THE TOODYAY VALLEY.
THE COONDLE ESTATE.
ROOM FOR NEW SETTLERS AT
SUBDIVISION UNDER THE LANDS
Th». subdivision of the Coondle Estate Jnarks a new departure in the settlement of the lands of Western Australia. It points to a direct and peaceful solution on a small scale of a tronble that in some of the neighbouring colonies has been the battle cry of sharp and long-continued conflict, and has divided into hostile ranks tho men who want to go on the land to make a living on it and the large estate holder, who shuts his acre3 against the feeding of peoplo in favour of feeding Bheep and cattle. The demand "Unlock the lands " has been so fiercely pressed in some communities that the stress of politi- cal agitation has been carried almost to the breaking point of fair debate, and measures of penal taxation have been threatened to force tho "bursting up'" of properties beyond a certain size. While in a great measure the lands have been unlocked and pastoral leaseholds have been thrown open to the selector, a land tax has helped - in some cases to parcel out in the lifetime of the owner a patrimony between his children.
There ' have been some foreshadow
. ings, aa in the speech of the'Premier
at the recent Parliamentary picnic at Man- durah, that a leaning towards the taxing of1 unimproved ' estates, which were the gifts of the'Crown in the early days of the colony, is gaining strength in the mind of some of the members of the Cabinet, and the signs of the time3 would indicate that many more unpopular measures might be proposed by the Ministry, especially as many of the large holdings which hem in old and eligible farming centres like York and Pinjarrah^ belong to absentee owners,
who draw a revenue from Western Aus- tralia, but who do not spend their money
The Crown Lands Department has been conderned to see lands lying idlo close lo railways that ought to be maintaining cultivators and their families, addihg to tlie national wealth, and contributing pay- able-freight for the lines lo carry. What could be done to remove the ban? The answer has taken the shape of the passing in 1SÍ1C of the Agricultural Lands Pur- chase Act, the scope and objects of which are tersely set out in the following extract from the speech of the then Commissioner of Crown Lands (Mr. A. R. Richard- son), who, on the 22nd July,
moving the second reading of the ' measure, said -Owing to the peculiar cir-
cumstances of this colony we have, some- what to our sorrow, considerable areas of valuable land containing a fair proportion of agricultural land placed in choice and eligible situations as regards transit and access to market which it is now impos- sible for anybody to get hold of-not because owners are unwilling to sell, but thoy decline to part with small portions. They will either sell the whole or none at all ; and not many people are in a position to treat with owners for large areas of 7.000 or 8,000 acres. The Government have had brought to their attention a suggestion that.it would perhaps be wise to undertake, under certain conditions, the
repurchase of these lands, to cut them up in lots, and offer them for sale subject to special conditions as to improvements. The land so purchased must be recommended first by a board, which has to report on all lands it is considered desirable to acquire. There is also a very necessary precaution in providing that the land shall be situated iu accessible places-for instance, near a railway-so that the -Government are not likely to obtain much land that is placed at an inconvenient distance. J think the Bill will give to the colony an increased area of land under cultivation ; in fact, during the last few years I have bad an idea of this sort in my mind, but
then the» Government were not i
financial position to carry it out. Now I think it is a wise step to repurchase good land and cut it up for sale and improve-
The Coondle Estate, which was ona of tue, first acquired by the Government under the 'provisions of the new Act, has been surveyed into blocks of from 20 to ß67 acres, and it is about to be thrown open for purchase by those who desire to obtain land near Newcastle, which for many years has presented very few oppor- tunities to the now settler, or to the old resident who wished to enlarge his holding. Until the Coondle property passed from the possession of its late owners, to whom it was ceded as an immigrants' grant, the
commonage ^.nd the old townsite wera the
only places were a few acres were obtain- able, but now the choice of 7,000 acres of varying classes is before the public at prices that are'only a shade over what the Crown gave for the property in the aggre- gate with all the advantage of being a cash buyer, while conditional purchasers from the'Lands Department will be afforded tho ~ privilege of deferred titles. The blocks havo been carefully classified and an upset price affixed to each, prior to offering the land to public competition. Under the Amending Act that was passed last session the classification has been done upon the system of suiting the require- ments of every kind of producer, from the vigneron and orchardist to the purveyor of fat sheep and cattle tor the butcher. No pains have been spared to provide that the orange and lemon grower who sets a long ing eye on the deep, free loams along the Toodyay Brook shall be able to get what he wants unencumbered by the rises on which the tall silver grass waves until late in the summer amid some stony outcrops that would impede the plough. The survey has been made by Messrs. G Leeming, Crowther, and Rutherford, who, having re- gard to the numerous enquiries that are being mado for the plans, got through their work with a celerity and completeness that has earned tho commondation of the . Commissioner of Crown Lands.
The Coondle Estate, otherwise known as Avon Locations Nos. 1 and 15 (only the first mentioned has been subdivided), consists of about 7,000 acres, through nearly the centre of which runs the main Newcastle Bejoording road, an excellent highway that - makes it very easy to cart produce into the railway entrepôt for the short dis- tance from the Coondle farm to the goods sheds. It is only five and a half miles from Newcastle to the heart of the Coondle estate.^and for the most part the road lies between the hills that impart a very picturesque aspect to the Toodyay valley. ¡JubdiyisionaL roads are provided on the west by the old track to Chittering, which has been made into a permanent road. On the- east side of the estate the back country is opened up by means of a road along-Church Gully. Coondle is on the Toodyay Brook, which is a permanent water supply, brackish in summer. There is also a well of fresh water on the brook, from which Mr. Charles Fergusson, who has leased the place for some years, draws for his home wants. It would appear that wells-could vbe successfully suuk at inter- vals all along the margin of the water- course, which is a tributary of the Avon, as the catchment area of the watershed of the surrounding hills furnishes unusual facilities for water conservation. More- over; at'one timo there were ten soaks on Coondle, more or less fresh. These soaks havo been beaten by the growth ot tim- ber, as no ringbarKing has been done, although about 200 acres have been cleared and have been used as wheat fields.
It is the desire of the Lands Depart- ment to describe Coondle as it is, as Crom- well -asked to be painted "wart aud all." . The Crown as vendor has no wish to
embellish the estate with any of the glitter and the glamour with which a inavale seller would probably feel it to -be his duty to paint the picture. The main object of operations under the powers of the Agricultural Lands Purchase Act is to settle people ou tho country and niako comparatively un- productive areas highly productive. It is admitted that the quality of the soils of
Coondle are as variable as the 'prices, -which range from 103. per acre for grazing blocks to £5 per acre for the paddocks around the homestead. An unvarnished description of the location .may be
summarised as follows : - It consists
largely of good, strong York gum and jam country, with »narnia streaks. Blue gum grows in the gullies, and a little red gum country is found on the west side. The country, however, is generally very rough and rocky. In a total area of about 7,000 acres, hardly more than 3,000 acrs3 will be available for corn-growing. The largest patch of this Í3 situated on the eastern boundary, and includes Lots 52 to 60, con- taining altogether about 1,500 acres of splendid agricultural land in one compact piece, difficult of access owing to tho rough country between it and the macadamised roads. There are about 600 acres of strong York gum land on the Toodyay Brook fit for the plough. This portion bas the advantage of good access and permanent stock water alón-» the brook. Finally, there are about 800 'or 1,000 acres of agricultural land scattered in patches of from 100 acres to 20 acres over tho estate. Tho country being very hilly, thero are numerous gullies, in all of which fertile spots suitable for gardens and vineyards are to be found.
The sub-division has been laid out with special reference to the Conditions of farmipw in the Toodyay district, which has distinct characteristics of its own. Mixed farming is thoroughly carried out there. If the "farmers depended on their wheat trowing, they would in many cases make but moderate incomes. The areas suitable for cereal cultivation, except on such properties as Mount Anderson, Culham, AVicklow Hills, and Hawthornden, are so small and isolated that the settlers have been turned to the excellent system of mixed farming that they now adopt. In this way Toodyay is renowned for its vineyards and orchards, while poultry and pigs aro kept to a much greater degree by the farmers than is the case elsewhere. Sheep and cattle also como under the attention of tho local producer. Asa general rule intense cultivation in suitable spots and the running of stock on inferior or rough land are the methods in which successful land settlement can best ho carried out in this district, and for these purposes small blocks are worked to the best account. It is rarely that an area exceeding 100 acres is taken up by the ordinary farmer, and even if he applies for more tho probability is that only a verv, small proportion of the area will be cultivated.
On this accounts namely, that local in- dustry adapts itself to (the configuration of the Toodyay Valley, tho blocks of Coondle have been cut up to conform to the sysfem that the teachings of experience have proved to he' most beneficial to the needs and the gains of the yeomanry population. On the eastern side the land is allocated to give tho wheat-growers a I chance-that is to say, the blocks are
larger than those on the west, and extra large where the grazing soils and hills predominate. Thero is thus a reason for the apparent want of system in the aroa of the grants. Every block is fixed as to area, because competent advisers of the Lands Department have deemed the par- ticular area assigned to bo the most suit- able for its special characteristics. For wheat-growing mutti of the land ¡3 of high value. All the estate is rich grass-carrying country, and judicious ring-barking would effect wonderful improvements in this respect. A great portion of the land is suitable for fruit and vine cultivation. Some of the bottoms al»ng the brook would be of great value for growing citrus tree3, and land of that character is acquiring a high assess- ment in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. For example, it would be of interest to the enquirer who is in search of one of tho be3t positions in the colony for an orangery and lemonry to compare the loams by the Toodyay Brook with the bank of the Avon, on which Messrs. Bull and Stevens bave achieved such great results, and » which were referred to in an article on the resources of Newcastle. To the eye the formation, the colour and the topography of the Coondle Flats are identical with those of the site of Messrs. Bull and
Stevens* splendidly luxuriant garden. Even íh the very hilly sections there are patches in the gullies which, judging by the very rich growth of the wattles, etc., would form very superior orchard sites. In fact, it would be difficult to find a place that would offer a wider selection to all classes of land-seekera than Coondle, not only m the matter of the accommodating choice ot allotments of greatly differing sizes, but also as to the contrasting capa- bilities of the several portions of the
Another portion of Coondle the Govern- ment bought from the same vendors, Loca- tion No. 15 a block of 800 acres, adjoining the old Newcastle townsite and has a frontage on the Toodyay Road. The larger portion of tho arable land of Location No. 15 is cleared. Part of the property is rich flat and the remainder is hilly and rough. This land has not yet been subdivided, and is not yet available to the public. At an early date Coondle will be submitted under the hammer, in order to sat at rest all dis- satisfaction on the part of rival claimants for particular allotments. The plans which will be shortly issued are annotated with the surveyor's remarks, showing at a glance the character and approximately the value of each of the grants. That thero is no want of candour in the estimate that those responsible for the valuation have set down may be gauged from tho fact that one piece on the western boundary is spoken of as being poor country that ¡3 not free from poison. This is the " wart" on the other- wise fair face of Coondle, albeit the grub- bing boo would soon eradicate the noxious plant.
The sale and the utilisation of Coondle
will bo watched with interest, for the pur-
chase and subdivision are in the nature of an experiment, the success or discouraging result of which may have a great bearin« upon the future land policy of the Govern" ment. AVhat the Lands Department aims at doing is to mi-ke room foi- the husband 'man on land at present lying idle, without putting any additional burden on the general taxpayer. It wants to act as mid- dleman between the land seekers close to large centres and the big ownera of land who will not sell piecemeal to the indivi- dual bidder. The Crown having the power of the purso is willing to purchase under the Act for cash or debentures, and sell on terms, so long as it can promote 6ona fide settlement, get genuine improvements made, the productive resources of the colony increased, and at last recouD the Treasury without trying to mako an ex- tortionate profit for acting as financial agent and backer of the young men, for example, who, desiring to settle near the parental farm, find no Crown lands that havo never been alienated awaiting their occupation. It is evident that this is a beneficent work for tho Crown Lands De- partment to do, and every precaution is being taken to prevent the work becoming a burden upon the Treasury. In tho first place no estate is purchased until its eligi- bility has been certified to beyond the pos- sibility of any reasonable doubt. Tho first step is to learn on the evidence of capable and credible deponents that there is a de- mand for land ina certain district, that the existing tracts of public estate do not for various reasons satisfy; and secondly, a detailed report of the whole property, the proportion of cultivable land, its classifi- cation, water supply, the improvements (it any), its valuation, and every particular bearing upon the estate is made by a specially selected officer of the Department. Should this report be favourable, and only under such conditions, then the practical skill of the members of the Lands Pur- chase Board, which was appointed under the Act, is called into requisition, to attest the value ot the property that has been offered for sale. The care that lias been taken in moulding the personnel of tho Board will be judged when it is stated that not only is the Board presided over by Mr. William Paterson, manager of the Agricultural Bank and an officer of almost unique experience of the lands in almost all the producing districts of the colony, but that each member of the Board has a lifelong knowledge of tho territory in each particular quarter of the south-west divi- sion-that is, all the cultivable part of Western Australia-within which estates aro likely to be negotiated for. Having all the reports before him, backed very often by personal inspection, the Commis-
sioner ot Crown Lands makes a recom- mendation to the Cabinet in favour of the
purchase aud subdivisioa», '