Tumut - Description of the Place

18 July 1903 Examiner (Launceston, Tas) 


What Mr. Oliver Had to Say, Why he Rejected It.

Tumut, recommended by the special commission for the federal capital site, is reached by road from the terminus (Gundagai) of the Cootamundra branch railway, the distance being 21 miles.

Tumut township has an altitude, according to Mr. Staff-Surveyor Chesterman, of 925ft.; but the mean altitude of the proposed capital site would, according to the same gentleman, be about 1300 feet above sea level.

The difference in mileage, rail and road, between Sydney and Tumut and Melbourne and Tumut, is about 70 miles in favour of the former.

The summer and autumnal heat are not excessive.

The rainfall is ample (33 inches), and is well distributed over the four quarters of the year.

The soil is very fertile on the alluvial flats, and, on the hill slopes, quite up to the average of similar country.

The water resources are ample, and a promising gravitation supply is offered by the Buddong, apart from the Tumut river itself.

The basin of Gilmore Creek, on which lies the site of the proposed federal capital, is by no means without distinctive features; and the Tumut river, which is the eastern boundary of the proposed territory, can claim to be along the whole length of its course, not only, perhaps, the most lovely stream in New South' Wales, but to offer riverside landscapes that, for natural beauty, are unsurpassed, if they are rivalled, by any in that state.

"It is, therefore," (reported Commissioner Oliver in 1900) "with no little reluctance that I feel obliged to add Tumut to the list of the rejected south-western sites; but this site, being 54 miles, even when connected by rail, from the main line of communication - the south-western trunk line between the northern and southern states - is at a perpetual disadvantage.

As against any site situated on the trunk line, Tumut is handicapped by the fact that Sydney is 308 miles, and Melbourne 378 miles, distant, which means 110 miles of extra haulage from each capital, and proportionate lengths along each state section of the railway.

The Gilmore Valley capital site is physically a circumscribed area incapable of much expansion, and a large portion of the territory site is very rough and intractable country for agricultural purposes.

The mean altitude, even allowing it to reach 1300 feet, is hardly sufficient to ensure the required climate, especially in summer and autumn; but if Tumut had been situated on the trunk line, with the advantages it possesses, that site, ac-cording to the original proposal, should, in my judgment, have been at least bracketed as on an equality with the Yass site as originally proposed."


Tumut's Evidence.

Mr. Oliver thus summarised the evidence taken at a public enquiry held at Tumut on May 11 and 12, 1900:-

John Weedin, storekeeper.

Climatic conditions.

Resident of district, 40 years.

No record of range of temperature kept, as no official observer at Tumut.

Highest temperature in his recollection 110 degrees; and the lowest on same day, 90 degrees.

Average highest summer reading for 10 years, 90 degrees, and lowest for same period 60 degrees.

The highest autumn temperature averaged 70 degrees, and the lowest 40 degrees.

Prevailing wind in summer easterly, in winter westerly and south-west.

Had never known the winter temperature to be below 40 degrees at midday.

The climate was very healthy, and the district free from epidemics.

Altitude. Tumut is 930ft. above sea level.

Rainfall. He kept the local records for the Government Astronomer.

The average annual rainfall for a period of 11 years, commencing with 1899, is 33in.

The average rainfall for each quarter of the year during the same period is: First quarter, 7.40in.; second quarter, 9.86in.; third quarter, 8.54in.; fourth quarter, 7.17in.

It will be seen that the rainfall is very evenly distributed over the whole year.

The rainfall for the first quarter of the current year is 3.73in.

R. V. Kearney, journalist.

Accessibility. Tumut is 310 miles from Sydney by rail to Gundagai, and thence by road. It is 350 miles from Melbourne, 1000 miles from Brisbane, and 810 miles from Adelaide.

Gundagai, the present terminus of the railway, is 21 miles distant from Tumut.

An extension of the railway has been recommended by the public works committee.

Nature of soil. Rich chocolate basaltic soil, with alluvial flats, very suitable for the growth of cereals and fruits.

Undulating country.

With a 20-mile radius of Tumut there are 70,000 acres of rich chocolate soil, and 30,000 acres of rich alluvial flats.

Water supply and catchment. An unfailing supply from the Tumut river.

Catchment area almost unlimited and ample facilities for storage.

The possession of, or proximity to, stone, timber, and other building material. Blue granite in unlimited quantities; marble, slate, limestone, in plenty.

Clay suitable for brick-making is found on the proposed site, and sand and gravel are procurable in large quantities.

Timber, including ironbark, pine, box, mountain ash, messmate, and urabbi, is within easy reach.

Drainage.-The physical conformation of the country made drainage an easy matter.

Sewerage could be utilised on the farms, or destroyed by incineration.

Other physical features. The proposed site is in the midst of beautiful surroundings, the elevated portions affording good grazing.

About 20 miles from the site are the Buddong Falls, of 250ft., on the Tumut river, which could be readily utilised as a motive power for electric lighting, etc.

Facilities for food supply. Sufficient foodstuffs could be grown in the district to support a population of 200,000.

The average wheat crop is 25 bushels to the acre. Maize grows abundantly.

There has never been a failure of crops.

In the drought season, hundreds of thou-sands of sheep are sent from other less favoured districts.

Mineral products (gold). The Adelong gold-field is one of the richest in the colony.

Chrome, iron, copper, silver, lead, tin, asbestos are found in good quantities.

Conditions favourable to commercial and industrial development.

The pastoral, agricultural and mineral resources of the district were capable of supporting a large population, and the conditions were favourable to the establishment of almost any kind of industry, such as woollen mills, boot factories, tanneries, freezing works, etc.

William Bridle, landowner.

Facilities for food supply.

Over 47 years resident of district.

Tumut district premier maize-growing centre in colony.

He had raised from 80 to 100 bushels to the acre.

Lowest average crop for the Tumut Valley was 50 bushels to the acre.

Wheat averaged 25 to 30 bushels per, acre.

Some crops had gone over 40 bushels to the acre.

Oats averaged 40 bushels. Root crops flourished.

Tobacco was grown extensively a few years back.

The district would easily supply a population of 40,000 with grain and breadstuffs.

Frederick Kindred, stonemason.

The possession of, or proximity to, stone, timber, and other building material.

Twenty-three years in his trade at Tumut.

Grey granite was the best building stone in the district.

It was obtainable in large blocks, and worked very hard. Limestone, marble, and serpentine were obtainable in large quantities; also good flagging slate.

Clay suitable for bricks, tiles, and pipes could be got.

H. W. Mason, medical practitioner.

Climatic conditions.

Practising in Tumut for 16 years.

District as healthy as any in the world;.not subject to epidemics.

Consumption was rare. He had treated cases, but they came from elsewhere.

The climate was bracing and invigorating, with cool nights in the warmest weather.

The district favoured longevity.

Had only treated one case of sunstroke in 10 years.

Facilities for food supply. The soil is exceptionally rich, especially the valleys and flats.

Had some experience in farming, and knew that maize varied from 50 to 100 bushels per acre.

Had personally grown tobacco, obtaining 2300 tons from 100 acres.

District very favourable for dairying.

The weather was never too hot.

Had obtained l6lb. of butter per head per week from 70 cows during last summer.

Capacity to support a considerable population.

The district could be self supporting, if population increased by 50,000.

Without calling on outside districts, they could supply foodstuffs to a population increased by that number.

Mining was progressing, and would help to support a large population.

Alfred Henry Chesterman, district staff surveyor.

Altitude. Produced map of the proposed territory.

Considered the site most suitable.

The altitude of Tumut is 925ft., and that of the proposed site from 1000 to 2000 ft; the average, roughly, about 1300ft.

Nature of soil. Generally granite, with outcrops of basalt and volcanic rocks, and varied from alluvial flats to forest country, suitable for cultivation, and high ridges.

Belts of limestone were in close proximity to the site. The granite was a bluish grey.

Slate formation existed in the north-east corner of the territory, with slate outcrops on the eastern slopes.

Water supply and catchment There are three watersheds-Tumut river, Adelong creek, and Sandy creek.

The possession of, or proximity to, stone, timber, and other building material.

Freestone quarries near Gundagai. Marble was obtainable in the higher portions of the site, Granite is plentiful.

Ownership and value.

The proposed territory comprised 64,000 acres, of which 41,800 acres are alienated and 22,200 acres are Crown lands.

He valued thee alienated lands, as unimproved, at 151,000, made up as follows:

41,000 acres country lands .... 104,000

300 acres town lands ............... 37,000

500 acres suburban lands ......... 10,000

As improved,........................... 322,000


Country lands ......... 172,000

Town lands ............. 125,000

Suburban lands ......... 25,000

Crown lands, including reserves, commons, etc, comprised 21,500 acres country lands, 300 acres in the town of Tumut, and 400 acres suburban lands, mostly within the Tumut Common.

W. H. Hilton, council clerk.-

Ownership and value.

Excluding Government land, streets, and church property, the value of land in the municipal area of Tumut is 112,000, as improved.

The population of the municipality is 1439, and that of the police district 4170.

The average annual death-rate of the police district is 1.2 per cent.

Frank Taylor, solicitor.

Climatic conditions.

Had come to Tumut on account of his health.

Had derived great benefit from the climate, which was inimical to pulmonary complaints.

Charles Edwin Blomfield, resident engineer, Department of Public Works.

Water supply and catchment.-

Had inspected the proposed territory, with the view of reporting upon the facilities for water supply.

Had taken the hill at Gadara as the proposed site for a storage reservoir.

Had visited the Buddong Falls, from which water could be conveyed to the proposed site by piping about 20 miles.

The Buddong creek is a tributary of the Tumut river.

A large part of its watershed is an extensive timber reserve of unalienated land.

At the time of his visit a large supply of clear water was flowing in the creek.

It was clearer water than that in the river.

The falls are about 1800ft. above the datum hill, and about 2000ft. above sea-level.

There would be no difficulty in storage.

Did not measure the discharge, but there was sufficient water flowing to supply 500,000 people.

With-out storage there was enough water to supply 40,000 people.

The water could be carried to the Gilmore and down the valley.

It could also be taken close to the proposed federal site without a dam being necessary.

There was sufficient fall to generate electric power if necessary, and by going higher up the river a supplementary supply of large volume could be obtained by gravitation.

Alexander Davis, farmer.

Facilities for food supply.

Produced samples of wheat and oats he had grown; the former averaged 42, and the latter 56 bushels to the acre.

Excellent flour is made from the local wheat.

Malting barley could be grown, also potatoes and maize, Grapes, apples, pears, and other fruits grow luxuriantly.

Mixed farming was very successful in the district. Two first prizes offered by the Government for mixed farming were won by Tumut.

The possession of, or proximity to, stone, timber, and other building material.

Timber suitable for all kinds of work is obtainable within easy distance of Tumut, comprising ironbark, pine, gum, box, mountain ash, messmate, and urabbi.

Clement Vernon, builder.

Climatic conditions.

Endorsed previous witnesses' testimony re climate.

No better could be found anywhere.

Robert Donaldson, member of Parliament for the district.

The possession of, or proximity to, stone, timber, and other building material.

Had experience as a bridge contractor.

Within a radius of 15 miles from Tumut, mountain ash and messmate existed in inexhaustible quantities, measuring from three to five feet in diameter at the butt, and very little less at a height of 50ft.

Capacity to support a considerable population.

The district supplied the town with stock, and could, if necessary, raise enough to supply the requirements of 40,000 people.