River flooding in Darebin
Floods represent the greatest natural threat to lives and property in Darebin. With the Merri Creek to the west, Darebin Creek to the east and Yarra in the south of the city, Darebin is surrounded on three sides by water.
The first recorded flood was in 1839. Melbourne was still a fledgling community, unaware of the danger when heavy rains swept Melbourne that December. The Yarra rose slowly at first but after a couple of days the torrent of water swept through Melbourne, devastating the community on the south side of the Yarra (around Southbank).
The Merri and Darebin Creeks are usually quite gentle, although difficult to cross due to steep embankments. However the heavy rain had transformed them and a stockman named Jordan had attempted to cross the Merri Creek near the High Street bridge. He was swept away, his body later being found near Collingwood Flats. His horse survived the dunking, coming ashore near Yarra Bend. Sadly it was not the last life claimed by the creeks, even in 2004 the Darebin Creek claimed the life of a local resident.
After the 1839, floods were a regular occurrence along the Yarra River and Merri and Darebin Creeks. At first property damage was slight as most buildings were wisely built away from the creek and river banks. However the building of the Rudder Grange and Fairfield boathouses at the turn of the century, whilst attracting considerable number of people to the river, also had to suffer numerous floods. In 1909 and 1930 both boat houses were covered by water as the Yarra swelled to almost 60 feet in depth.
The 1930 flood proved to the last of the great floods for the Yarra as the Government finally took protective measures to prevent further occurrences. This included laying bluestone embankments along the Yarra in the city to help control the course of the river.
The creeks continue to flood however, and in 1974 heavy flooding occurred along the Merri Creek. In December 2003 heavy rains swept Melbourne. Flooding occurred across the city but Fairfield, in particular was heavy hit. The Fairfield shopping centre was flooded and a wave caused by a passing truck caused heavy damage to many shops.
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Howard, Jess. (2000). Notes from local history: stories from Northcote and beyond. Northcote: Jess Howard.
Lemon, Andrew. (1983). Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.