In response to wartime food shortages, in 1942
the Commonwealth Government asked NSW to
consider lifting its ban on rice growing in the
Southern Riverina. Rice was an “essential foodstuff,”
and more local production was required
“to meet the nation’s commitments to its allies.”
Four experimental crops were established, two
in the Wakool District and two in the Berriquin
District. The following year Tulla Estate near
Wakool was chosen as the site for southern rice
production, with a total of 5,000 acres of rice
to be grown.
Following World War II rice production
continued in the Wakool District and the newly
created Tullakool Irrigation Area (formerly
Approval for rice growing was gradually extended
to the other districts following pressure
from landholders. Berriquin was the last district
to be approved for rice, in 1967.
Landholders were keen to become rice growers
because the crop offered them an opportunity
to diversify production and generated new
income through summer cropping. Most existing
farm machinery could also be easily
converted for rice.
Restrictions have always applied to rice growing in the
region. Initially landholders could only plant areas of
up to 50 acres a year, on soils which had been deemed
suitable. Land could only be cropped for rice once
every four years.
In 1943, a Prisoner of War camp was established
beside Tulla Estate, 14 miles from Wakool.
Italian POWs were used to provide labour for the WC&IC’s
rice growing project.
There were initially 100 men at the camp, which can be seen
in the photo above. This increased to 175 as labour
requirements increased. “. . . it will be appreciated that the POW had to be
taught to drive tractors, truck and handle the various
farm machinery and in the early stages many
difficulties had to be overcome, especially regarding
District Engineer, Deniliquin
Following the war this area was established as the Tullakool
Irrigation Area. The land was subdivided and sold with
complete irrigation, farm layout and drainage systems in
place. Photo: State Water Archives Collection.