Long-term local residents (left) Neil and Betty Garrett and Ron and Florence Taylor at the Taylors’ property overlooking cane fields on Petrie Creek Rd, Rosemount.
Long-term local residents (left) Neil and Betty Garrett and Ron and Florence Taylor at the Taylors’ property overlooking cane fields on Petrie Creek Rd, Rosemount. Iain Curry

Families go back 60 years

THE GARRETT and Taylor families are as much a part of Bli Bli as the rich, fertile soil.

Their family ties to the area can be traced back more than 60 years, when canecutters first took up residence.

Now the development of Bli Bli's newest estate has highlighted the rich history of the area, and will soon include a larger-than-life statue of a canecutter.

The statue will overlook the entrance to the new Cutters Ridge Estate, paying homage to the pioneering farmers who made the land their home from the 1950s.

Neil and Betty Garrett, born in 1929 and 1927 respectively, have seen Bli Bli transform from a cluster of cane farms to the sprawling suburban township it is today.

The Garretts, who celebrate 60 years of marriage with their diamond wedding anniversary on March 21, moved to Bli Bli after their honeymoon in 1953.

Neil said that in those days the town had no electricity, with most farms running off their own generators until power was introduced to the area a year later.

Families were mostly self-sufficient, growing produce for themselves alongside the canefields which defined the landscape.

At their Bennett Road farm, the Garretts grew up to 12,000 tonne of cane a year, thanks to the area's natural irrigation and that fertile soil.

"Big things have happened in the area during our lifetime," Neil said.

The Garretts saw the construction of new roads, infrastructure and bridges as the population of the area began to swell.

Bli Bli grew into a tight-knit community, with farming families regularly gathering in Petrie Park for open days and social events.

"There would be dances or fancy dress balls held in the Bli Bli Hall, and sometimes the men would put on a concert," Betty said.

Neil added: "We had hard work but there was a wonderful spirit among the Bli Bli people."

Retired University of Queensland Medical School professor John Pearn experienced farm life in the 1940s first hand, spending time as a child on his aunt and uncle's Bli Bli Road farm.

At a 1993 conference with the Cooroora Historical Society, Prof Pearn recalled fetching water for the workers as they tended the fields, which were inhabited by eastern brown snakes.

Canecutters would drink up to 10 litres of water a day to compensate for the physical labour, Prof Pearn told delegates at the time.

Despite the hard work, he observed that canefarming families lived a wholesome lifestyle, eating local produce and spending their days in the fresh air.

Ron and Florence Taylor agree, sitting on the quiet veranda of their Rosemount home as rain falls on their 43ha (108 acres).

The Taylors moved from Ayr in Queensland's rural Burdekin area, to Bli Bli in 1975 and bought the land which has recently been developed into Cutters Ridge.

They are pleased to hear that many streets in the estate will be named after respected local families who, along with themselves, have witnessed Bli Bli's evolution.

"Things were very different back then," Florence said.

"A lot of the time you had to travel by boat."

Ron added: "Near what is now Nambour Woolworths, there's a part of Petrie Creek that was the local swimming hole. We had a pet corgi and if you could beat him across the creek you were doing well."

He said the cane farmers and mill had joined resources with a developing company in 1959 to build the Tramline Bridge across the Maroochy River.

The bridge was a turning point in both the domestic and agricultural development of the area.

Even as Bli Bli reached the peak of its sugarcane boom, the area still retained the community feel of its earlier days.

Now, more than half-a-century later, a whole new generation of residents is enjoying that same neighbourly ambience.