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Helensvale history

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Click to enlarge Helensvale Golf Course, June, 1976. Bob Avery, photographer.

Helensvale Golf Course, June, 1976.
Bob Avery, photographer.

There are a number of possible sources for the word Coombabah including ‘Koomboobah’, the place of the cobra (teredo) worm.

The cobra worms, a bi-valve mollusc, were considered a delicacy by the Yugambeh people and large shell middens were found around the shores of Lake Coombabah. The lake forms one of the boundaries of the suburb of Helensvale.  

In 1847, George Pratten surveyed the area and on 11 July 1867 it became part of the large pastoral run known as Cumboomba (Coombabah) which was leased by William Duckett White.

In 1870, changes in land ownership meant that the enormous tracks of lands originally leased were broken up. When the land surrounding Helensvale was opened up for freehold purchase the White family kept 1300 acres of it. Much of the land now known as Helensvale was owned by the White and Robinson families.

William Duckett White’s son, Ernest, and Arthur Robinson were of similar age and, in partnership, they started the Helensvale Sugar Plantation. It’s believed that the sugar plantation was named after Ernest White's younger sister, Helena.

In the 1870s, Helensvale was described in glowing terms in the Brisbane Courier newspaper, "Nothing could be more advantageous than the position of the Helensvale Estate with regard to the river; it comprises nearly a couple of thousand acres of freehold which form a peninsula about half-a-mile of fencing having proved sufficient enough to isolate it; whilst about a ten-mile river frontage is well taken advantage of. Following the banks of the river, 800 acres of fine scrub and forest land is found in unbroken continuity…" (The Brisbane Courier, 2 September 1876, page 7)

By the 1880s, the Helensvale Plantation had 55 acres cultivated with sugar, with five European and 32 Pacific Islander workers living on the property. In 1892, a Mr Castle was selling implements and machinery from Helensvale and the Logan Witness was declaring an end to sugar cane growing on the Coomera River. In 1895, the property was advertised with the option to buy or lease.

One of the main requirements of successful agricultural land is good transport. By the early 1900s, the South Coast Railway line linking South Brisbane to Tweed Heads ran through the region, with a railway siding located at Helensvale. Built in 1903, it was used to transport cream and other produce to market. In 1905, Helensvale was advertised for sale as rich grazing and agricultural land. In 1907, the proprietor, Mr H. Dennis, held a clearing sale prior to moving north.

While a number of local families continued to be involved in the sugar cane industry, in the early years of the twentieth century Helensvale became a dairy property owned by William Campbell of Murwillumbah and operated by the Hession family.

In later years, the property was associated with the Siganto family and purchased by Davis Gelatine Pty, well known manufacturers of gelatine products. In 1950, the property was again listed for sale (unstocked) at 22,500 pounds. It was purchased by Mr C.T. Bennet, a cane grower from North Queensland for an undisclosed amount.

Little is known of any further change in ownership of the land until the 1970s, when it was in the hands of the Mainline Group and major development began to be considered.

The Helensvale Project started when Mainline Constructions and Alliance Holdings formed a company called Oxenford Holdings Pty Ltd. Their aim was to develop 154 hectares at Oxenford and 689 hectares at Helensvale.

The first homes were constructed in 1976 in an area that was part of the original sugar plantation south of Saltwater Creek. By 1978, the project was six months ahead of schedule.

Helensvale was planned for 10,000 people, with a district centre servicing Helensvale, Gaven Forest (Pacific Pines) and Oxenford with parklands, shops, amenities and facilities (such as a golf course) part of the development.

Since the commencement of the master planned development in the 1970s, Helensvale has grown into a suburb located near major theme parks, adjacent to a train station and with a wide range of shopping, medical and sporting facilities. It is still bounded to the east by Coombabah Lake and Nature Reserve.

Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Collection.

Further reading and sources of information:

The Kombumerri Corporation for Culture (ed). The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh region from the works of John Allen and John Lane, The Kombumerri Corporation for Culture, 2001.

Gray, Phil. A History of Helensvale, E & EO, 2010.

The Gold Coast Bulletin. (1976, 21 February).

The Hessions come back to Helensvale. (1979, 18 April). Gold Coast Bulletin, p. 4.

The Lower Coomera. (1876, September 2). The Brisbane Courier, p. 7.

Coomera. (1943, January 20). South Coast Bulletin, p. 3.

For the man on the land. (1929, July 27). The Brisbane Courier, p. 13.

Advertising. (1905, October 13). The Brisbane Courier, p. 8.

Stockowners’ meeting. (1917, February 19). Tweed Daily, p. 2.

Helensvale sold. (1950, March 2). The Courier-Mail, p. 7.

Clearance sale. (1950, March 9). Queensland Country Life, p. 20.

Pig Parade. (1946, January 17). Queensland Country Life, p. 5.

Below the range. (1907, July 8). The Brisbane Courier, p. 2.

Display Advertising. (1895, June 8). The Queenslander, p. 1103.

Advertising. (1935, April 26). South Coast Bulletin, p. 4.

Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

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