It is appropriate that Henry Hunter’s name is recognised in this street name.
The Launceston Marine Board in 1910 were aware of the problems facing the Port of Launceston with the industrial centre being forty miles upstream, and knew that with changing shipping practices, big changes would have to be made to the river.
To its great credit the Board assiduously secured the best possible advice by engaging a harbour engineer of long experience and authority. The man was W Henry Hunter MICE, who had been Chief Engineer of the famous Manchester Canal – a most fortunate choice. He was asked to examine and report on the navigable improvement of the Tamar River.
Henry Hunter stayed in Launceston just over one month, but produced a most comprehensive and valuable report. Even today, his report is still regarded as useful, and largely accurate.
Hunter’s report was adopted and an Act of Parliament gave power to the Marine Board to borrow £800,000 to start implementing its recommendations. Without delay tenders were called for the large amount of plant required, and Mr R H Garvie, who had worked with Hunter in England, was appointed to implement the complex work.
The work was set back by World War 1, particularly with the sinking of the dredge Ponrabbel by the German raider, Emden. (a gun from the Emden, later sunk by HMAS Sydney, stands in Hyde Park, Sydney). A replacement was ordered and arrived in 1921 and for the next 40 years the Ponrabbel II helped to carry out eighty per cent of the Hunter recommendations which the Board put into effect.
Sir Raymond Ferrall, in The Story of the Port of Launceston, refers to Hunter’s report and lauds “the remarkable accuracy of his forecasts, the soundness of his suggestions, and the speed and relatively low cost of his work” and highlights the benefits to the whole Tamar Valley.
We owe thanks to Henry Hunter and the Launceston Marine Board of those years and since – though there was tardiness in correcting one of Hunter’s principal concerns on the “filthy practice of pouring crude sewerage into the river’s tidal waters” – a matter only fairly recently addressed.
(Note: Ponrabbel was the Aboriginal name for the Tamar)