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Psyche Bend Pump House 1891
Image by denisbin
the Chaffey brothers of Canada were such amazing visionaries that they could see how this semi-desert country could be transformed into a fruit bowl with verdant growth. Their foresight was remarkable. Their story is almost amazing. In 1884 the Victorian Premier, Alfred Deakin (later PM of Australia) went to California to visit irrigated colonies as Victoria had suffered a long drought from 1877-84. There he met George and William Chaffey and invited them to come and work irrigation miracles in Victoria. The concept was for the Chaffey brothers to buy the land and water rights at a low price, start irrigation and develop the land and sell it on at a high price. The Victorian government in 1886 gave the Chaffey brothers 250,000 acres of land on the old Mildura sheep station on the Murray for an irrigated colony development. The Chaffeys had to build pumping stations to obtain the water from the river, dig water canals and trenches, clear the land, level it for irrigation and then sell it. Their agreement with the government meant they had to spend £300,000 on these improvements over 20 years. They advertised for investors in California and Canada where they were already known as well as Melbourne and Adelaide. They advertised the 10 acre fruit blocks as grape, fruit orchard and orange grove lands. The Chaffeys began work in 1887 led by William. Younger brother Charles went to oversee the development of Renmark in SA. William selected 200 acres for himself near the Psyche Bend Pumping Station and now the site of the Chateau Mildura Winery. William Chaffey established this in 1888 one year after settlement work began. They hoped to irrigate 33,000 acres in the first stage. By 1890 3,300 people were living in the Mildura district. But the land boom of the 1880s collapsed around 1890 as Australia headed into drought and a major economic depression. Consequently the Chaffeys went bankrupt in both Mildura and Renmark in 1895. A Victorian Royal Commission in 1896 found the Chaffeys responsible for the collapse of the irrigated colonies. The Chaffeys certainly advertised and painted a rosy picture of the prospects of Mildura and Renmark but such a grandiose scheme without government financial backing was doomed to failure in Australia, especially when a worldwide economic depression hit it.
All that William had left after their bankruptcy was his winery, 200 acres of irrigated fruit block and the mansion he had built earlier in 1889 called Rio Vista (river view). William worked like any other fruit blocker. He unsuccessfully tried to sell Rio Vista but could not find a buyer. He helped the area establish a dried fruit marketing board and he earned the respect of the citizens of Mildura. He became President of the shire council in 1903 and the first city Mayor in 1920. He was so admired by the town residents that they presented him with a Ford motor car in 1911. He eventually paid off his debts to the Victorian government. He died at Rio Vista in 1926. There is now a fine statue of him in the centre of Deakin Avenue- the main street- named after the Victorian Premier and later Australian Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin. It was erected in 1929. This street is also one of the longest avenues in the world at 12.1 kms in length!
Throughout this period most of William’s income came from the winery. It produced table wine until around 1900 when it switched to fortified wines (sherry and port) and the distilling of brandy. Transport of produce was difficult until the railway arrived in Mildura in 1903. In 1910 he formed the larger Mildura Winery Company with a second distillery at Merbein. After William’s death the brand name was changed to Mildara in 1937. As an adjunct to the winery he established the Australia Dried Fruits Association around 1895. This was a way of using local fruit because there was no transport available for perishable food before the arrival of the railway from Melbourne in 1903. Dried fruit could be stored for a long time and it did not matter if considerable time was taken to get it to the city markets. So Chaffey established the two main products of the Mildura region- wines and spirits and dried fruit. Both were exported to England. William married twice. His first wife and some infant children are buried near the original Mildura Station on the Murray. His second wife is buried near him in Nichols Point cemetery. He was survived by 3 sons and 3 daughters. One later bought Avoca Station from the Cudmores!
Meantime the SA Premier, Sir John Downer offered the Chaffey brothers 250,000 acres of Crown Land at Renmark and they accepted that too. With 500,000 acres to develop the brothers George and William worked hard and their younger brother Charles also came out from California to manage the Renmark operation. The Mildura and the Renmark scheme were losing money so George tried to sell land blocks in the irrigation schemes in London in 1894 but he failed to find a buyer. In December 1894 the Chaffey brothers went into liquidation with huge debts and owing extensive wages to their employees. George then returned to Canada; William stayed on in Mildura; and Charles stayed on in Renmark. Charles Chaffey’s residence in Renmark called Olivewood is owned by the National Trust. It is built in Canadian log cabin style but with Australian verandas. It is probably the oldest residence in Renmark as it was erected in 1889. Charles ran the operation in Renmark until 1904 when he returned to Canada with his family and the bank repossessed the home. It had several owners until acquired by the National Trust in 1979. Only William and his family stayed the course and really developed the Australian irrigation colonies. When the Chaffeys went bankrupt the state governments took over the management and operation of the irrigation colonies with SA setting up the Renmark Irrigation Trust and Victoria the Mildura Irrigation Trust. Another of the legacies of the Chaffeys is the layout of both Renmark and Mildura which are remarkably similar. William Chaffey followed a standard California/USA approach with a wide divided avenue to be the centre thoroughfare of each town, with consecutively numbered streets running across the grand avenue. Streets running parallel to the main avenue had individual names. Hence in Mildura you have Ontario Avenue (reflecting the Chaffey Canadian origins) and San Mateo Avenue (California linkages) etc.
Mildura – founded in 1887.
The town was named after the original Mildura station which in turn was named from a local aboriginal word meaning “red earth”. Pastoralism began in 1847 when squatter Francis Jenkins moved here from NSW. He thought he was in SA! But his occupation was not legal and the leasehold went to Hugh and Bushby Jamieson who called their property of 150,000 acres Mildura. Once the river boat trade began in 1854 they expanded their sheep flock to 10,000. Alexander McEdward bought the property in the 1870s and later the government resumed it for the Chaffeys irrigation colony in 1887. Mildura grew very slowly even after the Chaffeys started their great work of clearing, felling, levelling and pumping water to turn the semi-desert into fruit blocks. The 1890s were economically depressed. The government Irrigation Trust continued the Chaffey work after 1894 and by 1910 the town was well established with a railway station (1903), a large temperance hotel, a school, stores, churches, a Carnegie Library, a public institute and a Working Man’s’ Club. Opposite the railway station was a well patronised river wharf and port. William Chaffey became the first Mildura mayor in 1920 and when the population had reached 15,000 in 1934 the town was declared a city.
Soldier settlers after World War One and Two were offered fruit blocks in the district and in both eras they helped boost the growth and population of the area. Today Mildura has the second busiest airport in Victoria outside the Melbourne area, and it is still growing. It now relies on tourism and retirement living as well as fruit and grape production for its economic output. Its warm climate makes it a favoured retirement spot for southern Victorians!
Some of the churches in Deakin Avenue are worth mentioning. On the corner of Deakin and Eleventh is the Anglican Church on one side and the Presbyterian (now Uniting) on the other. St. Margaret’s Anglican is made of local stone and brick with a squat square church tower. On the next corner of Tenth Street are two outstanding churches- the 1912 Methodist on one side and the 1914 Church of Christ on the other. The Church of Christ is in simple Greek classical style with a triangular pediment, rectangular façade, balustrade along the roof line and some simple columns flanking the door. The former Methodist Church, now an employment agency is most unusual. It is octagonal in shape with alternating layers of red and almost white brick work, with a large dome and minarets on some corners of the eight sides. It looks very much like a Middle Eastern mosque. The building has been given a government grant of 0,000 to restore the former Wesleyan Methodist Church to its former grandeur. It was built in 1912 as the 25th commemoration of the original Chaffey brother’s indenture signing for the Mildura Irrigation Colony (1887). It was designed by Melbourne architect G.B Leith and it was purposefully done in Middle Eastern style.
Art Deco in Mildura.
When wheat and wool prices collapsed during the great depression of the 1930s the demand for wine, spirits and fruit continued. Cities like Mildura continued to expand during the depression and so Mildura, like Renmark and Barmera has some fine Art Deco style buildings constructed in the 1930s, or even a bit later but still in the Deco style. If you go for a morning walk you might like to look out for the Power Supply Company substation in the median strip (built 1936) in Deakin Avenue:; and Etherington’s Jewellery Shop at 85 Deakin (built 1932). This is a great example. In Langtree Avenue look for: Bowring’s Buildings on corner of Eight Street; the former Commercial Bank also on the corner of Eight Street (built 1932); and the T & G Tower on the other corner with Eight Street (built around 1928). Along Langtree look for the former Capital Theatre at 39 Langtree (built 1935). All these buildings have geometric decoration; interesting plaster mouldings; many vertical lines; circles, pyramids and diagonal lines; shiny metal handles and glossy tiles, and design influences from Egypt, Mexico and classical Greek temples.
Storm on the Horizon Rays of Hope
Image by Merrill College of Journalism Press Releases
Photo: Storm on the Horizon has Rays of Hope shining down across a rural countryside with a barbed wire fence.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Innovative University of Maryland research went to print last week in two leading scientific publications. Faculty members and a Ph.D. student from the Department of Geographical Sciences (Behavioral and Social Sciences) highlighted their significant findings on the use of marginal lands for alternative fuel production and global biodiversity research.
AN IDEAL FUEL SOURCE FOR ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
Adjunct Professor César Izaurralde and Ph.D. candidate Ritvik Sahajpal have published a groundbreaking study, titled “Sustainable bioenergy production from marginal lands in the US Midwest,” in the current issue of Nature, that outlines how marginal lands – those deemed unsuitable for food crops – can be used to generate alternative energy fuels by the growth of grasses and non-woody plants (“biomass”) that thrive naturally.
While finding efficient uses for marginal lands is not new, this is the first study of its kind to offer an estimate for the greenhouse gas benefits as well as a concrete assessment on the full-scale potential for marginal lands to produce significant amounts of biomass.
This is also the first study to show that grasses and other non-woody plants that grow naturally on unmanaged lands are sufficiently productive to make ethanol production worthwhile. Researchers are hopeful that alternative fuel production could also be increased by the deliberate selection of the mix of plant species grown on marginal lands.
“With conservation in mind, these marginal lands can be made productive for bioenergy production and, in so doing, contribute to avoid the conflict between food and fuel production,” says Izaurralde, a soil scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
Dr. Izaurralde also is a laboratory fellow at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration of the PNNL and UMD. Research for the marginal lands project was primarily funded by the Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Michigan State University, along with the support of UMD and the PNNL. The researchers focused on 10 Midwestern states, drawing from 20 years of data from MSU’s Long-term Ecological Research Site (LTER). A primary goal was to compare and characterize the productivity and greenhouse gas impacts of different crops, such as corn, alfalfa and old-field vegetation.
Beyond generating alternative energy fuels, the benefits for using marginal lands include new revenue for farmers and other landowners. There would also be no inherent carbon debt from land conversion if existing vegetation is used, or if new crops are planted alongside existing vegetation.
The study – published in the January 16 issue of Nature, is called Sustainable bioenergy production from marginal lands in the US Midwest and can be read here: www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11…
PROMOTING GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH
As part of an international team of co-authors, Professor George Hurtt published ‘Essential Biodiversity Variables’ in the newest issue of Science magazine.
The article finds that while reducing the rate of biodiversity loss and averting dangerous biodiversity change are clearly international goals, the lack of a global observation and information/data delivery system on biodiversity change has proven to be an obstacle to progress.
“Reducing global biodiversity loss, and the loss of habitat on which it depends, is a goal with broad support around the world,” says Professor Hurtt. “Coordinated international monitoring of a common set of essential biodiversity variables should greatly improve the scientific information basis on which the best management decisions can be made.”
The study – published in the January 18 issue of Science, is called Essential Biodiversity Variables and can be read here: www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6117/277.full.pdf?sid=8e02…