“The valley was between three and four miles wide, studded with pine trees, upon a soil which for richness can nowhere be excelled.”
These are the words of one of Australia’s foremost explorers, Lieutenant John Oxley, who 200 years ago on Friday, August 18, 2017 rode into the valley where the mountains and rivers meet.
The valley was named in honour of the Duke of Wellington, following the “Iron Duke’s” victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.
Six years after Oxley discovered the valley – home of the traditional owners of the land – the first settlement was set up by the Government, and in 1823 a company of soldiers and 50 convicts erected the historic Wellington stockade as an advance base for further exploration of Australia.
Mitchells Creek in Wellington was the site of gold discovery several years before Hargraves made the “first discovery” at Ophir.
The upheavals of the gold rush were felt in full intensity as the fever denuded the countryside of labour several years later.
The advent of the railway and the establishment of the loco sheds at Wellington in 1880 signaled a new era of development as the rail outlet for wool and wheat provided stimulus to settlement.
The construction of a large storage dam at Burrendong also played a major role in Wellington’s history. Work on the project commenced on December 7, 1946 with the turning of the first sod by the then Premier of NSW, The Hon. W J McKell. Storage of the water in the dam commenced on March 30, 1963.
Today as it stands Wellington is a vibrant little community that boasts a population of over 8000 people.
It has built its success over the years on agriculture, some mining, tourism, transport, manufacturing and retail. It has the Wellington jail, which has nearly completed a $150 million upgrade and will create about 200 jobs.
The shire will soon reap benefits from the $263 million Bodangora wind farm project and a planned massive solar farm. Mining companies are prospecting for gold near the old Commonwealth mine site and showing positive results.
Small though the Wellington area might appear, it has a strong economy. Dubbo Regional Council figures say the former Wellington local government area has a gross regional product of $363 million a year.
Future growth plans include continued growth in agriculture, value adding to that through food and beverage manufacturing, and value adding to tourism through the hospitality sector.