For many thousands of years the rich Pambula River floodplain was a source of food for the Thaua people of the Aboriginal Yuin nation. For them the saltmarsh and wetland vegetation acted as a cradle for the abundance of seafood in the river and lake. Plants provided material for food, fishnets, fish traps and baskets. The land not only gave shelter and sustenance to the Aborigines, for them it was a source of great spiritual connection and wealth.
White settlers arrived in the 1830’s and soon took over this land.Both the Walker and Imlay brothers acquired immense leases in the district. At this time the Pambula River followed a different course to that of today. It was closer to the current township, as the billabongs show. Surveyed in 1843 on the southern flats of the river, the original township of Pambula was developing, but severe floods in 1851 and 1860 caused the river to change course and the town eventually be moved to its present situation on higher ground.
Syms Covington owned two blocks of the now Panboola land. He had accompanied Charles Darwin to Australia on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830’s. Covington’s home still stands at the bottom of Pambula’s main street and is now a restaurant and gallery.
Becoming a Reserve
In 1997 local resident and benefactor, Alexandra Seddon, purchased 6 hectares in Bullara St for conservation and the birds and named it the Waterbird Sanctuary. Pambula Area Progress and Planning Association (PAPPA) managed this site for several years.
In 1997 the Imlay Racing Club, established on the floodplain more than 100 years ago, relocated to Kalaru leaving the Crown Land Pambula Racecourse Reserve vacant.
In 2001 Alexandra Seddon purchased an adjoining 42 hectares of prime river flats, also for conservation and the Pambula Wetlands and Heritage Project Inc (PWHP) committee was formed in May 2001 to manage this site and the Waterbird Sanctuary.
In 2002 the 29 hectare Recreation Reserve was re-gazetted as the Pambula Wetlands and Heritage Reserve (PWHR), locally referred to as the Old Pambula Racecourse.
In September 2003 a Trust Board was appointed by the Dept of Lands to manage the Reserve. Some of the Trustees are also members of the PWHP and both committees work in tandem presenting the two sites as Panboola (meaning ‘two waters’ or ‘meeting of the waters’), in recognition of the Aboriginal presence on this land for many thousands of years prior to the arrival of white settlers in 1835.
In 2003 Alexandra gifted her land to Pambula Wetlands and Heritage Project Inc. which now holds the Certificates of Title. Voluntary Conservation Agreements have been signed over portions of the land ensuring their conservation status for ever.
In 2003 the Pambula Wetlands and Heritage Project Inc. was granted Environmental Organisation status and a Public Fund, the Panboola Fund, was established. Donations to this fund are tax deductible.