Pyrenees Shire was formed on 20 January 1995 by the amalgamation of nearly all of three shires west of Ballarat and Maryborough. The shires were Avoca, Lexton and Ripon (centred on Beaufort). Several of the townships, Avoca, Beaufort, Redbank and Snake Valley, were active gold mining centres in previous generations. The shire’s area is 3432 sq km.
Avoca is about 10 km east of the Pyrenees Range, part of the scattered elements of the Dividing Range which end with the Grampians.
The Pyrenees Range was named by the New South Wales Surveyor General, Thomas Mitchell, during his Australia Felix expedition in 1836. Mitchell likened the appearance of the range to the Pyrenees in Spain which he had seen during the Peninsular War, about 20 years before.
Pyrenees Shire is crossed by the Sunraysia Highway through Avoca and the Western Highway through Beaufort. Railway lines run parallel to the Western Highway as well as the smaller Pyrenees Highway which runs roughly east-west through Avoca. The shire’s administrative centre is Beaufort.
In 1996-97 farming occupied 32% of the area of the shire, which is an indication of the several hilly ranges which form its landscape. Livestock meat and products were valued at $39.8 million and crops at $20 million.
The Pyrenees is a designated Victorian wine region. Most of the wineries are between Avoca and Redbank and the wines are classed cool climate vintages.
The shire’s census populations have been:
At the 2011 census, farming accounted for 18% of employment of the shire’s residents and beverage (mainly wine) manufacturing accounted for 3.7%.
Avoca, Lexton and Ripon shires entries