Paddle on the Macleay 2014 will be part of the River Festival in Kempsey on 20 September.
Only a few more days to go and the excitement is growing. Many paddlers have expressed their interest to join the event. Dragonboats are going to meet the paddlers. Marine Rescue will be on the river to ensure the participants’ safety. The weather forecast is good. We are ready. Let’s make a splash!
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Last year, SOMR organised ‘Paddle on the Macleay’ to celebrate the beauty of the river and to raise awareness of potential water contamination in the catchment. On a sunny day late in September, more than 100 people enjoyed the paddle from Pee Dee Station to Bellbrook. Calls to repeat the event were heard immediately afterwards. This year, SOMR is hosting the Paddle on the Macleay 2014 in conjunction with the River Festival in Kempsey on Saturday 20 September.
Due to the lack of rain, the river levels in the Upper Macleay are too low to navigate so this time we will launch our canoes from Nelsons Wharf behind Kempsey Airport. We will time our arrival “en masse” at Riverside Park to coincide with the opening of the Festival around 12.30. It’s a 9 Km course which should take no longer than three hours.
This is a rare, if not unique opportunity to enjoy the river in the company of fellow paddlers, and to participate in the River Festival from the perspective of the river.
Registrations forms and $5 fee per boat will be taken at the access gate near Nelsons Wharf from 8.00 to 8.45 am, after which the gate will be closed. Safety instructions will be given before launching the boats at 9am.
Paddle on the Macleay is not a race, but all boats should have finished the course by 12.30. Drivers will be available to take you back to your car at Nelsons Wharf.
You’ll need to bring your own boat and buoyancy vest. Tea and biscuits (for a gold coin) will be provided at a point near the end of the course where we will muster before reaching the River Festival area.
Attached is the registration & waiver form and a map. Please fill it in before arriving at the gate. For further information ph 6562 4486
Driving out to Pee Dee early on Sunday morning it became obvious that a lot more than
the 20 people we hoped for were on the way. Boats were carried on roof racks, in trailers
and the back of utes. At the gate to Pee Dee Station there was a traffic jam with a festival
atmosphere like Woodford. Everybody handed in their registration form. The forms
allowed us a correct count – over 75 people had heeded the call and paddled in 61 craft. One
boat had a family of three, several doubled up.
But before getting on the water, everyone gathered along the river bank at Pee Dee
Station. There were at least 100 people including paddlers’ family
members and friends. Several Dhangatti men had come with their boats. Elder John Kelly
gave the Welcome to Country. He reminded us that his people are not only the traditional
custodians of the Macleay Valley, but also of the Hillgrove area. They do not support any
mining. John also told us that he had seen an eagle flying over as he drove up the valley
and said it was a good sign.
MLC Jeremy Buckingham held a speech about the Green’s position on mining in the
headwaters of our rivers. He pointed out that the miners are not to be trusted, that they
will not stick to any agreements and when they pollute, they only get a light rap over the
knuckles. He advised us to protect our farmland and water, and oppose the Hillgrove mine
reopening. Andrew Stoner and Luke Hartsuiker, our representatives in the State and Federal
governments, did not take up the invitation to join the Paddle on the Macleay.
After the speeches, 5 year old Patrick O’Sullivan rang a cow bell and the paddlers took to
Watch the beginning of the paddle on youtube
Having had little rain since the flooding early in the year, the river is very low. That meant
that some people had to walk several sections with their boats which made it more tiring,
but also a lot safer than it was earlier in the year. The fastest paddler took less than two
hours, the slowest ones about four. There were lots of happy faces as they landed at the
The Bellbrook locals contributed massively to the event. The Bellbrook Progress Association and not least the Fire Brigade. A number of people are involved in all of those organisations, such as Arthur Bain who is the Captain of the Fire Brigade, President of Save Our Macleay River (SOMR) and a member of the Progress Association & Bernadette O’Sullivan who is Secretary of the Bellbrook Progress Association & a member of Save Our Macleay River (SOMR). The Fishing Club even donated a roast of pork to be raffled for the benefit of SOMR! In no time a book of 100 tickets was sold out.
In Bellbrook, the community hall was set up with information tables for Landcare, the
Greens and our group. EDO and the NSW Farmers had sent material which we put out. Although it is near the bridge and all paddlers and on-lookers had to pass
it, the vast majority made a beeline for the pub.
That wasn’t surprising, because the pub offered food, drinks and music. There were not
only the paddlers at the pub, but many other supporters of the cause and the regulars.
The publican was challenged by the onslaught. People there were already talking about next time and what we could do better, such as having a BBQ in addition to the pub food.
And then there was the band. So low key, effortless, but creating a wonderful atmosphere and playing tirelessly all afternoon.