Wantirna and Wantirna South
Wantirna is a residential suburb 23 km east of Melbourne, a few kilometres west of Bayswater. It is not on a railway line and consequently underwent residential development later than some of its neighbouring areas. The nearest main road, Burwood Highway, divides Wantirna from Wantirna South. It is bounded on the north and west by the Dandenong Creek.
The area attracted European settlement as one of the district's earliest cattle runs, Bushy Park, in 1841, which was situated on a track from Melbourne to the Dandenong Ranges. The area underwent closer settlement and orchards were established. In 1889 the railway line from Ringwood to Upper Ferntree Gully was opened, and one of the original stations was Bayswater. The Wantirna area became known as Bayswater West. In 1913 the Bayswater West Progressive Association wanted an original name, and chose Wantirna, an Aboriginal word thought to mean ‘gurgling stream’. A newly opened postal receiving office was named Wantirna.
In 1919 the Wantirna apple and pear cool store near the present shops on Mountain Highway was opened, followed shortly by the establishment of the Wantirna parish hall, Wantirna reserve and tennis courts. The Bayswater West primary school, renamed Wantirna, had opened in 1912. Wantirna South was recognised as a locality in 1928 when a mail service was begun. A post office was opened in 1933 and a primary school in 1940.
Wantirna was in the Fern Tree Gully shire. In 1963 a poll of voters in the western part of the shire was held on the proposal that it be severed and made a separate municipality. Although Wantirna had only 748 out of 20,000 voters, 89% of them wanted severance. It was the highest percentage of all the districts polled. The new municipality of Knox was established on 16 November 1963. At that time the rural landscape of Wantirna predominated. Set among the orchards, on Mountain Highway, there was the Wantirna drive-in theatre (1968-84), later a trash and treasure market site. An agricultural research station and experimental research station were opened in Wantirna South in 1956, the latter named after Sir George Knox, orchardist, poultry farmer and local M.L.A.
The rapid urbanisation of Wantirna occurred after the formation of the Knox shire, whose council quickly raised loans for road making and community facilities. It had ample green fields sites, which attracted the Westfield Knox City shopping centre to Wantirna South in 1977. Its lettable area in 1997 was 69,000 sq metres which had more than doubled by 2010. It is classified as a super-regional shopping centre, with over 350 retail outlets and a 15-screen cinema. There is a major bus interchange. Adjoining the shopping centre are the council offices and civic centre. There are also a TAFE, the Wantirna secondary college, The Knox P-12 school (1982), a Catholic primary school, three State primary schools in Wantirna and two in Wantirna South. On Mountain Highway there are the Knox private hospital and the Wantirna Mall shops.
The proximity of Dandenong Creek to Wantirna bestows the prospect of large linear parklands, but the valley also provided space for the Eastlink Tollway (2008).
The Harcrest Estate (2014) in Stud Road, Wantirna South, on the 56.2 hectare site formerly operated as the Austral Bricks Quarry which carried out clay extraction and brick manufacturing, was developed with 840 lots. The site contains a neighbourhood activity centre, residential housing, a display centre and wetlands.
Census populations have been:
Helen Coulson, Story of the Dandenongs, 1838-1958, F.W. Cheshire, 1968
Evelyn Hodgkin, The fruits of Bayswater Wantirna, 2002
S. Nisi, Wantirna Primary School No 3709 celebrates 75 years, 1912-1967, Wantirna, 1989