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From the first years of white settlement, navigational problems on the Fitzroy were readily apparent and Rockhampton's leading citizens felt that, to enable both town and district to prosper and develop, the river had to be made suitable for shipping. With no railway connection to the south until 1904 or to the north until the 1920s, Rockhampton's economy depended heavily on the viability of the river port. Over the wharves passed the pastoral and mineral wealth of Central Queensland for export; in return came manufactured goods for local consumption and distribution throughout the region by the Central Railway. [Early settlement.]

Efforts to reshape the Fitzroy into a river suitable for shipping—even to the extent of trying to develop a world-class deep-water port—led to some of the most extensive and expensive waterway engineering projects in Queensland. Some of these attempts followed the advice of international experts, employing the most advanced techniques of the day. Several were regarded as engineering experiments for their particular location.
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