Mary River Festival is run by the community for the community. A small group of volunteers from all different walks of life come together each year with one goal in mind, to create an event for the whole community to enjoy.
The festivals vision is to bring the Gympie region and other regions that reside beside the Mary River together to celebrate the wealth and abundance that the river brings to our region through drama, music, art, fun, education and discussion.
The Serious Side
The philosophy behind the festival is to celebrate our rural environment and our local and natural produce, art and culture.
The Mary River supports many unique and valuable ecosystems. Starting at Booroobin in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland it flows north to its mouth at River Heads near Maryborough. The river is 255km long and has a catchment area of 9700km2 and is bounded by the Kandanga, Amamoor and Coast Ranges.
The Mary River flows into the Sandy Straits, a Ramsar listed wetland and provides necessary nutrients for these wetlands. The river supports more than 150 rare and threatened plant and animal species. Some of the animals that are under threat include the following species which are listed under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1994:
· Water mouse (Xeromys myoides) - Rare under the NCA 1994
· Giant barred-frog (Mixophyes iterates) - Endangered under NCA 1994
· Cascade Tree Frog (Litoria pearsoniana) - Endangered under NCA 1994
· Coxen’s fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta diopthahna coxeni) - Endangered
· Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus) - Endangered
· Mary River Cod (Maccullochella peelii mariensis) - Endangered
· Queensland lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) - Vulnerable
· Tusked Frog (Adelotus brevis) - Vulnerable
· Honey blue-eye (Pseudomugil mellis) - Vulnerable
· Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) - Vulnerable
· Giant spiny crayfish (Euastacus hystricosus) - Vulnerable
· Illidge’s ant-blue butterfly (Acrodipsas illidgei) - Vulnerable
The river supports a variety of vegetation communities from riparian rainforest to Eucalyptus woodlands and wetlands. Its catchment has been recognised by the Australian Rivers Institute as the most significant coastal river system in south-east Queensland. One of very few rivers to flow northwards in Queensland, the Mary River flows across the boundary between temperate and tropical zones.
The River was traditionally named Moocooboola by local Aborigines. The river was subsequently named Wide Bay River by early European explorers. The official name was changed in 1847 (prior to Queensland becoming a separate colony) by Charles Augustus FitzRoy, then Governor of New South Wales, to Mary River - after his wife Lady Mary Lennox. Maryborough was established in 1847-48 and settlers began to occupy land along the river with stations and towns developing in the early 1850’s.
The river and its abundant resources were explored by timber getters and then by generations of farmers who utilised the wide and fertile floodplains adjoining its banks. The Mary River catchment still supports prime agricultural lands and the vibrant towns continue to grow and develop new industries.
During a sustained drought in South-east Queensland and with threats of water shortages throughout the region and particularly in Brisbane the Queensland Government, headed by Peter Beattie announced a plan to supply water to the cities.
The Queensland Government announced on 27th April 2006 its intention to dam part of the Mary River at Traveston Crossing, south of Gympie. Three hard years of protest, research and hard work by the community was to follow in the fight for the River.
The project was eventually cancelled on the 11th November 2009, after being refused approval by federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett due to the potential impacts the proposed dam would have on threatened species; In particular the nationally protected Australian lungfish, Mary River turtle and Mary River cod. The Dam would also have impacted on migratory species, the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar wetland, and the World Heritage values of Fraser Island.
Moving on from these dramatic events that also impacted on the social fabric of the Mary River catchment, there have been a number of practical measures for renewal within the region.
There are projects that have been proposed to protect the endangered species that live in the river including rehabilitation of riparian corridors, improved cattle fencing around sensitive habitat, and the provision of a recovery plan to secure the river and the people who live along its future.
The Mary River Festival is a celebration of the river flowing free, and the people who have come through the uncertain dam years to continue to participate and build the communities of the Mary Valley.