The farming district of Hazelwood is located about 8 km south of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland, on the flats of the Morwell River.

Hazelwood pastoral run was taken up in 1844, being named after the squatter’s wife, Lavinia Hasell Bennett. In the 1870s, when the runs were opened for selection, the lessee acquired part of the property, Hazelwood Estate. The settlers grazed sheep and cattle, grew crops and dairied. In 1874 and again in 1888, companies were formed to mine black coal in the area, but the ventures were speculative.

In 1885, a branch railway line from Morwell south to Mirboo North passed through the area, and a station and goods siding were constructed at Hazelwood in 1888. A number of schools were established to serve the settlers, the earliest being Hazelwood Ridge (1876-1945).

In the early 1920s, Hazelwood Estate was subdivided for soldier settlement. A hall was constructed here in 1926, housing a school until it acquired its own building in 1933. The school closed in 1993. The district of Hazelwood North had a school (1881), hall and a church, while Hazelwood South had a school (1900-70) and a hall.

A bushfire devastated much of the area in 1944, but the farms recovered, the district being renowned for beef and dairying on the lush river flats. However in the late 1950s, a large area of land was acquired for the construction of a new power station and a cooling pond. Hazelwood power station was completed by 1971. Land was also compulsorily acquired for a new planned town which was eventually named Churchill.

Farming declined because of the uncertainty of land acquisition and because of urban encroachment. The growth of hobby farming allowed two of the schools to continue, but Hazelwood Estate closed in 1993, leaving only Hazelwood North. In 2014 it had 149 pupils. Much of the farmland is now occupied by industrial works as well as large eucalypt plantations. The pondage is popular for sailing.

In 2005 Hazelwood power station, supplying 25% of Victoria’s base load electricity, was identified as the least carbon efficient power generator in the OECD. Since then agitation has grown for its closure.

Census populations for the Hazelwood district have been:

census date population
  Hazelwood district Hazelwood North Hazelwood South
1911 284 - -
1933 563 - -
1954 527 - -
1966 125 - -
2006 1653 1120 533
2011 2074 1476 319

Further Reading

Chris Fraser, Hazelwood North State School No. 2382 1881-1981, Hazelwood, 1981

Kath Huffer, Hazelwood, Traralgon, nd

Churchill entry