Yackandandah is situated between Beechworth and Wodonga. The area was traditionally occupied by the Jiatmathang tribe and was visited by Aboriginal tribes seasonally who would hunt and search for food there.
The town’s name is believed to have come from the pastoral run Yackandandah, which was taken up in 1837. Yackandandah is derived from an Aboriginal word, understood to mean ‘country of hills’, which aptly describes the landscape of the town.
Following Hume and Hovell’s exploration of the area, some of the earliest known white settlers were James Osborne and his family, David Reid and his family and George Kinchington and his wife. Their settling of the area is still evident today, with flats such as ‘Osborne’s Flat’ still in existence.
The discovery of gold at Yackandandah in 1852 brought a surge of people to the area keen to find gold. Settlers descended to the Yackandandah Creek and set up communities there housed in tents. As with other goldfields, the Chinese were among the miners and were largely responsible for excavating the Yackandandah Gorge to provide the water for mining operations.
By 1855 mining activities stretched from the Yackandandah Creek to Osborne’s Flat. During the 1860s and 1870s gold mining had attracted a population of around 5,000 to the area.
The town was officially surveyed in 1856 and in 1857 the selling of land commenced. Public buildings and amenities were built to support the growing community of miners and their families. The stone bridge that was constructed in 1860 across Commissioners Creek provided access into the town for stage coaches.
The Roads Board of Yackandandah, established in 1862, became the Shire of Yackandandah in 1864 and was one of the largest in Victoria.
The town gained a Post Office in 1863 and by 1865 also boasted two saw mills, five hotels, a flour mill, schools, churches, medical facilities and shops.
The arrival of the railway line on 23 July 1891 only enhanced the prosperity of Yackandandah, with the town now connected to Beechworth and Melbourne by rail.
North East Water
Since North East Water took the reins in 1997, Yackandandah has seen a series of firsts. Almost immediately, we went to work on designing and building a full water treatment facility. Yackandandah’s first winter storage was constructed in 2001, and the first re-use irrigation scheme was completed the following year.
And if there was anywhere in north east Victoria to go green first, it was in Yackandandah. In 2017, in conjunction with the Intelligent Water Network (IWN), North East Water established Victoria’s first water treatment plant powered by solar and battery storage. North East Water commenced operations of the 40kW photovoltaic solar array and 42kWh lithium ion battery bank at the water treatment plant. The clean energy system has the potential to generate sufficient power and store enough energy to operate the plant independently of the mains power grid for most of the year.
Being grid-connected and driven by smart energy management software, the system could also export power to the grid when electricity prices peak, and draw power from the grid when prices fall, further reducing power (and carbon emissions). The battery bank also avoids the need for a back-up diesel generator to cover grid black-outs and brown-outs.
As a member of the community coalition Totally Renewable Yackandandah, the Corporation pledged to power local operations with 100% renewable energy by 2022. RMIT University have studied the generation from the clean energy system and the consumption patterns of Yackandandah water treatment plant to determine both how to operate the system at lowest cost and maximise the return on investment in the system.
As a pilot program and the first solar-powered water treatment plant in Victoria, the project has also provided significant learnings for the sector. North East Water has hosted several water corporations at the site, as well as VicWater, and presented on the findings to a variety of industry stakeholders.