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Murgheboluc Murmers

Firstly, I apologise for complaining about the dry weather in my last column.   Before the column had even gone to press, the inevitable happened and two inches of rain descended on Murgheboluc.

Tractors got bogged in the paddocks and the sheep could not be shorne.   As I write this, yet another inch has fallen.   The excavations in our fine new quarry are awash and its earthen ramparts are sinking into the quagmire.   Rusty the dog turned into a mobile mud pie with pointed ears.   Rusty is mud coloured at the best of times, so this became an identity issue.   Complaining about the dry weather is a bit like inviting the Kennett curse.

There was a campervan get-together at the Murgheboluc Reserve last week.   This happens about once every six months when campervans, converted buses and caravans descend from all corners of the nation.   There is no suitable camping ground in Golden Plains Shire and Murgheboluc Reserve is a beautiful setting with its space, huge Red Gums, dramatic escarpment and thriving native birdlife. 

I don’t know what the grey nomads actually do while in Murgheboluc but it must be fun because they stay for two or three days and keep coming back.   This time it is a sodden affair and the bar-b-q seems to have been moved into the hall.   This will alarm the hall committee which has just put a lot of effort into repainting it.   Nevertheless I am sympathetic to these wanderers, after all it’s not nice when the rain drips off the brim of your Akubra into the sausage and onions. 

Serving travellers is not new to Murgheboluc.   In 1854 there were plans for the subdivision of a township centered around the property of James Austin, to service and supply drovers and coaches.    The site was 20 miles from the Geelong settlement which was a good distance for changing and watering horses.   Some of the road names and small blocks have survived although the town itself was never built.    Chief among these services was Joseph Arnold’s Pig and Whistle Hotel which was advertised in 1857 in the Addy and is still standing, albeit alarmingly close to the passing B-doubles on the Hamilton Hwy.   

Hotels often had stores attached, lodgings, stables and blacksmiths and some boasted baths as well as liquor and sustenance.   The selling of liquor to locals on Sundays was prohibited throughout most of the colonial period and until quite recent time but travellers were exempt and hence an added boon to the hotel trade.   Your author can attest to this, having exploited this loop hole in his mischievous younger days as a sailor.

To the south of this proposed township, an aboriginal reserve was planned and appears on an 1853 map.   The access road still appears on the Shire’s Planning Scheme maps, although it now has a different purpose.   The 160 acre (65 ha) reserve included a frontage on the Barwon River.   Whether the land was actually used as a Reserve I am unable to say but a recent site survey by aboriginal heritage advisors found the area larded with artifacts.   They are readily visible on the surface.   This may of course be due to several thousand years of settlement on the river banks, rather than a Reserve.

Readers will remember that a poultry farm was proposed for Murgheboluc on the heights above the Barwon River.   Not unreasonably, the locals objected to this unwanted intrusion into the broad acre agricultural landscape, not least because the ‘buffer zone’ covered large portions of neighbouring properties, almost touching the eaves of a nearby house, without any thought of compromise or compensation by the developers.   

Inevitably the matter went to VCAT for decision.   VCAT is an unpredictable and whimsical beast at the best of times and with near absolute power.   VCAT giveth and VCAT taketh away.   And thus it was that VCAT chose to uphold Council’s decision to issue a planning permit for a poultry farm on the banks of the Barwon, lessening Council’s well thought out conditions in the process. Work has started – a fact evident by the rare appearance of Powercor vehicles in the district.   Property rights underpin the economy and welfare of our community – when you take away those rights our liberty is diminished.