Leeton, New South Wales
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New South Wales
Leeton War Memorial
|Population||8,623 (2016 census)|
|Established||2 April 1913|
|Elevation||138.3 m (454 ft)|
Leeton is a town located in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales, Australia. Situated approximately 550 km west of Sydney and 450 km north of Melbourne in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, it is the administerative centre of the Leeton Shire Council local government area. Leeton's urban population in 2016 was 8,623. Situated in one of the most productive farming regions in the state, the town was designed by Walter Burley Griffin and purpose-built for the irrigation schemes announced by the New South Wales government in the early 1900s.  Citrus, rice, cotton, grapes, walnuts and wheat farms can all be found throughout the Leeton Shire. Leeton is renowned as Australia's Rice Capital and as The Heart of SunRice Country, as it is home to the SunRice headquarters. Other industry includes Freedom Foods, the Daily Drinks Co., JBS Australia, Webster Limited (walnuts and cotton) and Murrumbidgee Irrigation Limited.
In 1913 when the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of New South Wales was formed Leeton was only a canvas town, the only houses being those built on farms by settlers and houses for its officers by the Commission. On 3 April 1913 the first block of land was sold in the town. During 1913 a kurrajong tree which became known as the Pioneers' Tree, was planted as a feature in Kurrajong Avenue, and a butter factory was established in the town.
In 1914 World War I broke out; of the town's population of 2000 people, 200 men were serving in the armed forces making it difficult to maintain the plantings in the irrigation area. During 1914 and 1915 an abattoir and canning factory were established in the town.
In 1919 the Hydro Hotel was constructed for Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission executives to stay whilst in Leeton but was not licensed to sell alcohol until 1924 when the alcohol prohibition in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area was lifted.
During 1920 the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of New South Wales began to pressure the Government for relief for being responsible for providing civic and local government services with the Commission stating "revenue which comes mainly from rents and water charges, having remained unchanged, is insufficient to cover the cost of local government services now that the weekly wage is more than double the figure paid when the settlement started". The Commission chose and appointed an Advisory Board which was made up of pioneer farmers which already had been in operation in the Yanco area since 1913. In June 1925 the Commission released its annual report stating that a Royal Commission recommended setting up of local government bodies within the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area but no date had been decided.
On 1 January 1928 the Willimbong Shire was formed with the name "Willimbong" being retained until 19 July 1946 when it was renamed as Leeton Shire.
In 1930 Willimbong Shire become the trustee of the Leeton Racecourse, established in 1912, when the land was gazetted as a reserve for racing, public recreation and aviation. In August 1931 Southern Cross became the first aircraft to officially landing at the aerodrome. During 1935 work was done at the aerodrome for it to be licensed to take aircraft including commercial aircraft. In August 1935 Western and Southern Provincial (W.A.S.P.) Airlines commenced an air service between Leeton and Sydney however the service was ended in 1936 when a Tugan Gannet aircraft used by W.A.S.P. Airlines crashed on 26 February 1936 in the Cordeaux Dam area.
In July 1938 it was proposed to the Willimbong Shire by the Civil Aviation Board that an area around Fivebough could be developed into an aerodrome since the Leeton Aerodrome at the race course was too small and could only operate on a restricted licence. Willimbong Shire agreed to lease the land with preliminary work carried out on the site however the aerodrome was never used by any commercial airline.
During World War II, the Royal Australian Air Force established a training school in the nearby town of Narrandera which was a large aerodrome. After this a report from the Department of Civil Aviation stated that Fivebough was eminently suitable as an aerodrome but strongly recommended that they should consider jointly operating the aerodrome with Narrandera Shire.
During the early part of the 1930s Willimbong Shire took over the town water supply when it also became apparent that the town needed a second water tower which was constructed next to the first tower with the construction completed on 27 March 1937.
The Swimming baths in Leeton was constructed by voluntary labour in 1931 and was completed on 24 February 1932. The Leeton Swimming Club made a request that the swimming baths be replaced by a modern swimming complex. In 1959 money was raised though the Irrigana Festival, which was a biennial festival in the town, with the Leeton Shire obtaining a loan with construction starting on the complex. On 17 November 1962 the Leeton & District Memorial Swimming Pool was opened.
Rice growing became a major industry during World War II under Government promotion to help supply food for troops. A number of local farmers, some such as teenager Norm Houghton, pioneered the planting of new varieties to suit the local conditions. The Irrigana Festival began in 1959 as a biennial festival but was short lived due to it lacking strong publicity value even though the festival was successful with fund raising. The name "Irrigana" was chosen from a competition in the Murrumbidgee Irrigator, In 1970 a biennial festival returned in the town known as the "Rice Bowl Festival". By 1988 the festival was renamed to "Sunwhite Rice Festival" with sponsorship from the Ricegrowers Co-Operative Limited.
Leeton has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:
- Chelmsford Place: Hydro Hotel
- Chelmsford Place: Leeton District Lands Office
- Chelmsford Place: Leeton District Office artefacts
- Dunn Avenue: Leeton railway station 
- 114-118 Pine Avenue: Roxy Community Theatre
Leeton Shire has three secondary schools:
Leeton Shire has six primary schools:
- Leeton Public School
- Parkview Public School
- St Joseph's Primary School
- Wamoon Public School
- Yanco Public School
- Whitton Public School
Other education includes:
- TAFE NSW Riverina Institute
- Murrumbidgee College of Agriculture
- Gralee Support School
- MET School (Leeton Campus)
- Leeton Pre-School
- Leeton Child Care Centre
- Goodstart Early Learning
|Climate data for Leeton Caravan Park|
|Record high °C (°F)||44.3
|Average high °C (°F)||31.9
|Average low °C (°F)||17.2
|Record low °C (°F)||8.4
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||32.4
|Average rainy days||4.0||3.7||4.0||5.1||7.2||8.6||9.6||9.6||7.7||7.3||5.0||4.7||76.5|
Leeton is well connected to the surrounding regional centres and capital cities. Leeton is approximately 450 km from Melbourne along the Newell, Goulburn Valley and Hume Highways and 550 km from Sydney along the Sturt and Hume Highways. There are daily flights leaving Narrandera Airport, operated by Regional Express. The airport is located near the shire boundary approximately 20 km from the CBD. There are coach services to Sydney and Adelaide, leaving Leeton Coach Terminal in Gidgee Street daily. NSW TrainLink also operates coach services to Wagga Wagga connecting with XPT services to Sydney and Melbourne. A Xplorer service to Griffith calls at Leeton railway station on Saturdays with the return service to Sydney calling on Sundays.
Ricegrowers Limited, operating as SunRice and CopRice, is by far Leeton's largest employer. It's international headquarters are located in the town, as well a rice mill and manufacturing plants. Other industry includes The Daily Juice Company, JSB Australia (as a subsidiary of JBS S.A.), Murrumbidgee Irrigation Limited, Pacific Fresh,Toorak Wines, Lillypilly Wines and Southern Central Engineering, as well as Freedom Foods, located in Stanbridge and Southern Cotton, located in Whitton.
The extensive Vance Industrial Estate houses many smaller scale industrial companies.
Leeton holds a number of town landmarks, including the Roxy Theatre, War Memorial, Madonna Place, St Peter's Church, and the historic Hydro Motor Inn which are located in the centre of town. Leeton's areas also feature large towers that store the town's water and provide a striking feature of each section of town.
The Ramsar-listed Fivebough and Tuckerbil Wetlands as well as the nearby Murrumbidgee River and Murrumbidgee Valley National Park provide ample opportunities for bush-walking and bird-watching.
Food and Wine
Restaurants and eateries available in Leeton include The Village Restaurant, Benvenuti Restaurant, Chan's Chinese Restaurant, Crate Cafe, The Coffee Tree, Mick's Bakehouse, Pages on Pine Restaurant and Grill, Leeton Soldiers Club, Henry's Chung Hing Chinese Restaurant, Hotel Leeton, L&D Bowling Club, Wade Hotel and La Fresco Cafe.
Leeton is also home to two award-winning wineries, Lillipilly Estate Wines and Toorak Winery. Both wineries use locally grown grapes to create their wine, and each feature a cellar-door where customers can sample and purchase their products. Together, they offer a selection of red and white wines, as well as Botrytis dessert wines and fortified wines.
Leeton's main shopping areas include Pine Avenue and Kurrajong Avenue, as well as the town's two shopping complexes, Leeton Market Plaza (opened in 2006) and the Woolworths & Target Complex. Other retailers include: Best & Less, Aldi, The Reject Shop, IGA, St. Vincent de Paul's and McDonald's.
Leeton has its own newspaper known as The Irrigator (formerly known as The Murrumbidgee Irrigator) which is released throughout the region on Tuesday and Friday. Leeton also has influences on the Star FM (99.7) and 2RG radio stations which are based in Griffith. WIN Television also broadcasts the local news of the Riverina during week nights.
Notable citizens originating from Leeton include former deputy leader of the NSW Labor Party and current federal MP for the NSW seat of Barton Linda Burney, Australian Labor Party Senator John Faulkner; Country Women's Association founder Lorna Gill; National Rugby League footballer Rod Maybon; professional road bicycle racer Robert McLachlan; National Rugby League footballer and commentator Peter Peters; current National Rugby League players Jeff Robson, Clint Halden and Mark Nicholls (rugby league), cricketer and commentator Mark Taylor: former captain of the Australia national cricket team; consumer advocate Helen Wellings; Craig Nettelbeck, Max Kruse, Jacob Hopper, Jacob Townsend AFL players.
Australian poet and writer Henry Lawson lived in Leeton for two years, from 1916 to 1917. Lawson had been hired to write about the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area to attract settlers to the area.
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