Wonthaggi ( ) is a town
located south east of Melbourne via the South
Gippsland and Bass
Highway, in the Bass Coast
Shire of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.
town, known originally for its coal
, is now the regional service centre for tourism, beef
industries, and at the 2006 census
, it had a population of
discovered by explorer William Hovell
Paterson in 1826, and
was subsequently mined from the Powlett River fields in the region,
between 1859 and 1864.
However transporting the coal by
whale boat through the surf to larger ships anchored offshore
proved costly and dangerous and mining activity was soon
the coal for the colony of Victoria was sourced from Newcastle and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, along with local supplies from
private and co-operative coal mines at Outtrim, Jumbunna and Korumburra in Gippsland.
After the 1909-1910 strike by
coal miners in the Hunter Valley, the Victorian state government
were determined to ensure stability in local supplies of coal. The
State Coal Mine
town of Wonthaggi came into being in 1910 to supply coal for the
steam trains in Victoria.
The Post Office had opened on 11 November 1887 in a rural area. On
1 August 1910 this office was renamed St Clair and on the same day
Powlett Coal Mine PO, opened earlier that year, was renamed
The construction of the Wonthaggi power station in 1912 resulted in
the mining complex becoming the first electrified mining operation
in the southern hemisphere.
The mine provided a stimulus for unionism and in particular the
Victorian Coal Miners Association. The State Coal Mine heralded
increasing regulation of mining, with the introduction of wages
boards, and compensation for accidents under the Coal Mines
Regulation Act. Management of the mine adopted a policy of
conciliation and negotiating with union representatives which
generally reduced industrial disputation.
In 1911 miners formed the Wonthaggi Co-operative Workmen's Club, a
social club with 300 members and a membership fee of 10 shillings.
Miners were also prominent in establishing the local hospital,
theatre, and a co-operative store, and in supporting miners in New
Zealand in the 1912 Waihi miners'
Mining continued for 59 years, extracting 17 million tonnes of coal
from 12 separate mines. The State Coal Mine closed in 1968 and is
now operated by Parks Victoria
visitor experience, with a well-presented museum.
railway line through Kilcunda to Wonthaggi has been converted to the Bass Coast Rail Trail for the use of
cyclists, walkers, and as a horse trail.
the Wonthaggi Wind Farm was built near the town.
Six turbine wind farm 3km from
The Bass Coast
Shire Council was opposed to the wind farm along with local
residents. Protesters argued the six turbines would taint the view
of Cape Patterson on the trip from Kilcunda to Wonthaggi and would
affect the "recreational tourism and landscape values of the
coastline". By September 2005 the six towers had been built, but
the turbines had not commenced operation, but were themselves a
tourist attraction. The wind farm, now operational, generates power
up to 80% of the time, providing electricity for up to 6000
2007, the Victorian Government announced the next stage of the
Government’s Water Plan which includes development of a seawater
desalination plant on the coast near Wonthaggi.
Associated infrastructure includes tunnels connecting the plant to
marine intake and discharge structures, an pipeline to connect the
plant to Melbourne’s water supply system, and power supply
infrastructure for the plant. The plant is intended to provide
provide up to 150 billion litres of additional water to Melbourne,
Geelong, Westernport and South Gippsland.
Golfers play at the course of the Wonthaggi Golf Club on McKenzie
Vehicles racing in the 2006 HPV 24
- A Gippsland Union - the Victorian Coal Miners Association
1893-1915, P.D. Gardner, (2003), ISBN 1-875254-33-1