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.
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.
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.
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.