WRL Atlas - Australia - City of Albany

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Australian Contributions WORLD RURAL LANDSCAPES Project ICOMOS ISC Cultural Landscapes WRL__ANN_R.AP_2.09.14_en

Name and location: The City of Albany, regional centre for the Great Southern Region of Western Australia [natural values vs cultural values plus lifestyle demands due to mild climate] Short Description of type of rural landscape/landform system: The historic port city of Albany (population 36,262) [profile.id.com.au/Albany/populationestimate dated 30 June 2013, accessed 25.6.14], located on King George Sound, lies on the southern tip of Western Australia, 420 kilometres, or four and a half hours’ drive from Perth, and an hour by small jet. Albany is the administrative centre of the Great Southern Region (population 59,000 including Albany)[source: Great Southern Development Commission (WA Govt) (2011), Great Southern: A Region in Profile, www.gsdc.wa.gov.au Accessed 19 June 2014 The Great Southern region is predominantly agricultural and includes the City of Albany, and the Shires of Katanning, Broomehill-Tambellup, Cranbrook, Denmark, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup, Kent, Kojonup, Mt Barker and Woodanilling, covering an area of approximately 39,000 square kilometres. Agriculture in the Great Southern region generates over a billion dollars income, or 15 per cent of Western Australia’s agricultural income. Crops grown in the region include wheat, canola, barley and oats in the drier zones. Dairy, viticulture and horticulture are carried out in the wetter zones. [Source: Great Southern: a region in profile 2011, www.gsdc.wa.gov.au p. 4] The dairy industry in the Great Southern region contributes significantly to the state’s fresh milk supply, most of which is drinking milk for local consumption. [Australian Dairy in Focus 2013, p.7 www.dairy.com.au accessed 30 June 2014] Tourism, health care, timber, mining, fishing and construction are also important industries in the regional economy. Within this ancient gently undulating landscape rising to 1000 metres above sea level lies the Stirling Range, an hour’s drive to the north of Albany. It is comprised mainly of metaphorphosed sandstone and quartzite rocks which are thought to have formed in the Proterozoic Eon (about 1 150 million years ago) between the Yilgarn Block (craton) and the Albany-Fraser Province. These rocks have been more resistant to weathering and erosion than the surrounding granite and gneiss terrain of the Yilgarn Block and the Albany-Fraser Province and therefore stands high above the local rock. [Source: Mountains of Mystery, p. 15] The Stirling Range lies between the moist, mild areas of the south coast, with rainfall as high as 1400 mm near Northcliffe, mean rainfall of 930 mm at Albany, [Source: Climate Data Online, www.bom.gov.au accessed 13 June 2014] and the grain growing areas of the Yilgarn block to the north of the Stirlings, which generally receive much lower rainfall, for example 480mm at Katanning. Between the Stirling Range and Albany lies the town of Mount Barker, settled in the 1830s due to the presence in this area of some of the better soils and fresh water available in proximity to Albany. The nearby Porongurup Range, consisting of gneissic and granitoid hills reaches some 670 metres above sea level. Rain falling on the Stirlings and Porongurups drains southwards along rivers and creeks is harvested via dams and groundwater, especially near King George Sound where Albany is located. The Southwest of Western Australia is one of the oldest landscapes on earth. Its essential 1

flatness is due to the absence of mountain building since the Carboniferous-Permian glaciation between 320 and 290 million years ago, combined with the absence of inundation or glaciation since the Permian (298-252 million years ago). The lack of volcanic activity, mountainbuilding and glaciation means that most of the soils are leached of minerals. The region contains whole families of flowering plants and thousands of species which are endemic and have adapted and persisted over millions of years. [Hopper and Gioia, 2004] Ingenious adaptation to these nutrient-poor soils is displayed by the insectivorous Albany pitcher plant Cephalotus follicularis, which traps insects to obtain nutrients. The better soils are found mainly near watercourses, for example along the Kalgan River. Early settlers arriving at the settlement at King George Sound (Albany) struggled to find land suitable for grazing. They experimented with soil improvement to produce European crops with varying results. Due to lack of local knowledge, some stock were poisoned after eating native gastrolobium plants. [Gardos, 2004] Recently, native tubers (called native potatoes) have been assessed for commercial horticulture, with some promising results. [Woodall, 2010] Despite the difficulties created by the soils often being poor in nutrients, which has affected the development of agriculture, the Southwest of Western Australia has a mild climate with moderate rainfall and a great deal of natural beauty which makes it attractive for people to live there and experiment with different forms of agriculture. The City of Albany in particular, has a mild climate with average summer maximum daily temperatures of 22-23 degrees Celsius, only occasionally above 30 degrees, and average winter maximum daily temperatures of 16-17 degrees Celsius. [http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_009500.shtml] Inland there are frost pockets. Planning scheme controls for this landscape The City of Albany has an agricultural protection and subdivision planning policy which states that agriculture is the main land use and employment industry, and recognises that urban development and other land uses may affect agricultural land. See the map in Figure 1. History of land use including recent changes: Aborigines have lived in the Albany region for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European visitors. Archaeological excavations in the 1970s near the Kalgan River showed that the land was occupied by the Mineng (a group of the Noongar) people for around 19,000 years. [Piggott, p. 1] In the City of Albany Aborigines currently form approximately 3 per cent of the population. [http://profile.id.com.au/albany/population Accessed 30 June 2014] The first European survey of the coast near King George Sound is attributed to Peter Nuyts in 1627. The first Britons to visit King George Sound were the party of George Vancouver in 1791, when he named it as a British possession. In 1801 Matthew Flinders chose King George Sound to replenish his ships and commence his survey work, and in 1803 French explorer Nicholas Baudin and his crew visited, knowing fresh water was available at King George Sound. By the 1820s when Philip Parker King visited, sealers were making a living from the seals found on the islands and shores nearby. Governor Darling in Sydney received instructions from Lord Bathurst to establish new settlements, including a penal settlement at King George Sound. This location had the advantage of being on the route of vessels sailing from England to Port Jackson (Sydney). He sent Major Edmund Lockyer with a contingent of officers and convicts to settle the colony, and they arrived on Christmas Day in 1826. [Garden, pp. 8-16] In 1829 Captain James Stirling founded the settlement of the Swan River Colony (which later became Perth), and the colony at King George Sound (which became known as Albany) became subservient to Perth. 2

Early European visitors and settlers found the soils in the Albany area perplexing and accounts of the vegetation varied from high praise: ‘Who has ever come to King George Sound without rejoicing in the Banksia coccinea, Hovea celsiana and Cephalotus follicularis?’ (in the case of Baron Carl von Hugel in 1833), to Charles Darwin’s verdict ‘he who thinks with me will never wish to walk again in so uninviting a country’ in 1836. Early settlers took up land further inland, along the various waterways close to Albany including the Hay and Kalgan Rivers. During the 1850s Albany benefited from being selected as a mail port for Western Australia and a coaling depot on the route between Europe and Australia and from the introduction to Western Australia of convict labour. The decision to create a mail port at Albany caused the government in Perth to build a good road to Albany, and convict labour was engaged. At this time bush and scrub dominated the town and the hinterland. During the 1860s and 1870s small sheep-farming communities grew up along the coast to the east of Albany, but the number of acres close to Albany under freehold was small due to competition of cheaper food imports from Adelaide. [Garden, p. 135] In 1884 the railway contractors Millar Brothers, aware of the giant karri trees growing in pure stands along the south coast, gained the contract to supply sleepers for the Great Southern Railway, built on a land grant system from Beverley (connecting to Perth via Northam) to Albany. They built timber mills at Torbay to the west of Albany, initially to supply timber for the railway, and later obtained other contracts. [Gunzburg and Austin, p. 14] The government approved Millars’ railway line to the Great Southern Railway, which opened on 1st June 1889. The 1890s gold rush at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie stimulated development in Albany with the arrival of ships carrying prospective miners. As the demand for food increased it became more economically viable to clear land in the surrounding area and along the Great Southern Railway line for food production, for example at Broomehill. [Garden, p. 234] Millars obtained contracts for sleepers for the goldfields railway lines and mine pit head frames, and in 1894 built additional mills and a town at Denmark. [Gunzburg and Austin, p. 14] Small orchards had existed in the Albany area since European settlement. However the gold rush stimulated apple-growing and mixed farming in the Mt Barker and Kalgan River districts during the 1890s, and expanded into the twentieth century. [Piggott, p. 82] Most of the produce was sold in Perth and the goldfields, transported via train. Since the 1970s viticulture has become more important and orchards have faded in significance in the region. Attracted by the promise of cheap land, in the early twentieth century the arrival of immigrants, particularly from the eastern states and Britain, led to new settlements in Albany’s hinterland, including to the west around Denmark. Millar Brothers had cleared the conveniently located timber near Denmark and Torbay before the Government purchased the Millar Brothers estate and the railway in 1909. The new settlers had the back-breaking task of further clearing the land, growing crops and raising stock, often with little experience of farming and few financial resources to pay for labour, either human or beast. Often the men arrived before their families, and the lack of roads meant their small communities were extremely isolated. [Garden, p. 261] To add to their burden, from 1913 farmers in Denmark reported that they were unable to rear calves. By 1828 the disease known as ‘Denmark wasting disease’ had become a serious problem affecting the state government’s group settlement scheme which the government had embarked upon after World War I. Scientific experiments conducted by the WA Department of Agriculture in the 1930s showed that the disease was due to a cobalt deficiency. It was found that the disease could be prevented with relative ease by treating the pastures with small amounts of cobalt added to superphosphate. [Burvill, p. 200] 3

More land in the Great Southern region was opened up for selection by the government after World War I, and superphosphate was used increasingly to improve grain and pasture yields. Experiments with different grain varieties, fodder crops such as lupins, and improvement in pasture with various clover species continued throughout the twentieth century. After World War II, farm machinery size increased, as did the corresponding capital required to pay for it. This changed farming practices considerably. Additional clearing, especially of ‘light land’ (often very sandy) which could produce reasonable yields of wheat in dry seasons, proceeded as fertiliser technology improved. Application rates of superphosphate increased, often with the addition of trace elements. [Burvill pp. 106-122] The use of trace elements and superphosphate were both important in horticulture and grazing. Unfortunately, the rapid clearing of land and use of pesticides and fertilisers led to soil and water degradation with many streams and rivers becoming saline, including areas of the Great Southern Region, reducing crop yields, killing vegetation and reducing the amount of fresh water available. The Landcare movement and catchment management groups which emerged in the 1980s have done much to restore land in Australia, but it is a monumental task and will take generations. A whole generation has been spent on changing the culture of land owners to considering the wider environment, acting on Landcare issues cooperatively and with government support. Where once there was ambivalence or resignation when noticing that streams and small areas of land were becoming salty, or that weeds have taken over bushland where wildflowers once grew, now more than 50 per cent of Western Australian land owners are members of a Landcare group or participate in Landcare or catchment management activities. [Dept Agriculture Snapshot] The Albany Highway and the Great Southern Railway which was built in the 1880s opened up the inland areas for growing wheat and raising sheep, with Albany as port and service centre for the Great Southern Region. Like all regional ports in Western Australia, Albany’s activity levels have waxed and waned as have its facilities. Recently the city has benefited from a new Performing Arts Centre and regional hospital, and the Great Southern Development Commission has the task of building a more integrated regional economy which remains primarily based on agriculture. In the face of climate change predictions for a hotter, drier Australia, it is likely that the Great Southern region and the City of Albany, with its temperate climate, will attract permanent residents as well as tourists. There will continue to be a real need to manage the delicate balance of urban areas and agriculture within the natural environment, conserving the thousands of native species of plants and the hundreds of animals native to the region. Caroline Grant, Aug 2014

Figure 1 (below): City of Albany planning scheme. The light green area is classified as agriculture zoning. The hatched green areas are reserves under the Scheme.



King George Sound with Bald Head to left in the distance


Karri regrowth forest near Denmark (west of Albany)


Orchard at Old Farm Strawberry Hill showing old pear tree in foreground


Vineyard near Mount Barker planted in early 2000s


Albany pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis)

Photography by C. Hortin & J. Hooper. Image used with the permission of the Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Parks and Wildlife (http://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/help/copyright). Accessed on Thursday, 19 June 2014.



Bibliographical references: Websites: Bureau of Meteorology: www.bom.gov.au

Dairy Australia: www.dairyaustralia.com.au Accessed 30 June 2014 City of Albany: www.albany.wa.gov.au Agriculture zoning map provided by planning officer 16 May 2014 City of Albany Community Profile http://profile.id.com.au/albany Accessed 30 June 2014 Department of Parks and Wildlife (WA Govt), Florabase, https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au Accessed 19 June 2014 Great Southern Development Commission (WA Govt) (2011), Great Southern: A Region in Profile, www.gsdc.wa.gov.au Accessed 19 June 2014 Dept Agriculture Western Australia (2006), A Snapshot of Western Australian Landcare Accessed 2 July 2014 http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/objtwr/imported_assets/content/lwe/snapshot_landcare.pdf Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation report: Woodall, G. (2010), New Root Vegetables for the Native Food Industry, RIRDC Publication No. 06/161 Books: Burvill, G. (1979), Agriculture in Western Australia: 150 years of development and achievement 1829-1979, University of Western Australia Press, Perth. Darwin, C., (1839), Voyage of the Beagle, Penguin edition 1989, London. Garden, D., (1977), Albany: A Panorama of the Sound from 1827, Melbourne, Nelson. Gunzburg, A. and Austin, J., (2008), Rails through the bush: Timber and Firewood Tramways and Railway Contractors of Western Australia, Rail Heritage WA, PO Box 363, Bassendean, Western Australia. Piggott, R., (2nd edn 2004), Fishtraps and Floods, Apples and Spuds, Tangee Pty Ltd, Kalamunda, WA. Thomson, C., G. Hall and G. Friend (eds), (1992), Mountains of Mystery: A Natural History of the Stirling Range, Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia. Von Hugel, C., New Holland Journal: November 1833-October 1834, transl. and ed. D. Clark, Melbourne University Press, 1994. Articles: Hopper, S.D. and P. Gioia, ‘The Southwest Australian Floristic Region: Evolution and Conservation of a Global Hot Spot of Biodiversity’, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Vol. 35 (2004), pp. 623-650. Unpublished documents: Gardos, A., (2004), The Historical Archaeology of the Old Farm at Strawberry Hill: a rural estate 18271889, Albany, Western Australia, Thesis by research for Master of Arts in Archaeology, UWA.


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