Alexandrina Council Involvement With Murray Darling Association

AROUND THE TOWN - March ’19 - by Frank Tuckwell

From the Gallery

Although I missed getting along to the gallery of the special meeting of Alexandrina Council on the 4th of February, I checked it out on the audio record on Council’s website. The main item on the open meeting agenda was to nominate one of the two elected members who are appointed as delegates of the Murray Darling Association Inc. (MDA), to seek election as chairperson of Region 6 of the association.

The MDA is a non-government body set up originally as the Murray Valley Development League (MVDL) at its 1944 inaugural meeting in Yarrawonga. Its purpose was to represent industry and local government to be its agency in influencing the Federal Government’s post-war reconstruction planning to include decentralisation and irrigation among its key objectives.

Later in 1944, the District Council of Port Elliot and Goolwa sent Councillors A.H. (Bert) Armfield and Captain D.J. (Dave) Ritchie to Murray Bridge as delegates at the formation meeting of what was to become the new Region 6 of the League in South Australia. At that time this new region was to include all Councils of the riverside or adjacent riparian areas between Morgan and the sea.

By 1990’s, the MVDL decided to go Basin-wide, following the expanded footprint of the former River Murray Commission which by then had become the Murray Darling Basin Commission. Accordingly, the MVDL’s focus broadened and changed its name to Murray Darling Association, to take in all Basin waterways and their Councils. In doing so it set about inviting those Councils to join the expanded association. By now there arose in the Councils an awareness that although their peak body, the respective Local Government Association in their respective states, was the channel through which they funnelled their wider general issues, the MDA was the only body through which they could effectively address their concerns on riverine and riparian issues within the Basin. The State and Federal politicians although helpful, were limited by their party policy priorities and directives to get effective action. The MDA was effectively a local government symbiotic body from its origin, and although by its very nature it had widely differing interests across the Basin regarding water sharing issues, the MDA proved to be very effective in resolving those differences for the common good.

Much of these benefits evolved from the MDA’s regional structure where the association, like the rivers, are not bound by borders. Several MDA regions cross over state lines to combine shire, district and city Councils of two states into a single region. The common denominator here is that local government is the level of government closest to the people of their region, it is where things get put on the ground, it is where they can talk plainly to their elected local Council representatives.For all the variety of party aligned members of its regions, the MDA is first and foremost, an apolitical grass-roots association.

At the February 4th meeting of Alexandrina Council, Cr Melissa Rebbeck (Goolwa-Hindmarsh Island ward), was appointed its candidate in nomination for the elections of the chair of MDA Region 6 region committee for 2019-20. Melissa comes with impressive credentials covering her qualifications and career, all of which made her an outstanding candidate for this all-important role.

On Friday, February 15, the AGM of MDA Region 6 was held in the Alexandrina Council chamber in Goolwa. In the election of the chair of Region 6, Cr Rebbeck was successful in winning this key post. As chair of Region 6, Melissa automatically becomes a member of the Federal Board of the association. I was fortunate in being able to attend this meeting as a Region 6 private member, which effectively gave me the ability to support Council with an extra vote which I have at regional meeting level. In the AGM elections, it also gave me the privilege to nominate Cr Michael Scott (Port Elliot-Middleton ward) for a seat on the executive committee, which he was successful in winning. All things considered, it was a very fruitful day for Alexandrina.

Continuing a short history of our local Council from 1853

With the establishment of the District Council of Port Elliot and Goolwa (DCPE&G), and by the rapid growth of the Murray and Darling River trade from its opening in 1853, the proclamation of the Port of Goolwa quickly followed in 1857, and in 1858 the Goolwa telegraph office became one of the repeater stations on the Adelaide to Melbourne telegraph line. Although trading vessels had been built on the river bank since 1853 with available but rudimentary facilities existing, the demand for new steam vessels grew rapidly. By 1865 a slipway had been built and opened for business, with the Directors of the Goolwa Patent Slip committee in February of that year declaring that there were seven new steamboats either being built on the slip or in the course of fitting out in the yards.

Demand for land for business and housing become greater as the river port trade boomed, leading to development on surveys in the Goolwa township and on its western, north and southern fringes adding to a rapidly expanding property rate base of the town financially boosting the District Council’s coffers, at the expense of the growth-induced needs of the town.

In 1864 heavy industry was established in the town when the Goolwa Iron Works and machine shops were constructed alongside the slipway. Now the complete steamer could be constructed with engines and boilers manufactured in the yards. The only place in the entire river system where that could be done. Also, in 1864 maritime shipping demands brought about an extension of the Goolwa to Port Elliot tramway onwards to Victor Harbor.

Soon breweries, flour mills, police and court facilities, customs, post and telegraph offices, school and wharf facilities had been established in the town. The demands of industry and rapid population increase put immense demands on the local council to develop public infrastructure to meet this need. Inevitably the District Council found that the demands of the Port of Goolwa had to be restricted to what could be achieved in relation to the developments required over the whole of the DCPE & Goolwa area. Impatience of Goolwa interests began to show against the District Council, resulting in the S.A. Government being petitioned early in 1872 demanding the establishment of a town council for the riverport.

The petitioners were rewarded in their demands on December 11, 1872 by obtaining their town council with the proclamation of “The Corporation of Goolwa”.

(Continued next issue)