Wentworth Shire Heritage Study
Prepared for the Council of the Shire of Wentworth
Internet translation by Wentworth Shire Council, September 2001
See Appendix 5 for the list of items, including photos.
Table of Contents
The Wentworth Heritage Study was undertaken by Hassell Planning Consultants Pty Ltd at the request of the Wentworth Shire Council. Specialist input to the Study was provided by Colin Pardoe, archaeologist. Funding assistance for the Study was obtained through the National Estates Programme.
The Council, Government authorities and the local community have all recognised the extensive heritage significance of the Wentworth Shire. However, due to the size of the Shire previous historical investigations have been limited to selected areas. This Study aims to be a more detailed and comprehensive assessment of the Shire's heritage.
The Study involved the identification and assessment of items of heritage significance within the Shire and the formulation of practical recommendations relating to the recognition, preservation and restoration of those items. The Heritage Study could not have been undertaken without the valuable assistance and hospitality provided by the people of the Wentworth Shire.
HERITAGE ITEM REVIEW
The assessment of the heritage significance of the Wentworth Shire involved a lengthy investigation of historical documents, publications, unpublished material, surveys, plans, newspaper articles and photographs. Additionally, discussions were held with members of the community, the National Trust and relevant government authorities. Mr Jeff Whyte a local historian, provided valuable assistance and material for the purposes of the Study. Additionally, recent local publications relating to the history of Wentworth, Pooncarie, Gol Gol and Coomealla enabled quick reference to places and events of local historical importance. The research enabled the formulation of a thematic history of the Shire which is detailed in Appendix 4. Particular "nap shot" periods were selected to represent important phases of the development of the Shire. The periods included the following:
1829-1845: Exploration and the Overland Route
1846-1860: Squatters and Townships
1861-1870: The River Trade
1871-1880: Municipality and Pastoral Expansion
1881-1890: Droughts, Deluge and Rabbits
1891-1900: Resumption and Settlement
1911-1930: Weirs, Locks, Roads and Rail
1956: The Great Flood
As a further means of reference, historical themes relevant to the development of the Shire were established. These themes when combined with the information in each development phase enabled a picture of local lifestyles and events which could easily be related to specific item assessment providing a recognisable context. The themes chosen include:
The thematic history does not provide a new history of the shire, but enables easy reference to the lifestyle and settlement patterns of the time, which assist in identifying the significance of particular places items.
Historical research and discussions with members of the local community enabled the formulation of a list of items which may have some heritage significance to the Shire. These items were assessed by site investigation and valued according to specific criteria which included:
Each item assessed was documented in a format depicting name, location and significance as detailed in Appendix 5 of this report. Each item is provided with a conservation recommendation based upon its given significance as determined by the evaluation criteria.
The south-west region of New South Wales contains the most complete record of Aboriginal occupation in the continent. Thus, a significant component of the Heritage Study was the evaluation and assessment of items of Aboriginal heritage significance undertaken by Colin Pardoe. Appendix 2 provides a history of Aboriginal occupation in the Wentworth Shire and describes the tribes and their customs. Further to this, Appendix 3 details the types of archaeological sites in the Shire and there distribution. Additionally, a predictive analysis of areas likely to contain items of Aboriginal significance is attached to Appendix 3 and focuses on areas with development potential. To determine the location of known sites of Aboriginal heritage significance the National Parks and Wildlife register was consulted.
HERITAGE OF THE WENTWORTH SHIRE
The Wentworth Shire contains significant and important items of natural Aboriginal and European heritage.
The appearance, habitation and development of the Shire and region has been dominated and controlled by the presence of the Murray/Darling River system. The rivers have been an important feature in the development of eastern Australia. Additionally, the dry plains and numerous lakes and ancient drainage basins provide extensive and unique areas of landscape and vegetation providing habitats for vast forms of birdlife and wildlife.
The shire contains very significant examples of geological, palaeontological and archaeological interests are substantial examples of fossil remains throughout the Shire particularly that of the extinct mega-fauna.
Wentworth contains some of the most significant known sites of Aboriginal occupation in Australia. Some of the first records of Aboriginal occupation in the continent are found at Lake Mungo on the eastern border of the shire. The River Murray, its foreshores, tributaries and adjacent lakes are home to a large distribution of aboriginal artefacts, middens, burials and the like. Some of the oldest known burials in Australia and the earliest recorded cremation in the world are located in the Shire. Some of the significant sites include Lake Nitchie, Rufus Creek, Snaggy Bend and Lake Mungo.
European occupation in the Shire began in the late 1840's with the expansion of pastoralism into the area. Rural settlement was highly dependant upon the rivers and this was intensified after the 1850's when a regular river boat trade passed through Wentworth. Wentworth township served as a vital port due to its location on the confluence of the Murray and Darling rivers. Additional to the pastoral and trade significance of the Shire was the introduction of irrigation at the turn of the century. Curlwaa was the fist irrigation area established in New South Wales.
In assessing the environmental heritage of the Shire a number of specific items relating to the development of Wentworth have been selected to be included in a schedule within the new draft Local Environmental Plan enabling their protection. These items are listed in the recommendations.
However, all items selected within the survey have some heritage noteworthiness and reference to their individual recommendations should be considered with regard to future development proposals.
Some of the items within the Shire are controlled under existing heritage provision. The Australian Heritage Commission Act of 1975 is primarily concerned with the identification and registration of items comprising the National Estate. The powers of the Australian Heritage Commission are related solely to properties controlled by the Crown. However, the register of the National Estate lists those places that have been identified to date as comprising part of the nations heritage. A number of items within the Wentworth Shire are registered as items of the National Estate including:
Of utmost significance is the Willandra Lakes region which has world heritage listing because of its outstanding universal value of both cultural and natural features.
The New South Wales Heritage Act of 1977 ensures the cultural and natural heritage of New South Wales is adequately identified and conserved. The Heritage Act established the Heritage Council in New South Wales which is responsible to the Minister of Planning. The Heritage Council is obliged to keep a public register of buildings, works, relics, and places that are a subject of conservation instruments and any orders made and notices served under the Act. Interim conservation orders are placed upon items likely to warrant permanent protection. The order takes effect when published in the government gazette and remains for a maximum period of two years until further investigation into the significance of the item is undertaken and a possible permanent conservation order is implemented. Three items within the Wentworth township are currently listed under the state heritage register:
Historic sites and natural areas owned or being required by the Crown come under the ambit of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Some of the Shire's heritage falls under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Services. The National Parks and Wildlife Act has sole jurisdiction and control over aboriginal relics and places. The Service complies a Register of Aboriginal Sites which can be viewed in detail in Appendix 3.
The National Trust of Australia (New South Wales) is a private conservation body established by an act of parliament that which has no statutory powers. The Trust plays an active role in the conservation and enhancement of items of the environmental heritage through local advice and publications, purchase and restoration of properties, community awareness campaigns and recommendations for urban conservation areas and subsequent advice to local government authorities. An active branch of the National trust is established in Wentworth and has been responsible for the recognition, enhancement and restoration of some items. Properties in Wentworth Shire listed in the trust Register include:
Much of the Shire's environmental heritage is located within townships or on freehold land which is subject to Council planning controls. As such, it is recommended that clauses be provided within the new Local Environmental Plan, as detailed in Appendix 6, to enable consideration of the Shire's heritage and its preservation and enhancement. Additionally building officers are empowered to use flexibility and discretion in requiring compliance of building regulations for heritage items under the Local Government Act and the Heritage Act. In assessing building and development applications submitted for heritage items or for development adjacent to heritage items, positive advice on suitable design, style and building materials to compliment the traditional building form or locational character should be forthcoming from the Council.
MANAGEMENT OF THE SHIRE'S HERITAGE
The following are the management recommendations which should be adopted by the Council to enable and encourage conservation of the Shires Heritage. The Council has a major role in determining the extent to which the Shires heritage is maintained through its own policies and guidelines and the determination of information to the local community. These recommendations should be read in context with additional material in Section 5 of this report.
The Council Attitude
The Wentworth Shire Council to adopt a positive and clear policy framework regarding heritage conservation as set out in this report.
The Planning Department
The Council's Planning staff make full and consistent use of Section 90 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act in dealing with heritage matters.
The heritage provisions as set out by Appendix c to be included within the draft Local Environmental Plan currently being prepared by the Shire.
The Council's planning staff is to maintain positive attitudes towards conservation. Encouragement should be given to sympathetic development and discouragement to proposals which work against conservation objectives.
Recognise the heritage worth of all items listed in Appendix 5 of this report by considering their level of significance and recommendations prior to consideration of development, building or alteration proposals of the item or adjacent items.
The following items to be included within a schedule of heritage items within the Local Environmental Plan and afforded the protection provided by those clauses within the LEP having specific reference to that schedule;
The Building Department
The issue of demolition notices on buildings which are part of the Shires heritage should only be undertaken by Council when no other alternative is available.
The provisions of the Heritage Act should be used, where practicable, to avoid the issue of notices which would damage the Shire' heritage.
The flexibility available in Ordinance 70 should be used to avoid damage to the Shire's heritage in the case of change of use of an existing building.
The Council should give approval to the use of building materials which are sympathetic to the character of heritage items.
The Council should alert the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Western Lands Commission and Department of Water Resources to the findings of this study.
The Council should advise all relevant State and Commonwealth Government Departments and Agencies of the findings of this study and ask for their co-operation in conserving the heritage of the Wentworth Shire.
The Council should ensure that residents are aware of the heritage of the Shire and of the importance of heritage to the future of the Shire.
The Council should display this report and its recommendations for public information and comment.
The Council should encourage residents to undertake maintenance and building works in a manner sympathetic to the original character of the building.
The residents should be guided and assisted to conserve those items of the Shire's Heritage under their ownership and control.
The Council should compile a brochure explaining the implications of the Heritage Study, council's approach to the Shire's heritage, and the role of the community in conserving heritage.
The Council should make available information pamphlets on restoration and renovation of heritage buildings to the general public.
The Council should contribute to columns in the local press providing practical advice on conservation of the Shire's heritage.
The Council should initiate local public meetings and seminars aimed at disseminating information about the Shire's heritage and methods/attitudes to aid its conservation.
The Council should initiate civic and rural awards to encourage heritage conservation in townships and rural areas.
The Council should pursue early consultation with Developers to ensure proposals enhance and do not negate the Shire's heritage.
The Community should be given the opportunity to comment on proposals affecting the Shire's heritage.
Council should refer development proposals on land likely to contain aboriginal relics, as depicted in Appendix 3 to the National Parks and wildlife Service and Local Aboriginal Lands Council prior to approval.
Heritage and Tourism
The Council should encourage the utilisation of the Shire's heritage for tourism but without compromise to that heritage.
Funding and Incentives
The Council should investigate State Government funding opportunities for conservation projects.
The Council should alert local businesses of the importance of heritage to the future economy of the Shire, in an endeavour to attract local business and corporate funding or assistance in conservation projects.
The Council should seek opportunities to provide financial incentives to residents actively promoting heritage conservation.
Management of Areas of Archaeological Significance
Sand dunes on the flood plains should be carefully monitored and investigated prior to any development.
Lake margins, especially the lunettes, should be protected from erosion and development.
Perry Sand Hill should be protected and the use of recreation vehicles discouraged.
Access to the sand quarry area west of Wentworth should be limited.
The shell midden opposite the Department of Agriculture Research Station, to the south of and immediately adjacent to the Sturt Highway should be preserved.
Museums and Displays
The Council to seek funding assistance from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Museums Association and the Australian Heritage Commission to develop suitable displays of Aboriginal culture in the Shire.
Development of Archaeological Sites
The council employ the services of a site curator in the event of any development that involves clearing of bush or disturbance of ground where reasonable expectations are held for the finding of archaeological relics.
The appropriate Aboriginal Land Councils be consulted in the event of development proposals that may endanger or disturb archaeological relics and sites.