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Post War Development

Post War Development

The war years also made the use of motor vehicles and motorised equipment commonplace and led to the introduction of tractors in place of horse teams on farms. Pasture improvement also increased farm production and efficiency.

Such changes meant that many men had to seek employment elsewhere, usually in industry. The Courtauld factory at Tomago began in the post war years to manufacture synthetic fibres especially for motor vehicle tyres. Negotiations between the State Government and Courtaulds regarding their proposed factory led to the construction of the Hexham Bridge in 1952 to replace the punts that crossed the Hunter River.

Masonite also expanded after the war and both factories benefited with easier access to markets and fewer delays in the delivery of materials. Courtaulds built their factory off Tomago Road in the early 1950s and brought key factory workers from Britain to commence operations in 1953 and to train others. A hundred and fifty of these families migrated on the Australian Government Migrant Assistance Scheme.

This industry (1950 to the late1970s) led to the southern expansion of Raymond Terrace for new housing for the workforce. Courtaulds employed 1500 to 2300 workers and made a tremendous impact on the small town as more people came to live nearer the sources of work.

When steel reinforced radial tyres replaced corded tyres about 1970 Courtaulds closed their factory.

At this time high prices for oil used to generate electric power elsewhere in the world caused aluminium producers to look for cheaper and reliable sources of power. Australia’s coal-fired electricity generation systems were a major inducement for large-scale aluminium producers to establish in Australia and part of the Courtolds site was sold to a consortium led by French firm Pechiney Pacific.

Construction on Tomago Aluminium began in 1981 with the plant starting production in September 1983. Tomago Aluminium now employs around 1200 people.

Shipbuilding and many other light industries also set up along the Hunter River in the vicinity of Tomago. In July 2012, WesTrac Cat opened a new $160m regional facility at Tomago employing 400 staff.

Educational prospects for young people also improved after the war. Raymond Terrace High School (now Hunter River High) opened in 1955 and new technical and professional opportunities became available in Newcastle and Maitland. The increases in population created a great demand for better school facilities and in 2000 the Tomaree Education Centre, a complex of educational buildings, was opened at Salamander Bay to serve students from Kindergarten to TAFE. Some older schools were closed down around Nelson Bay and their sites sold for further development.

Post war migration brought many European families to the Medowie area, also ex-servicemen and others. They were the vanguard of a community in transition from farming and timber getting to a rural residential lifestyle. Tilligerry Creek from Salt Ash to Lemon Tree Passage is another area of exceptional recent growth with new townships and commercial centres replacing past oyster farming and market gardens.

The picturesque and recreational qualities of Port Stephens and the eastern coast are a long-recognised asset. The rivers have their own scenic beauty although much riverside land is flood prone. Major flood events of the 19th century caused significant population shifts as families established themselves elsewhere. Those of 1949 and 1955 led to the re-orientation of Raymond Terrace’s shopping street away from the river at a time when motor transport, highways and bridges began to displace river shipping.

The underground water in the vast sand beds around Tomago has been vital to the industrialisation of the Newcastle district. The man-made lake at Grahamstown provides domestic and industrial water for much of the Lower Hunter area. Construction of Grahamstown Lake began in 1957 and was constructed on the former Grahamstown Moors. The lake is now linked to the Williams River by the Balikera Canal. The scheme was originally developed by a firm of Swedish consultants and was built to augment water supply from Chichester Dam and the Tomago Sandbeds. The link to Seaham Weir on the Williams provides for adjustment of water levels in the river as well as the dam, thus incorporating flood mitigation with water supply. Water from Grahamstown was first used in 1960, some years before the whole scheme was completed.

The 1960s saw a growth in Licensed Clubs and other leisure facilities for tourists and residents. During Christmas and Easter Holiday periods the area’s population doubled. Schools, shops, and other family facilities grew correspondingly. In the 1980s much development around the Nelson Bay Marina was commenced and adjacent and complementary buildings and businesses were established, while multi story residential apartments sprung up catering for the more affluent members of the community. The council developed associations with overseas cities which brought yachting contests, goodwill visits, and more tourists to the Port.

Today Port Stephens Local Government Area has a population of over 75,000 people and RAAF Williamtown is very much part of the Newcastle community with 2000 families living in the local area. The base contributes to the local community through:

  • community engagement and cultural awareness,
  • school and youth programs,
  • participation in local sport as competitors and administrators, and
  • volunteering with local charities and community groups.

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