Nowadays many people visit Yamba because of the beautiful sandy beaches on offer. Yet about a hundred years ago residents were contemplating leaving the town as sand encroachment threatened to bury their houses. The Catholic Convent and some eight cottages had already disappeared; two guest houses and a further twenty cottages were under immediate threat. By the 1920s the sand hills had moved 457 metres in ten years.

One man saved the day, and the town – William Ager. William Ager was born in Sydney in 1882, but later moved to the Clarence Valley with a brother and bought a farmat Whiteman Creek near Copmanhurst, where he pioneered the honey and fruit-growing industry in that district. What was regarded as useless land, purchased for £97, in less than 10 years had a productive value of £4000. However ill health forced his early retirement at the age of 45, when he moved to Yamba.

Ager firmly believed that “the drift must be held right at its source” and besides planting a sequence of different plants and grasses and erecting low fences to funnel the winds, his innovative use of improvised agitators assisted the north-easterly winds to drive the sand back into the swamps to level it. He admitted that, “The first four years was an endurance test. My friends thought I would end under the sand, rather than conquer it. The more the gales howled the more necessary it was to be there, noting what was happening, how the various sand traps were doing their work, how the dunes were leveling and planning future work to accomplish the design.” (Daily Examiner, Tuesday 10 April 1945)

It him took six years to successfully re-vegetate the sand dunes, stop the sand drift into Yamba and transform the landscape. Ager was keen to not only to eliminate the sand threat but also to develop Yamba as “the premier seaside resort of the north” by providing elevated building sites and filling in the swamps that were breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Through his influence, Clarence Street was extended to Church Street in 1938. Roads came later providing access to recreation reserves along Pippi Beach.

To demonstrate Yamba as the most desirable place at which to live by the sea, Ager built five cottageson some of the land he had reclaimed. He also donated land to the local CWA. The land was developed as children’s playground and park at the eastern end of Pippi Beach; called Ager Park in his honour, as is Ager Street. He is remembered as a man of visionary ideas and vehement opinions and was well known for his frequent ‘letters to the editor’.

William Ager was a remarkable man who turned ‘a wilderness of high sarifa dunes into the most beautiful of seaside allotments‘ (Daily Examiner, 18 December 1946) and was undoubtedly responsible for saving the town of Yamba.

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Yamba Museum
River Street, Yamba
PO Box 100 Yamba NSW 2464
02 6646 1399

Opening Hours

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis
The museum opening hours for 2021 are:

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday
10am - 4.30pm
Saturday and Sunday
2pm - 4.30pm

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