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Bookpurnong a small Riverland town near Loxton

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Bookpurnong is a small Riveland town between Loxton and Berri.

Access to Lock 4 is closest to Bookpurnong. The region comprises the Murray River and associated floodplains/wetlands, dryland agriculture and irrigated horticulture and associated residential use.

The dominant industry in the region is irrigated horticulture, under both family and corporate ownership, with approximately 1912 Ha (in 2008) of crops under irrigation, including citrus, wine and table grapes, stone fruit and nuts.

Local sites of cultural features that have developed since European settlement include the Bookpurnong church/cemetery, the Lockmaster’s house at Lock 4, the old post office and a variety of other buildings. Lock and Weir No. 4 is an indicative place on the Register of the National Estate and the Gurra Gurra Lake Area immediately to the north of the Bookpurnong Lock 4.

Bookpurnong history

Bookpurnong itself is a named locality that has its roots in the Aboriginal meaning derived from two indigenous words (believed to be related to the endemic tribe of the region, the Erawirung) being “Bookani”, meaning swimming place and “Purnong” wide open space.

In the period since European settlement recognition of the area known as ‘Bookpurnong’ has a strong historical tie with the locality in which the Bookpurnong homestead resided and with the pastoral leasehold once known as “Bookpurnong Station’’.

At its height ‘Bookpurnong Station’ is estimated to have consisted of all the land with river frontage between Moorook and Lyrup, including the long inland swathe of the neighbouring station ‘Pyap Run’. It also encompassed further land south and east of Loxton, extending to the Victorian border and up to the southern fringes of Paringa, an area of approximately 780 square kilometres.

The original ‘Bookpurnong Station’ homestead was located at the top of the river bank above the present day Lock 4. In its place today is a revamped building that re-utilised the original building’s stone, being built by the Quast brothers who were farming in the region in 1907.

Although settlers were few in number, historical information indicates that some farms in the proximity of the present day Bookpurnong, chiefly around Loxton, were close to 4,000 hectares in size in 1909. Some of the present day Bookpurnong region would have comprised a portion of at least some of these holdings.

During this era agriculture worked hand in hand with the riverboat trade that moved produce along the river to other river ports or to rail links such as Morgan in South Australia and Echuca in Victoria. It was also during this era that extensive deforestation of river flats occurred to provide timber for fuelling the steam powered boats, trains and other boilers used at the time.

Growing demand for construction trade timber also took a heavy toll on many red gum forests situated on floodplains adjacent the river’s edge. The scarring of this era can still be seen today within many river reaches including those within the Bookpurnong area, with the many old coppiced tree stumps that bear the mark of the axe or hand saw. Historical records also note that woodcutting at this time also provided an alternative income source for landowners and workers, with good prices being paid for cut and stacked timber.

A significant new era began for the Murray River as a whole with the emergence of the irrigation industry. Regionally, the development of irrigation within neighbouring districts to Bookpurnong goes back to very early times, with an account by a parliamentary delegation investigating settler progress at the ‘village’ settlement of Pyap, which borders present day Loxton, noting around 61 hectares being under irrigation to lemons, apricots and vines in 1851.

Historical accounts and records indicate that irrigation within the Bookpurnong region came much later, although it progressively increased through the 1940’s and 1950’s during the post war development phase.

However it was the period from around 1964 onwards when the most substantial development commenced. From this time aerial representations reveal that by 1972 there was an irrigated area of some 454 hectares. Between 1973 and 1988 an additional 183 hectares of irrigation was developed and between 1989 and 1998 an additional 523 hectares of irrigation was developed. As at the end of the 2007/2008 irrigation season the irrigated area of Bookpurnong was 1,912 hectares

Source: Loxton to Bookpurnong Local Action Planning

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