Til­ley sees gold

Par­lia­men­tar­ian to seek talks on her­itage prospects

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMIE KRONBORG jkro­n­borg@ne­me­dia.com.au

BILL Til­ley (MLA, Be­nam­bra) wants to talk with the Vic­to­rian govern­ment and its agen­cies about ways in which it can work with the Beech­worth com­mu­nity to en­able it to tap the tourism and eco­nomic prospects of its ex­tra­or­di­nary gold her­itage.

Al­lu­vial and reef min­ing in and around Beech­worth, Wool­shed Val­ley and Stan­ley from 1852 un­til about 1930 yielded an of­fi­cial tally of 153 tonnes of gold.

In to­day’s money it would be worth an as­ton­ish­ing $8 bil­lion.

But much of the in­dus­trial her­itage – in­clud­ing an al­most in­tact, rare, 12-head stamp­ing bat­tery, a fas­ci­nat­ing colo­nial-era ver­sion of a ‘su­per pit’, a mas­sive reef-mine mouth and a net­work of wa­ter races in Nine Mile Creek His­toric Re­serve – re­mains aban­doned, all but for­got­ten and of­fi­cially in­ac­ces­si­ble.

“I’ve said it be­fore and copped plenty of flak, Beech­worth re­mains the only faith­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Vic­to­ria’s gold min­ing his­tory – it’s not a movie set or theme park – and yet here are op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­hance that rep­u­ta­tion left rot­ting and hid­den in the bush” Mr Til­ley said last week af­ter vis­it­ing the Wal­laby and Rech­abite mine sites in the re­serve and Rocky Moun­tain Gold Sluic­ing Com­pany tun­nel be­neath Beech­worth.

“We have the Wal­laby Mine that gen­er­ated much of the gold that came out of the area.

“It is with­out sig­nage, be­ing eroded by run-off from the nearby road and the track that was once main­tained and is now over­grown.

“Below that you have the stamp­ing bat­tery that crushed the rock to ex­tract the gold, re­stored at a cost of $50,000 af­ter the 2003 fires, again with­out sig­nage, again at the end of an over­grown track. “You need to climb two fences to get to it.” Mr Til­ley said th­ese com­mu­nity and tourism as­sets were less than 10 min­utes’ drive from Beech­worth’s main streets’ in­ter­sec­tion – where the gold yield is com­mem­o­rated on a plinth out­side the town’s her­itage-listed post of­fice.

“It doesn’t take much imag­i­na­tion to see this as part of a bike or walk­ing trail from town celebrating this rich his­tory.

“In a sim­i­lar vein, buried be­neath the town is a tun­nel that runs from the Chi­nese Gar­dens to the Gorge that was once used in gold min­ing and could be yet another great tourism at­trac­tion.

“My plan is to take this up with the state au­thor­i­ties – look at how we can make this part of Beech­worth’s his­tory pub­lic knowl­edge and ac­ces­si­ble to everyone.”

Alpine her­itage and tracks and trails co­or­di­na­tor An­drew Swift, who has ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of what were known as the Ovens gold­fields, told the Ovens and Mur­ray Ad­ver

tiser ear­lier this year that the North East gold­fields were “won­der­ful and fas­ci­nat­ing” and had “as­tound­ing” po­ten­tial.

“The mag­nif­i­cent her­itage build­ings of Indigo Shire’s town­ships are apparent to all lo­cals and vis­i­tors,” he said.

“How­ever, the sto­ries of the out­ly­ing gold­fields and mines – places from which the wealth of the district was ex­tracted – are lit­tle known.”

Mr Swift said this her­itage – of which much is listed on the Vic­to­ria her­itage data­base – and its sto­ries were lynch­pins of the one-time gold­min­ing com­mu­ni­ties’ cul­tural iden­ti­ties.

For­mer Indigo coun­cil­lor An­drew Banks ear­lier this year told Indigo coun­cil that the shire’s gold-min­ing sites were of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance and re­marked that what had oc­curred at the Wal­laby Mine – which is in a his­toric re­serve man­aged by Parks Vic­to­ria – was “a dis­grace”.

Parks Vic­to­ria north­ern rivers district man­ager Daniel McLaugh­lin in April told the Ad­ver­tiser that pub­lic safety at the old mine sites was a key pri­or­ity but fund­ing for im­prove­ments was not avail­able for ar­eas such as the Wal­laby Mine at this stage.

Indigo mayor Jenny O’Con­nor yes­ter­day told the Ad­ver­tiser that the coun­cil cer­tainly wel­comed Mr Til­ley’s com­ments and in­ter­est in the gold prospect.

She said the coun­cil and com­mu­nity would be keen to work with him to pur­sue talks with the govern­ment and its agen­cies.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion and an in­ter­est in join­ing a small com­mu­nity group to work up the scope of the gold prospect is asked to email edit.omad­ver­tiser.com.au.

PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

THE REAL DEAL: Par­lia­men­tar­ian Bill Til­ley (MLA, Be­nam­bra) in the Nine Mile Creek His­toric Re­serve near the Wal­laby Mine with its rare, 12-head stamp­ing bat­tery, which was par­tially re­stored at a tax­payer cost of $50,000 in 2003 but is now of­fi­cially in­ac­ces­si­ble and aban­doned.

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