South Gippsland Shire

First shire

South Gippsland Shire was created in 1894, severed from Alberton Shire. The former shire consisted of the hinterland of Corner Inlet, extending into the Strzelecki Ranges on its northern boundary and including Wilson’s Promontory in the south. Its area was 1432 sq km and Foster was the administrative centre. The other main towns in the shire were Toora, Fish Creek and Port Welshpool.

Dairying was the main enterprise in the former shire. Much of the steep hill country, once cleared and farmed, became a patchwork of surviving farms, hobby farms and abandoned blocks and reforested lots by the 1970s. Before then there was ‘a dairy farm on every hilltop’. When the shire was described in the Australian blue book, 1946, there was still belief in a grand agricultural future:

Port Welshpool, on Corner Inlet, was a deep water port supporting a commercial fishing fleet and, in more recent years, berthing the Bass Strait ferry and supply ships for the Bass Strait oil rigs. Wilson’s Promontory was declared a national park in 1905 and attracted large numbers of visitors to the shire.

The shire’s main transport corridor was the South Gippsland railway (1891-1994) and the South Gippsland Highway, passing through Fish Creek, Foster, Toora and Welshpool. A turn off at Foster took travellers to Yanakie and Wilson’s Promontory.

Populations for the South Gippsland Shire were:

census date population
1894 1400
1901 3129
1921 4125
1949 4932
1966 5411
1986 5967
1991 5850

In 1994 there were 54,150 meat cattle, 46,000 dairy cattle and 42,600 sheep and lambs in the Shire of South Gippsland. Farms occupied 47% of the shire’s area.

Second shire

In 1994, the shire was absorbed into an amalgamated Shire of South Gippsland along with the former Shire of Mirboo and most of the former Shires of Korumburra and Woorayl. The new shire covers an area of 3280 sq km and the administrative centre is at Leongatha, 128 km south-east of Melbourne.

The shire’s coastal boundary takes in Venus Bay, the Promontory and Port Welshpool. Its northern hilly parts include Poowoong and Mirboo North, and the larger towns of Korumburra and Leongatha. The latter are on the South Gippsland Highway which links them to Foster and Toora. The shire has inherited a network of roads in hilly terrain that formerly had numerous villages which have become localities. The roads must however, carry school buses and milk tankers.

The shire’s census populations have been:

census date population
1996 25,488
2001 25,524
2006 25,737
2011 27,208

At the 2011 census, agriculture accounted for 17.6% of employment, dairy farming 8.6%, dairy manufacturing 3.5% and other farming 5.5%.

Further Reading

First Shire:

Barry Collett, Wednesdays closest to the full moon: a history of South Gippsland, Carlton, 1994

Fish Creek, Foster, Hedley, Port Franklin, Port Welshpool, Sandy Point, Toora, Wilson’s Promontory and Yanakie entries

Second Shire:

David Helms, South Gippsland heritage study, 2004

Second Shire: Mirboo, Korumburra and Woorayl Shires entries