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S.A. Northern Pioneers: G.W. Goyder
Title : S.A. Northern Pioneers: G.W. Goyder S.A. Northern Pioneers: G.W. Goyder
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Source : B 6912/J5
Date of creation : ca. 1870
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 50 x 33 mm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Portrait of G.W. Goyder, Surveyor General, from the S.A. Northern Pioneers' composite, 1850-1859 (shown in position on B 6912/3).

George Woodroffe Goyder migrated to Sydney in 1848 and joined the South Australian government in 1851. He held the positions of chief clerk of the Department of Lands, assistant surveyor-general and surveyor-general. Goyder is most remembered for mapping a line of demarcation for rainfall in South Australia, 'Goyder's Line'. This marked out the lands which received enough annual rainfall to sustain agriculture. Beyond this line was generally considered unsuitable for anything but grazing.

In April 1857, several months after his appointment as Deputy Surveyor-General, he led an expedition north to report on country which was at the time beyond pastoral settlement. His task was to report on some earlier discoveries of the South Australian Government Assayer, Benjamin Babbage. Since Babbage's journey there had been some substantial rainfall. New to the Australian landscape, Goyder was misled by the newly grown lush vegetation and reported a freshwater lake and fertile land. This contradicted earlier 1839 assessments by Edward Eyre.

The Surveyor-General, Arthur Freeling decided to examine the area in September of 1857. No more rain had fallen and hot winds had killed the vegetation and turned the lake to mud. Freeling criticized Goyder for mistaking flood for permanent water, being misled by mirage. Goyder learned from this mistake and in 1859, at his own request, he led survey parties to triangulate the country between Lakes Torrens and Eyre and to sink wells. Meanwhile, Goyder's initially positive assessment had led to a rush of land applications from hopeful farmers. After several back breaking years these pioneer settlers realized that the country was barren, almost waterless and useless for farming. In 1865, after years of drought, Goyder was sent north to map the actual line of demarcation between arable and drought stricken land. 'Goyder's line of rainfall' followed the southern boundary of vast areas of saltbush country in the far north of South Australia. The line was soon generally accepted as an accurate guide to the separation between farming and grazing lands. Farmers who ignored the demarcation were inevitably forced off their land by lack of water.

During 1868-69 he was sent to the Northern Territory then administered by South Australia, to survey the area that is now Darwin, then known as Palmerston and adjacent farming lands. From 1875-83, he was Chairman of the Forest Board and was instrumental in establishing forest reserves as South Australia had little commercially valuable timber. He was also involved in water conservation. Starting with wells and dams on northern stock routes he persuaded the government to spend 300,000 pounds on drainage in the south-east in 1867.

Goyder was one of South Australia's most competent and hard-working administrators and consistently overworked himself and as a result, his health suffered. He retired in 1894 after several previous requests to do so had been denied him by the government. He died on 2 November 1898 at his home, Warrakilla, near Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills.

Related names :

Goyder, G. W. (George Woodroffe), 1826-1898

Coverage year : 1850-1890 (1885)
Period : 1836-1851,1852-1883
Further reading :

Kelly, WS. Centenary of Goyder's Line, Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1963

Meinig, DW. Goyder's Line of rainfall: the role of a geographic concept in South Australian land policy and agricultural settlement Photocopy. Originally published in Agricultural history, [1961]

Williams, Michael George Woodroofe Goyder: a practical geographer Adelaide, [S. Aust.]: Salisbury C.A.E., [1982?]

Kelly, W. S. Scrap book relating to George Woodroffe Goyder 1963 D 7563(T)

Internet links :

Australian dictionary of biography online edition: George Woodroffe Goyder (1826-1898)

SA Memory: Treasures Wall: Principal land utilization zones shows Goyder's Line

SA Memory: Treasures Wall: Town of Palmerston

Ball, Adam Gustavus Satirical Sketch [of George Goyder] B 14851



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