Backward Glance: The Nambour retail story continues
  • Wednesday 23 November 2016
Backward Glance continues the story of Nambour as a business centre from the 1950s onwards.

In a stroke of bad luck, just before Christmas in 1946 many shops in the centre of Nambour were destroyed by fire. 

Nambour did not have a reticulated water supply and firefighting equipment was virtually non-existent at that time. 

This major incident signalled a need to improve services to the thriving business hub and to build a dam somewhere within the Near North Coast hinterland. 

Nambour’s population in 1945 was 3000 and by 1955 the town’s population had reached 5000. 

Prosperity grew and by 1955 Nambour was experiencing a building boom. 

New brick structures including Nambour’s Shire Hall, cafes, banks and churches provided stimulus and confidence. 

The search for a suitable dam site for Nambour town began about 1951.

In February 1955, work began on the construction of Wappa Dam and on December 24 1958, Nambour was connected to town water.

The project involved five miles of mains and several town reservoirs and was regarded as the biggest single development in Nambour for 50 years.

After World War II, the post-war drift of the Australian population to sunnier places had begun. 

The climate and beauty of the region attracted holidaymakers and also a new type of resident, the retiree. 

Maroochy Progress Association had argued in 1947 that the coastal towns should be separated from the existing shire as Nambour’s rural-based council could not cope with coastal needs. 

In the shire elections of 1952, David Low was a candidate contesting the chairmanship from Maroochy Chairman Andrew Thompson. 

Mr Low argued for a coastal road system connecting Caloundra to Noosa and Cr Thompson proposed that better roads be built to connect productive inland areas to the coast to service both rural and tourism opportunities. 

The 1952 election resulted in a victory for David Low. 

In 1957, Frank Nicklin, the Member for Murrumba for 25 years and Leader of the Opposition, became Premier of Queensland. 

During the 1950s and 1960s increased development plans across the area reflected the optimism of the region with Maroochy Shire Chairman David Low and Premier Nicklin leading its direction. 

In 1953, the Maroochy Shire Council completely modernised Station Square. 

Nambour Civic Centre was built and opened in 1960. 

Kenilworth dairy farmer Eddie De Vere became Maroochy Shire Chairman in 1967 and realised the importance of both rural enterprise and tourism to the region. 

Horticulture still played a big part in Nambour’s economy in the 1970s with pineapple growing, sugar and dairying all important industries for the area. 

During the 1970s a new Shire Chambers was built on the corner of Bury and Currie Streets and opened in 1978.

Due to building development in the 1980s and onwards, the number of farms and land devoted to farming fell considerably. 

By 1985, tourism had become a major industry in Maroochy Shire with a shift in population growth from the hinterland towards the coastal towns. 

The dynamics of Nambour were changing. Large shopping centres were being built around this time. 

The increasing through traffic on the Bruce Highway, which ran through Currie Street in Nambour, was diverted when an alternative route was built skirting the town centre. 

The Nambour bypass opening in 1990 taking the Bruce Highway traffic away from Woombye and Nambour streets. 

After more than 100 years of crushing sugar cane, the Moreton Central Sugar Mill in Nambour closed in December, 2003. 

The last cane train rumbled up through the centre of town and blew a mournful whistle of farewell to an industry that had been a cultural and economic icon for so long.
Growth and tourism has seen many changes in the Nambour town area. 

Today Nambour has a population of about 17,000 and is a main transport hub for both rail and bus due to its position on the rail line. 

The original shops on Currie and Howard Street still remind us of an earlier time and provide a link to the past even though they offer different goods to the wares of yesterday. 

Local community involvement and action has seen organised events and fundraising to support future heritage themed projects, as well as the Queensland Garden Expo and Sunshine Coast Council events on offer throughout the year. 

As new bars, eateries and live music venues change the dynamics of what was once a thriving country town, Nambour continues to meet the challenge to reinvent itself. 

From the historic business centre of long ago to a new experience for locals and visitors alike, Nambour offers numerous things to do and see. 

Whether it be visiting the retro inspired op shops, theatre, movies, creative space of the Old Ambulance Centre, Nambour Museum, boutique shopping, dining or enjoying a relaxed coffee with friends, Nambour still has much to offer. 

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image details
Hero: Official opening of the Near North Coast Tourist Centre in the Maroochy Shire Hall, Nambour, on 3 December 1957. The Tourist Centre was established to promote tourism in the region, including all near North Coast seaside and hinterland areas.

Carousel images
1: Wappa Dam under construction on the South Maroochy River near Yandina, 1961. Maroochy Shire Councillors and officials inspecting the dam site. The dam was constructed in stages between 1958 and 1961.
2: Shops along Currie Street, Nambour looking north towards the Maroochy Shire Hall, 1962.
3: Nambour Meat Hall interior, Currie Street, Nambour, 1960.
4. Sunshine Plantation passenger train, Big Pineapple and Visitor Centre, Woombye, April 1976.