A short history of our local Council 1853-1997 (Part 8 and final)

AROUND THE TOWN Oct’19 by Frank Tuckwell

One wonders these days on how public interest has become aroused in the processes of local government, and how one may be able to take an active part in discourse of personal or community matters as a member of the general public. One way it can be done is the impersonal one-on-one way via a mobile or laptop keyboard to an appropriate faceless, but important, “My Say” website. Other ways one may choose to go is by ordinary mail, phone, a collective petition, a discussion with one’s ward Councillor, or by appointment with the Mayor or a relevant Council officer.

These are some of the ways we may exercise of rights we all hold precious in our democracy. Sometimes we are asked by others to hear their discourse on a matter in which we may, or may not agree with the proposition which is being put forward, but in reading, seeing or hearing a person’s deposition, we must respect the rights and feelings of that person or persons in putting them forward.

In our democracy someone else may win the argument, but in the commiserations of our disappointment, we are comforted by the knowledge that as we move on, democracy has been seen to be done. Examples of that principal was clearly demonstrated in Alexandrina Council’s September meeting, when a highly respected former long-serving Councillor delivered a complaint and challenging criticism personally before Council on rural road maintenance. His deposition was received, and no doubt he would have left the meeting in anticipation of further consideration.

Another matter was a deposition in a continuation matter in support of a development on a subdivision at Middleton. A counter deposition was submitted by a large group of that town’s residents who opposed the proposed development. Spokesmen from both parties put forward their cases which were answered by a successful motion of Council for the matter to lay on the table pending further action.

Democracy in action is a wonderful thing to behold. Wonderful indeed I thought as I went in to sit in my usual seat in the crowded gallery; but democracy sometimes as I have observed, comes at the price of sacrifice. My usual seat was occupied. What were the commiserations for that sacrifice? I found one alongside an old acquaintance of whom I have not seen in many years…Ah! right there is another outworking of the benefits of democracy!

A short history of our local Council 1853-1997 (Part 8 and final)

The District Council of Port Elliot came through the WW2 years carrying many government wartime duties assigned to it such as the liquid fuel board, civil defence and others. During the second stage of the war following Japan’s hostile entry into the war in the Pacific, it drew heavily on available personnel from industry, agriculture, education, public service and the general workforce, either by enlistment or conscription. The Council lost the service of Cr. Albert Lovell (Reserve Lt. Colonel) and the District Clerk, Reg Bristow-Smith who both entered the armed services on the same day. Cr Lovell’s place was subsequently filled by election, and an acting District Clerk (Richard A. Williams) was appointed for the duration of war until Reg returned to resume his duties.

The Council was linked to the Commonwealth Department of Post-War Reconstruction in a committee role in 1944. Also, in that year the Murray Valley Development League (now the Murray Darling Association) was formed at Yarrawonga in combining the interests of Councils, industry, irrigation and agricultural groups in an organisation to engage in discussions with the Commonwealth in decentralisation of industry to the valley, and future development generally along the whole Murray Valley. In December 1944 the D.C. of Pt. Elliot joined the League, with Councillors David Ritchie and Bert Armfield being appointed its first delegates.

Goolwa’s economy languished from the end of the war until the late 1950’s when the large development project of South Lakes began as a southern extension of the town, spreading out over farm land to the beach sandhills to the south, and westward bounded by Beach Road, then to Barrage Road in the east. It was the first large scale project in the town area since the barrage construction works were completed in 1940.

Beginning with the South Lakes development, the town’s economy began to grow, and the population expanded. Council was now pressed with the need to provide necessary infrastructure to cater not only for the increased population but also for the growth in tourism. A common effluent system was commenced during this period designed to grow from the densely built part of Goolwa then expanding outwards to other areas of the town. On 11 July 1967, the title of Council was changed to add Goolwa to the name to now read – “District Council of Port Elliot and Goolwa”.

The establishment of a marina and other proposed developments elsewhere on Hindmarsh Island placed stress on the ferry service across the river, calling for upgrading or providing another connector with enough capacity to meet the future traffic needs of these developments.

An Australia-wide population shift, commonly known as Sea Change beginning from the 1980’s onward brought another rapid growth rate like other sea-side towns. Sea Change was welcomed but at the same time it highlighted a need for a more public infrastructure. Changes were now occurring regarding the makeup of the elected Council as reflected in the Government Gazette in April,1987. That change came under the Local Government Act which allowed the people of the District Council Port Elliot and Goolwa (DCPE&G) to elect a Mayor, or by an option of Council members choosing one from among their number to preside over Council. The first Mayor of the DCPE&G, Colin A. Harding, was elected by the people of DCPE&G to office on May 2, 1987, to serve during the 1987-1989 term. Colin had been Councillor for Currency Creek ward during 1985-1987 and defeated the only other candidate, Cr Roy B. F. Galpin for the mayoralty.

Roy Galpin was elected to represent Sturt ward in 1957 and served in that capacity until May 2, 1987. He was elected Chairman of the DCPE&G on July 7, 1975 and held that position for 12 years. He was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 1984 for service to local government, sport and local fire service.

In 1986 Council won significant funding from the Federal and State governments under the 1988 Bi-centennial Authority grants scheme, which was met by a contribution by DCPE&G of a riverfront site overlooking the wharf, for establishing the **Signal Point River Murray Interpretive Centre to become the national exhibition centre for the Murray Darling river system. The completed centre was opened by Prince Charles and Princess Diana on February 29, 1988.

When a bridge was selected to upgrade the river crossing access to Hindmarsh Island during the 1990’s, a complex process for its placing began during, and went beyond the life of the DCPE&G Council. The Local Government Boundary Reform Board in 1997 was putting forward a plan for the amalgamation of five Councils into one single Fleurieu Council. This was rejected by the DCPE&G and Strathalbyn District Council at a joint meeting on Monday, February 24th at Goolwa, with both parties then formally signing unanimously an agreement between the two Councils to amalgamate and create the Alexandrina Council. This proposal was put to the Board and accepted.

Mayor Val Ball (Strathalbyn Council) and Mayor Kym McHugh (DCPE&G) shared mayoral duties between them and all 20 serving Councillors were retained in the newly created Alexandrina Council from July 1 1997 until November 1, when the first election was held to elect the new Council of 11 members. The Council would have its main office in Goolwa in its newly expanded building in Cadell Street.

** “Signal Point: where the river ends and the story begins”. Tuckwell F. (System Print) 1988.