 300,000 barramundi fingerlings have been released in Lake Callide. Thanks to the abundance of food in the lake the prized sports fish take only a few years to grow into beefy, bruising, one-metre long brutes.
The wide open expanses of Lake Callide and the lack of sunken trees and other structure make it relatively easy to land metre-long barra once they are hooked. This makes it an ideal destination for novices or anglers chasing their first barra.
The waters of Lake Callide also act as a magnet to a diverse array of bird species and wildlife making it a worthy spot for nature lovers. It is not uncommon to witness the pale blue sky, transformed into a cloud of white and yellow by a flock of startled cockatoos.
Biloela is a modern town that has boomed in recent decades on the back of the coal and power generation industries, but is still extremely proud of its history, rural roots and culture. To celebrate these traditions a number of amazing displays have been established around town and they can be admired by following a cultural trail which winds through the town. The trail starts in Melton Park where a sandstone sculpture was erected to commemorate Queensland’s 150th birthday.
“Biloela is a modern town that has boomed in recent decades on the back of the coal and power generation industries…”
Head east to take in The Spirit of the Land mural located on State Farm Road. The mural is 100 metres long and four metres high and wraps around one of the town’s water reservoirs. It tells the intriguing story of women from two different cultures connecting, to celebrate the historical timelines of the district from pre-historic times, to indigenous beginnings and up until 1928.
Two blocks further east, an oversized director’s chair stands proudly in Lions Park. The chair is a tribute to one of Biloela’s favourite sons, thespian and film actor Bille Brown.
Then take a step back in time – Greycliffe Homestead transports visitors back to the Callide Valley’s pioneering days, with the heritage listed, century-old homestead housing much of the district’s history. This large open-timber homestead was built in the 1880s and was home to the Nott family for more than 100 years. The century-old atmosphere is enhanced by vintage wooden and cast iron furniture, hand-made quilts and calico curtains, resurrected from the era in which the homestead was built, to help portray the life endured by our early settlers. Inspection of the homestead is by appointment (ph 4992 2801 or 4992 1862).
While soaking up the days of yesteryear, take a stroll through Pioneer Place. The restored vintage church and railway station building, part of the Queensland Heritage park complex, is testament to early pioneers and families who settled in the area. The walls of these buildings are lined with historical photographs and other memorabilia from the families who shaped the district’s early days. Each photo is like a window back in time.
Another feature of Queensland Heritage Park is the towering Silo. Built to display Australia’s rich primary industries at the World Exhibition held in Brisbane in 1988, the structure now protects a vast array of vintage machinery and items from days gone by. The Callide Dawson Machinery Preservation Club grounds at the rear of the complex complement the numerous items in the internal display which have been established for the enjoyment of the travelling public. These grounds play host to the Annual Old Wheels in Motion Rally & Swap Meet on the third weekend in July each year. The Queensland Heritage Park Complex is open daily and is home to the Rural Hinterland Visitor Information centre and the Post and Rail Cafe.
Biloela is a vibrant town. The streets are adorned with leafy parks and modern facilities and the town centre can cater for travellers looking for a shopping experience in a relaxed country atmosphere.
Several walking and cycling tracks connect the various parks and gardens to the Biloela CBD, providing the ideal opportunity to take time out from your holiday and unwind.
Situated 15km east of Biloela, Lake Callide has developed a reputation as one of Queensland’ best barramundi fishing impoundments. Golden perch (yellow-belly), barramundi, other fresh water fish species and red-claw are abundant in lake Callide. For many years, keen anglers have been baffled by the huge fish just waiting to be hooked.
The beautiful Lake Callide is one of the major recreational facilities in the Biloela area, used for a myriad of experiences including fish-stocking, fishing, skiing, sailing, motorbike riding, boating and picnics to name just a few. Lake Callide Recreation park is accessible to motor vehicles and includes a concrete boat ramp. Facilities at the recreation park include gas BBQs, shaded tables and chairs and toilet facilities. Camping is prohibited at the dam. However, there is adequate accommodation available in the township of Biloela and surrounding areas from modest camping grounds to quaint villas.
Originally built in 1965, Lake Callide was developed as the water source for Callide ‘A’ Power Station. In 1987, the addition of Callide Stage 2 has enabled the dam to be used as a multi-purpose water source. The clear water of lake Callide is used for Callide Dam Village, Biloela and Thangool reticulated water supply, and recharging of the alluvial system of Callide Valley Water Supply Shceme.
In 1988, the dam was retro-fitted with six water release gates, with the gates being opened for the first time in January 2011 when the dam reached its full capacity of 136,300 mega litres.
Lake Callide provides the perfect recreational surrounds for a family getaway or a weekend of blissful fishing. Take advantage of the majestic Lake Callie and see the true beauty of nature at its very best.
The Callide Power Station hosts the Callide Oxyfuel Project, a world-leading demonstration of how carbon capture technology can be applied to existing power stations to produce electricity from coal with near-zero emissions.
Closed season on Barramundi from midday 1st November to midday 1st February. Although it is legal to keep one Saratoga, the local stocking association recommends that all captures be released, although they are a great sporting fish, they are a very poor table fish. Four Redclaw traps are allowed per person. However, they must be marked with your first name, surname and address. Be mindful of tree stumps and othe submerged objects when the dam level is low. Normal Queensland Government boating rules apply and you will need a Stock Impoundment Permit to fish this Dam. Stock Impoundment Permits can be purchased online at www.smartservice.qld.gov.au/services/permits/fishing/apply.
“In addition to coal mining, the Queensland Nitrate Plant, coal seam gas, Queensland cotton gin and Grain Corp provide additional opportunities for employment…”
Moura is in the heart of the Dawson Valley, two hours south-west of Rockhampton. The information centre and museum is the custodian of the district’s history, both industrial and pioneering. Specially themed rooms have been set-up inside the museum filled with photographs and other memorabilia. A feature of the museum is a collection of Japanese items which were gifts from the Mitsui Mining Company.
It is no secret that coal mining has played a major role in the town’s development and this can be easily witnessed on the drive into town from either the south or east. From the highway some of the massive dump trucks can be seen crawling up the towering piles of earth, but to gain a closer perspective of the multi-million dollar industry, including a view of a monster dragline, a special viewing platform has been established on Gibihi Road.
Moura’s three tragic mining disasters are part of the region’s coal mining history. A bronze statue of a miner stands guard over the Dawson Highway at the western end of town. The town’s high class entertainment complex, Kianga Memorial Hall, is named in memory of those miners who never came home, as is the town’s world class Memorial Olympic-sized swimming pool.
In addition to coal mining, the Queensland Nitrate Plant, coal seam gas, Queensland cotton gin and Grain Corp provide additional opportunities for employment and are attractions in their own right.
The name Biloela is believed to come from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘white cockatoo’.
Located 4km east of Moura is the 150th Meridian marker. Two large rocks with drill holes in them (the by-product of blasting to reach coal deposits at the mine) are situated on the site. By lining up the two holes and looking through them your eyes are aligned with the 150th Meridian from which EST (Eastern Standard Time) is measured.
While in town visitors are more than welcome to utilise the bowls and tennis clubs. Afterwards enjoy a drink or a meal or take a stroll along the many walking paths. The town is blessed with several parks including the recently redeveloped Lions Park located on the Dawson Highway. The Moura Recreation Reserve is beautifully maintained and is home to local rugby union, league and soccer teams. The Reserve also plays host to the annual Coal and Country Festival in August. Features of the festival include the unique Queensland Coal Shovelling and Roof Bolting Championships and a Pro Rodeo.
On your way out to the river, stop by the sale yards and witness a real country cattle auction held each fortnight. But be careful who you wave to, or you might end up with a few head of Brahman.
While there is a diverse range of things to see and do around Moura, the highlight has to be the mighty Dawson River. Stay awhile at the well kept camping area, spend time fishing or boating or just enjoy the peace and quiet with the local birds and wildlife. The annual Muddy Water Fishing Classic is held in February. Across the road from the camping area is the well kept golf course where visitors are more than welcome.
Queensland’s Worst Mining Disasters
The township of Moura is inextricably linked to three of Queensland’s worst mining disasters; the Kianga mine disaster in 1975 where 13 miners were killed; the Moura mine disaster of 1986 where 12 miners were lost; and the Moura mine disaster of 1994 where another 11 miners were killed. All three accidents were caused by underground explosions. Each of these tragic disasters resulted in Inquiries which pre-empted the introduction of new and better equipment and procedures that greatly improved mine safety across the country.