Burnewang North is an historic property situated between Elmore and Rochester in northern Victoria consisting of 2,400 acres of prime lucerne, mixed pasture and irrigated crops.
The property’s history however was etched on a significantly broader canvas. The Burnewang Run was first occupied in the 1840s with double frontage to the Campaspe River of some 12 miles and covered an estimated 100,000 acres. The early settlers ran cattle and the property changed hands several times between 1841 and the 1880’s – by which time the Crown had cancelled the licenses that covered the area and squatters became graziers. The Hunter family from Donegal Ireland bought 33,000 acres in 1884. The four Irish Hunter brothers were skilled farmers, hard workers and they augmented their assets considerably with some canny investments in the Goldfields of Bendigo. Cereal crops were cultivated on a large scale and Robert Hunter bred light and draught horses. His trotting horses became famous throughout the State and he was a pillar of the community, a landmark of the Victorian breeding industry and respected far and wide. An interesting excerpt from the 1913 Elmore Standard noted that [Robert Hunter] “..has a keener love for a trotter than any station owner of my acquaintance and can talk times and pedigrees and records to any congenial audience. It must however be of exception to meet with a kindred spirit imbued with the same enthusiasm that far out in the country, though Bendigo can lay claim to a few..”
Burnewang North was also a staging post for Cobb and Co. whose coaches were an integral part of transporting people, goods and mail from Melbourne to the Goldfields and onto Echuca. The Coaches were famous for punctuality and speed – the 4 or 5 horses capable of pulling a fully laden wagon with up to 17 passengers at a gallop. “..Staging posts were set up along each route where teams of horses were swapped and tired horses stabled, rested and fed. As a coach approached the changing station the driver sounded a horn or bugle to let the groom know the coach was arriving. Every driver had his own call, so the groom knew which team of horses to have ready. This system meant that changeovers could occur as quickly as possible and the coach could continue on its way ..” [excerpt from Cobb and Co–An Australian Transport Icon].
The Cobb and Co. Barn at Burnewang North with its substantial bush timber uprights is thought to be one of the only examples left standing.
Robert Hunter died in 1921. His son Alex moved to Seymour and established Northwood Park (now Darley Victoria) where he continued the family interests in harness racing. He is remembered to this day with the annual running of the AG Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park, Melton.
Since the demise of Mr Hunter and his family and the Golden Days of the Burnewang Run (see the 1924 article Hunter, a History of the District on the Final Clearing Sale) the area surrounding Burnewang North (still known as the Hunter District) remains the heartland of pioneering squatters, farmers and settlers. Generations of farming families continue to set the cropping standard and are Australia’s most prolific producers of export quality hay.
Nearby Elmore is the home of H.V. McKay who, in 1885 aged 18 years old, invented the Sunshine Harvester. His machinery changed the face of farm mechanization and led to the establishment of broadacre farming on a huge scale.
In more recent times, Rochester is still the heart of the Murray irrigation area, a premium mixed farming district with a broad level of diversity. It is the tomato growing capital of Australia, a major dairy hub and the broader region through Tooboorac to Heathcote has again proved the superior growing qualities of the region with its excellent wines. Almonds are also a lucrative and expanding industry in the area.
Plentiful water originates from the Campaspe River and its tributaries. The deep lead underground water resource is approximately 140m deep with a cross section width of 8kms. It is accessed by bores throughout the region. It rates behind only the main Murray deep lead in terms of its potential groundwater returns. The water quality is excellent and salinity levels low.