Brief history of Banrock Station

Human presence evidence at Banrock Station, a short distance downstream from Kingston-on-Murray in South Australia’s Riverland, dates from 40,000 + years ago. Evidence includes Aboriginal scar trees, hearth sites, stone tools, burial sites.

During the European settlement in the 1800s, Banrock was under pastoral lease, and sheep and cow were grazing on the plains and mallee, which was progressively cleared to allow growing of crops until the mid-1980s.

Up to the 1930s, the use of paddle steamers as way of communication and transport of vital goods along the Murray modified the river banks landscape for ever. River Red Gum and Black Box trees were cut and used as fuel; logs and snags in the river were removed to free the way for boats, seriously damaging Murray Cod habitats. But the greatest impact was the damming of the river with weir and locks to stabilise water levels and enable steamers to navigate all year round. Lock 3 was built in 1923 between Banrock Station and Overland Corner’s shores. It raised the level of the river by 3 metres. With the construction of the Lock, Banrock Station was able to flood permanently its wetland and irrigate its crops. However, with permanent flooding came along the invasive European Carp, the death of River Red Gums and soil salinization.

In 1992, the newly formed Ducks Unlimited Australia organisation (now Wetland Care Australia; initiated its first wetland management project in Australia at Banrock Station, a short distance downstream from Kingston-on-Murray in South Australia’s Riverland. The project was fully supported by landowners Bruce and Teri Engel and was funded by the Murray Darling Basin Commission and a private donor Norman Marsh to construct flow control structures on the inlets and outlets of the wetland.

Banrock’s wetland was the first wetland on the River Murray to install such infrastructure to enable complete drying in the wetland and water level manipulation.

In 1994, Accolade Wines’ predecessor, BRL Hardy, purchased the 1800 hectares property “Banrock Station”. The property comprised 12.5 kilometres of river frontage and boasted extensive wetland areas. BRL Hardy worked closely with Wetland Care Australia to restore and rejuvenate the wetlands.

The wetland restoration project inspired the construction and naming of the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre which was opened in February 1999, featuring the latest environmental building developments including:

stabilised rammed earth construction using regional soil, steel framing and timbers from sustainable sources.
• Building layout, orientation, materials and insulation designed to maintain comfort in the building by natural means as much as possible.
• Rainwater collection to supplement water supply

The environmentally focused building features a wetland interpretative display (currently being revamped), wine tasting area, café and conference facilities.

Centre visitors can enjoy the range of award-winning Banrock Station wines while enjoying the view from the extensive deck and learn about sound management of the River Murray system and the importance of wetlands. A telescope and binoculars are provided for those who wish to take a closer look at the flourishing wildlife.

A series of self-guided walks were opened in May 2000 and a boardwalk trail completed in 2002 included information huts, bird hides for observing waterbirds and a boardwalk enabling tourists to walk through the reeds, on the wetland, providing a unique experience.

In 2002, the Banrock Station wetland complex was listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance ( The international recognition of this wetland also described Banrock Station as a model or demonstration site for the Ramsar Convention’s fundamental principle of ‘wise use’. It combines private enterprise with wetland conservation and rehabilitation and with raising awareness of the important values and functions of wetlands.
The majority of the land (1600 hectares) is managed for conservation and includes the wetland-floodplain and the mallee zones.

The vineyard covers 216 hectares of which 60 ha are converted to sub-surface irrigation, providing the first large-scale trial of this technology. The vineyard uses a computerised irrigation system regulated by 22 probes (with 5 sensors each) that record moisture conditions every half an hour 24/7, the system provides almost 'real time' data and allows the water to be used more effectively minimising stress for the vines.

Water is delivered timely through the network of drippers, including more than 200km of subsurface drippers that brings water to the rootzone rather than dripping on to the soil surface as conventional drippers do. In addition, mulch is spread around the vines to reduce evaporation losses, and with the high-tech irrigation system, it is estimated that up to 20% of water can be then saved.

For all their efforts, the Banrock Station Vineyard achieved the international environmental management system accreditation, ISO 14001, which implements a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets to improve its overall environmental performance.

The wetlands have now been returned to a healthy functioning wetland ecosystem, through introducing more natural wet and drying cycles and removing introduced European carp. These actions have encouraged the return of native fish and bird species along with native flora.

Reintroducing a dry cycle to Banrock Lagoon is also saving precious water. About 1.15 gigalitres of river water, which is the equivalent of 1150 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has been saved from evaporation over a two-year wet/dry cycle.

Since 1996, part proceeds from the sale of Banrock wines are funding a sponsorship program to help conservation projects in Australia and overseas with a focus on wetland rehabilitation and threatened species recovery projects, from returning salmon to rivers in Canada, otter protection in Denmark, to breeding threatened duck species in New Zealand.

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