BACKGROUND TO PREOLENNA

Preolenna lies 24 kms to the south of Wynyard in north-west Tasmania. It is a fertile valley bounded by the Inglis, Jessie, Flowerdale and Arthur Rivers. Henry Hellyer traversed the area on his expedition of 1827. The presence of coal in the Jessie Gorge area and some 5000 acres of "first class milling" timber and "first class basaltic soils" (Loftus Hills, Government Surveyor, 1913) attracted the interest of miners, settlers and the government. The first grants of land were settled by the Byard family in 1910.

1911 saw activity in coal mining and in 1917 a tramway was constructed from Flowerdale to Preolenna and later, in 1924, extended to Maweena. From 1910 dairying, timber getting and vegetable cropping developed. A school was established in 1919 - the school on the present site opening in 1921. The community in the 1920's consisted of some 15 families. The rail line was abandoned in 1931, coal from the area had proved to lack sufficient quality for viable use. Hydro electricity was extended to Preolenna in 1950.

The Rural Youth organisation commenced in Australia in 1932 when the headmaster of Preolenna School, Mr Don Bennett, initiated the Preolenna Calf Club. By November that year the club had 13 members and field days and a Calf Club parade were held. With the influence of Mr Bennett, agriculture became a prime interest for boys in the district. In the following years Mr Bennett made weekly inspections of club heifers, often walking up to 12 kms to do so. From 1938 Junior Farmers' Shows were held annually and the Rural Youth movement extended far beyond the Preolenna Valley.

Although the tramway and services such as the Post Office and 2 stores are no longer available and the school was closed by the government at the end of 1993, the community maintains the hall and the volunteer fire brigade and holds a number of functions throughout the year. The war memorial records that 20 men served in the forces in World War 2, four were killed in action.

Dairying, beef cattle and vegetable cropping continued to be the mainstay of local economic activity until the destructive invasion of plantation development from 1997/1998. 13 of the 14 major dairy/grazing and cropping properties have been bulldozed for E. nitens plantations. The population has dropped from 33 families to 15 (July, 2000).

In the mid 1990's an apple orchard and a sweet chestnut and hazelnut orchard were established in the valley.

The Meunna community to the west of Preolenna is included in the district's activities. Meunna was the centre of the soldier settler programme post World War 2 and has been completely obliterated by plantation development. The last family left at the end of June 2000. The electricity authority is dismantling the district's high voltage power lines and Telstra is removing its infrastructure from the area.

Of special interest is the fact that Preolenna as a community has developed within living memory: its agricultural roots established in the first four decades of the 20th century. The themes of a changing agricultural landscape, the soldier settlement, the origins of the Rural Youth movement and a well documented history of education are features of the area's history.

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