Though the Indigenous nation of the Pangerang people had lived there for centuries, in 1838, the number of residents in Oxley amounted to one. The first white settler, George Faithfull, took up ten rams and a disproportionate amount of land – 92,000 acres – along King River. The well-heeled Faithfull built his homestead (named ‘Wangaratta’) and bred cows and sheep, but the discovery of gold in Ovens Valley resulted in a steady stream of diggers (and, inevitable enough, bushrangers) crossing through Oxley. By 1862 foot traffic (and the services to accommodate them) had increased enough for a district to be declared. Water services, such as they were in 1862, were sourced from King River, and the boom industry, outside of prospecting, was water carting.
North East Water
Securing water security for Oxley was initially a little tricky. Raw water is primarily sourced from the King River and the water supply system draws from a catchment area that includes a significant upstream storage in Lake William Hovell. The catchment encompasses an area of extensive agriculture and grazing, and with the presence of many dairies and septic systems within the King Valley, the raw, surface water source for Oxley was considered to have high likelihood for contamination and was exposed to potential risks from elevated turbidity (dirty water) after storm and heavy rainfall events.
Subsequently, Oxley required a treatment capability that matched the unique needs of the town. A water treatment plant was devised that included sand filters, treatment, and then pumped to an elevated tank for storage. 7.5 kilometres of mains have been laid to feed the town.
Similarly, a system was needed to address sewerage, with Oxley on septic tanks until 2013. In 2005, the Rural City of Wangaratta nominated Oxley (amongst other towns) for the provision of reticulated sewerage under the Victorian Government’s Small Town Sewerage Program. The scheme linked wastewater to the Wangaratta sewerage system, and North East Water worked with Oxley to ensure affordability. The scheme was eventually completed in 2013.