The Argus at KellyGang 8/10/1866
OPERATION OF THE LAND ACT
(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER)
THE NORTH-EASTERN AREAS
The map of the agricultural lands on the east side of the line of railway from Melbourne, to Echuca shows that they commence with two detached areas about Pyalong, on the Kilmore and Heathcote road, and then near Seymour, from which they follow the valley of the Goulburn to Shepparton; a number also having been proclaimed towards Echuca. Longwood another series is laid out along the line of the main road to Beechworth, and thence to the Murray beyond Chiltern. Various areas, some solitary and some in clusters, have been proclaimed high up the Murray, and in the mountain district between Merton and Mansfield.
The general results of my observations and inquiries here are, that while a considerable number of bona fide selectors are to be found in the more southern areas, they become fewer and fewer as we go northward, the squatters along the Goulburn especially having been so far successful in retaining their runs nearly intact. By far the greater number of the selectors are poor but hard-working fellows, wood carters, carriers on the roads, &c. They have gone on their lands with a few head of cattle of indifferent quality, goats, hens, &c. and are struggling for a living. As a rule, they have only been able to fence in small paddocks for the purpose of grazing their cattle. Where the selections are unfenced, or only partially so, the cattle feed over the station, but the account is balanced by the intrusion of the squatters' sheep on the selected land. There has been no impounding, excepting in the neighbourhood of Benalla. The settlers along the Seven mile Creek may be taken as a specimen of the class. Their selections are on a run held by Mr Furlonge, on which they have many head of cattle running. The tenant has tried to limit tho number of those cattle to a certain percentage, according to the acreage of the selections respectively; but he has been unable to carry out his idea, and, not having insisted upon it, has escaped annoyance at the hands of the selectors.
All the settlers along the banks of the Goulburn and its tributaries, who apply themselves to agriculture, have the contingency of destructive floods to provide against. The river is liable to be suddenly and heavily swollen, having its sources in the mountains of the Dividing Range, and the waters spread over the cultivated flats with ruinous results at times. The best lands, from their low situation, are most liable to these visitations. Floods of this kind occurred last season, when whole farms were under water. The selectors, however, rely mainly on their cattle and sheep. They do little in the preparation of dairy produce, being only able to provide butter and cheese for their own wants; while their efforts with sheep, so far, have been unimportant. They have not the capital to place sheep on their farms, and only three sheep brands have been registered with the local scab inspector since June, 1865, although his district embraces the areas east of the Sydney road and the country between the Goulburn and the Broken River.
In the areas watered by the Goulburn it is only along the banks of the river that the land is at all good. The back land is all stony and poor. Much of the good land, however, had been secured by the pastoral tenants under the Nicholson and Buffy Acts, and thus little really destable land was obtainable in the areas which were opened at Kilmore. Some of the areas in the Ovens district are of much better quality than those of the Goulburn - Oxley, to wit and there we find a class of selectors possessed of more means, and cultivating vigorously the lands they have obtained. I may also remark that in these areas I found the subdivision of leases going on extensively, and generally working well. Those who resort to this method of obtaining or giving away an interest in tho soil are poor selectors, who are unable to make the necessary improvements unaided, or who desire to get rid of unprofitable portions of their selections. Those with whom they subdivide are usually relations or friends who have some means. I also found the 42nd clause (very liberally interpreted, it must be admitted, there being no gold-field near) extensively resorted to.
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