SAVING THE VALLEY: Eva Ford and Jacob Sprecher, of the Mary River Catchment Co-ordinating Committee, carry on the work of saving the Mary Valley by planting trees at Kandanga.
SAVING THE VALLEY: Eva Ford and Jacob Sprecher, of the Mary River Catchment Co-ordinating Committee, carry on the work of saving the Mary Valley by planting trees at Kandanga.

Optimism saves the Mary Valley

"I ALWAYS thought he was a straight shooter and I always thought we'd win," former Mary Valley anti-dam leader Kevin Ingersole said yesterday.

He was contemplating today's fifth anniversary of the decision by then federal environment minister Peter Garrett to stop the Traveston Crossing dam.

"I still think about those times and I go back sometimes," Mr Ingersole said yesterday.

"I ring ahead and there's always a barbecue and the old team gets back together, just like the old days," he said.

On November 11, 2009, Mr Garrett stunned his Queensland Labor Party colleagues with a few simple but significant words.

"After considering the Traveston dam proposal and the best available scientific evidence and other material that is in front of me, it's my intention to say no to the Traveston dam," he told a packed press conference at the Australian Government Centre in Brisbane.

It was the end of one of the most significant episodes in Queensland political history.

Just as Wayne Goss, whose death was announced yesterday, ended the Bjelke-Petersen era when he was elected Queensland Premier in 1989, the Traveston Crossing dam ended Labor's general domination of Queensland politics.

"Whenever I read a piece by Peter Beattie (the Labor premier who first put the dam forward), I sit down and start a letter to Rupert Murdoch saying 'I'll never read The Australian again'," Mr Ingersole said. "But I don't post it. I get a balanced coverage. I read The Australian and I watch the ABC."

The Beattie Government found itself faced with an enemy more formidable than it had imagined, or as Mr Ingersole puts it, "a band of highly intelligent people who knew a lot of stuff".

Anti-dam activists brought hidden resources of skill and organisation to the task of turning ordinary people into a determined army, for whom defeat was never an option.

"It was my strong personal conviction from day one that we were going to win," he said.

It was a conviction shared by Mr Ingersole's successor as anti-dam leader, Kandanga grazier and environmental scientist Glenda Pickersgill.

"I always go down to the river and have a swim, rain hail or shine," Ms Pickersgill said yesterday.

A dip in the Mary is her annual pilgrimage to a river that is still there because of the efforts of residents and activists like her and hundreds of others.

"Watch out for the turtles," she said yesterday of the endangered Mary River turtles that are now laying their eggs in sandbanks all along the river.

"We need the rain and so do the turtles," she said.

"They'll lay again when we get some more rain."