Gunnedah's historic treasure, Kurrumbede, could soon be open to the public on certain days of the year.
The former family residence of the late poet Dorothea Mackellar is owned by Whitehaven Coal but is the focus of a garden restoration project in conjunction with the local memorial society.
Whitehaven's community engagement general manager, Andrew Garratt, is hopeful open days can be scheduled from early next year to allow the public to see the place from which Mackellar is said to have drawn inspiration for her poems.
The 6880-acre property borders the Namoi River, about 25km out of Gunnedah on the Blue Vale Road, and has been nominated for the State Heritage Register by the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society.
Mr Garratt said they would like to install 12 signs around the grounds to provide information on the main features of the property.
Gunnedah and District Historical Society's Ron McLean is already hard at work gathering history and old photographs for the signs. The plan is to embed QR codes in the signs so people can use smart devices to gain access to audio files.
The inside of the house will be off-limits to the general public as the property is tenanted.
Mr Garratt said they were also considering a website with a virtual tour "to drive interest towards the society and town", and would try to correlate open days with local and regional events.
The gardens in the vast grounds of Kurrumbede will be re-established with advice from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), and it is this advice that the society and Whitehaven are waiting on.
The society initially thought drought-tolerant plants and natives would be established but the OEH may lean towards a more traditional selection of plants based on archival photos of the grounds.
In the meantime, a bore has been installed specifically for the gardens to ensure water supply, and Whitehaven is preparing to tender for a pipeline installation, which will feed the sprinkler system.
Mr Garratt said there was originally an orchard at the back of the house, so there were plans to re-establish it.
Work will also need to be done on the numerous outbuildings to make them safe for the public. This means asbestos assessments and subsequent removal, and structural work.
Builders specialising in historic dwellings may need to be employed to "keep it as authentic as we can".
The society is still waiting to hear from the OEH on the outcome of the State Heritage Register nomination, which would make the property eligible for government grants for maintenance.
Whitehaven made a public commitment to the preservation of Kurrumbede in early 2019 and pledged $500,000 for the garden restoration two months later.
This week, Whitehaven's managing director and chief executive officer, Paul Flynn, once again voiced the company's stance that the property would be protected from any harm if the extension is approved.
"Kurrumbede is very important to us at Whitehaven and we acknowledge its importance to the community," Mr Flynn said in a statement to ACM.
"We're very much committed to bringing it back into a state consistent with its history and to see that it is used, from time-to-time, for public events as we work with the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society to determine the most appropriate way to facilitate that."
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has stipulated a number of requirements regarding Kurrumbede, including the need for a historic heritage management plan.
History of Kurrumbede
Well-educated and travelled both in Australia and overseas, Dorothea often visited Kurrumbede and The Rampadells, which was on the opposite side of the river.
Many of her works, such as Dawn, published in 1911, were inspired by the local landscape.
Dorothea's brother, Malcolm, managed Kurrumbede, which was purchased at the great Burburgate Station auction in October 1905 when 47,000 acres of freehold land was sold in 58 blocks.
The Mackellars bought four blocks, which totalled 6086 acres, at an average cost of three pounds an acre.
Olympic swimmer Andrew (Boy) Charlton was working as a jackaroo on the property in the lead-up to the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, living in a shack and often training in the Namoi River.
When he arrived on Kurrumbede, Charlton couldn't even ride a horse but he quickly settled into life on the land and was said to be extremely popular with the other employees on the station.
Malcolm sold Kurrumbede to Arthur Sulman in 1939 because there were no direct Mackellar descendents. The family then moved to a home in the mountains west of Windsor.
Dorothea split her time between her Pittwater residence Tarrangaua, and Cintra, a house in Darling Point.