By Joe Mortelliti
On our first south to north crossing we ended up camped at Batton Hill in the North Simpson Desert, Northern Territory.
An aboriginal guide lead us to a land feature called Goyder’s Pillar where we were treated to a colour show spectacular something like at Uluru, but without the throng of tourists, just a handful of us in a wilderness area.
With the deserts sun setting this feature just lite up and due to heavy cloud cover only lasted about 20 seconds, but an unforgettable experience.
Back home I did some checking up on who Goyder was to be honored with this landmark named after him.
George Goyder, Surveyor General from 1861-1890 fixed the limits of sustainable agriculture in SA with extraordinary accuracy.
With barely 30 years’ knowledge of this new country, Goyder in 1865 after a 2 month survey on horse back discouraged farmers from planting crops north of his line.
Goyder’s line starts on the west coast near Ceduna and goes across the Eyre Peninsula to strike the Spencer Gulf. It continues from near Moonta to Orroroo then Peterborough and Burra then to the Victorian border near Pinnaroo.
Goyder declared this land north of his line as suitable only for light grazing. However farmers were optimistic. 1865 was a year of bumper rains.
Much of the land north of Goyders Line is covered by salt bush, eg north of Burra.
On our next crossing of the continent Marion and I returned south through the Southern Flinders Ranges and we were delighted to come across countless stone ruins of cottages, and homesteads. We had a great time exploring so many of these and taking photographs. We wondered how it came to be that such a vast number of our pioneers had abandon there homes and farms here in South Australia.
Then I recalled what I read about Goyders Line and I think it was a case of Goyder saying…I TOLD YOU SO.
Politicians of the day did not want to hear about his line as it was unpopular to keep this area free of agriculture, Parliamentary debate was controversial, the Government went against Goyders advice.
Goyer was badly treated and some referred to his work as “Goyder Line of Foolery.”
At the time Goyder set his line there had been a major land rush to establish small farms with a decade of good rains, spectacular crops and much wealth created. But in 1880 the rains came no more. The wheat belt was a major catastrophe that ruined so many people.
The result is the countless stone ruins that can be found throughout this area. The abandoned farms, rusty iron, and graveyards of those who tried to make a home.
Goyder’s Line became a National Trust of Australia Heritage Icon in 2003