NEWS RELEASE   November 02, 2022

Legend behind the green jewel of outback town

Crestmead, Queensland (2 November, 2022) — THE outback South Australian town of Coober Pedy is famous for its stunning opals but there is an even bigger jewel on display right in the middle of the community – its local oval.

Despite battling the extremes of desert conditions, where the temperature plunges below zero in winter and soars above 40 degrees in summer, Australia's driest town boasts the lush green turf of Oz Minerals Oval, complete with thriving gardens and 146-tree olive orchard.

John Whittaker oversees the grounds as part of his role as Works Manager for the District Council of Coober Pedy. He said for many years the oval relied on water pumped in from a bore 25 km out of town costing about $140,000 a year so the decision was made to install a water-capturing, treating and recycling system to ensure the community had a sustainable greenspace.

"Water is a pretty rare commodity up here in Coober Pedy," Mr Whittaker said.

"We are said to average about 175 mm of rainfall a year, but often it doesn't rain for two to three years. So, in 2017 we put in a system where we started recycling and treating our water. We took it from sewerage, our runoff, wherever we could get it.

"Today, that water is fed to a timed system for the gardens, and the overflow from that reaches our underground irrigation scheme for the oval."

While a windfall for the local community in monetary terms, the initiative has also created the magic and constant H2O flow needed for the garden to boom.

"The oval has become very successful; it's looking very nice and that's in spite of the poor soil and aggressive climate we face. The fact it's costing us little to no money is a bonus," he said.

"When I look across the field, I feel pretty chuffed about it all."

The District Council of Coober Pedy Parks and Garden Department has two full-time staff, which leverage a John Deere commercial front-mount mower to complete the regular mowing program.

With a population of only 1500 people, the oval is mostly used for community events and grassroots cricket matches among locals.

Mr Whittaker said, however, the real gem on the oval was the community garden, which grows three different varieties of olives, along with pistachios, lemons, lemonades, mandarins, oranges and some apple and pears.

"The community is very proud of the oval and the garden," Mr Whittaker said.

"Last year's season wasn't too bad, but the year before that we had a massive olive crop, it was quite remarkable."

Mr Whittaker has lived in Coober Pedy for 22 years, lured from the coastal town of Fowlers Bay by the promise of opal mining, but it was the richness of the multicultural outback community that convinced him to stay.

"We only have one grocery store but the range of products in it is just enormous to cater for all the different cultures in town," he said.

"I never thought I could survive out here being so far away from water, but I have, and I do enjoy it here. It was a rough few years with COVID for some of the businesses, but now things have eased the caravan parks are loaded to the gills, and the volume of people in the main street is incredible. It's great to see, and our oval has become an attraction for them too."

About John Deere:
Deere & Company is a global leader in the delivery of agricultural, golf & turf, construction, and forestry equipment. We help our customers push the boundaries of what's possible in ways that are more productive and sustainable to help life leap forward. Our technology-enabled products including the John Deere Autonomous 8R Tractor and See & Spray™ are just two of the ways we help meet the world's increasing need for food, shelter, and infrastructure. Deere & Company also provides financial services through John Deere Financial. For more information, visit John Deere at its worldwide website at or in New Zealand at

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