THE MAN MADE HARBOUR AND THE BIRTH OF THE BLUE METAL INDUSTRY - KIAMA, SOUTH COAST NSW - Seagulls lined up on roof of Kiama Fish Co-Op Fishing Trawlers in Harbour

The Man Made Harbour and The Birth of the Blue Metal Industry - Kiama, South Coast


Kiama Harbour South Coast NSW Fishing off of Pier Beach in Distance One Town at a Time

Kiama is the birth of Australia’s Blue metal industry, a literal bedrock in Australian industry.

The coastal town of Kiama, located in New South Wales, Australia, is known for its stunning natural beauty, including the famous Kiama Blowhole and the rugged cliffs of the Kiama Coastal Walk. However, beneath this picturesque façade lies a significant historical site - the Man-Made Harbour, also known as Robertson Basin. This harbor, dating back to the 19th century, played a pivotal role in the birth of the Blue Metal Industry in Australia, transforming the local economy and contributing to the nation's cultural identity.

The locals wanted more parking space for their boats essentially and a man made bay was created to that effect. The quarried stone was crushed up and used for roads establishing Australia’s Blue Metal industry.

Wedgetail T-shirt by Kieran Wicks Wedgetail T-shirt by Kieran Wicks

The establishment of the Man-Made Harbour in Kiama can be traced back to the mid-19th century when shipping and trade were essential for regional development. Before the construction of the harbor, the Kiama area was relatively isolated, with limited access for trade and transportation. The need for a safe and reliable harbor was critical for the region's economic growth.

Between 1849 and 1855 numerous applications and petitions were made by citizens of the Kiama district for increased accommodation at the harbour. Their please were finally heard and the Roberson Basin was officially opened in 1876.

The construction of the Man-Made Harbour began under the guidance of prominent engineer Thomas Andrews. The project involved the excavation of a substantial basin from a natural rock shelf, thus creating a safe haven for ships to dock and load cargo. The harbor was named Robertson Basin in honor of the Premier of New South Wales, Sir John Robertson, who supported and financed the project.

The construction of the Robertson Basin had a profound impact on the industrial history of the Kiama district. The blasted and excavated stone prompted the advent of stone crushing with the view if its use in road construction. It led to an influx of non-agricultural workers and started the Blue Metal Industry.

Basalt for Sydney, historical information sign about Australia's Blue Metal industry founded in Kiama South Coast NSW


Basalt for Sydney
Robertson Basin was an important improvement in communication for the Kiama District prior to opening the South Coast Railway.
The harbour was opened by Miss Charles on the deck of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company ship 'Hunter'. Other ships at opening were the government steamer 'Ajax', 'Illalong' and 'Independent'.
The development of the Blue Metal Industry in the 1880's and 1890's for the Sydney market resulted in loading activity day and night. A railway was constructed from Pikes Hill to handle the increased tonnage.
The railway (2ft gauge) was constructed by the Public Works Department and operated from 1914 to 1941. Blue metal trades stopped during World War II whilst ships were used by R.A.N (Royal Australian Navy)
The last ship to load blue metal was 'Dunmore' on December 21st 1961 under command of Captain Alec McKay. 
Basalt for Sydney, historical information sign about Australia's Blue Metal industry founded in Kiama South Coast NSW
Kids swimming in Rock pools in Kiama south coast NSW
What is a Yoyo-ologist? Whycheproof Victoria, Metal Geometric art sculptures installations,

Aerial perspective of Northern Territory coastline near Darwin Northern Territory river snaking through to the ocean one town at a time
Ocean Baths Kiama Harbour South Coast NSW

The impact of the Blue Metal Industry extended beyond economics. It played a crucial role in shaping the cultural identity of Kiama and, to some extent, Australia as a whole. The growth of the industry and the harbor's role in facilitating trade symbolized the spirit of enterprise and resourcefulness inherent in the Australian character. It showcased the ability of a young nation to harness its natural resources for the betterment of its people.

The enduring legacy of the Blue Metal Industry in Kiama is still visible today, with the town's historical sites and landmarks serving as a reminder of its rich heritage. The Man-Made Harbour, Robertson Basin, and the associated blue metal mining operations remain integral to the local cultural narrative, offering a unique connection to Australia's past.

Kiama South Coast NSW Historical Quarry information sign

Bombo Headland Quarry 

Evidence of early quarry men carving out slabs in the surrounding mountains can be still seen today...

The volcanic rock of the Kiama district, latite, was initially used for fences and buildings. As the roads, tramways and railways of New South Wales rapidly expanded, the demand for the crushed latite (Blue Metal) created employment and industry in the developing community.

With the booming trade in blue metal, quarries opened up at sites outside Kiama such as Bombo in 1882 and steam-powered crushing machines installed at the quarry.

In the early days, many of the quarry workers at Bombo lived in tents. Clouds of dust regularly shrouded the camp in a gritty haze. A number of fatal accidents in the first few years and the reputation of the sole drinking establishment gave the place a bad name. The blue metal industry remained the major employer in the district until the 1960's. 

Freedom on the Wallaby T-shirt by Kieran WicksThe Realm T-shirt by Kieran WicksBeach north of Kiama South Coast NSW
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A polymathic touring musician, film maker, historian and producer, for the past 8 years Kieran Wicks has navigated the Great Southern Land of Australia performing hundreds of shows to ravenous audiences, whilst simultaneously developing a vast catalogue of interviews, images and videos in the production of multiple formative docuseries including 'One Town at a Time', which records his musical journey, immersed in poignant, forgotten Australian history and poetry, in archives such as 'Gold Rush Stories' and 'Poetry of the Pioneers'.

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