George Barney was appointed Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands from the 1 January 1849 by the Governor under the Great Seal of the Colony.(1) Prior to the appointment of the Chief Commissioner, the local Commissioners of Crown Lands in areas beyond the settled districts were responsible to the Colonial Secretary. Seven local Commissioners were appointed in 1837 and additional Commissioners were subsequently appointed as additional districts were proclaimed. With increasing settlement of land in the Colony, it was necessary to establish the separate office of Chief Commissioner to manage work created by the local Crown Land Commissioners.(2)
When established in 1849, the office of the Chief Commissioner was located at 356 Castlereagh Street (North) in Sydney and consisted of one 2nd class clerk, one 3rd class clerk, three extra clerks, one messenger, and one officekeeper.(3) A notice in the New South Wales Government Gazette dated 26 December 1848, instructed public officers and private individuals to direct all communications concerning Crown Lands beyond the settled districts in the Sydney and Middle District to the Chief Commissioner. This included leases and licences of Crown Land, assessment on stock, and tenders for runs.(4) The Chief Commissioner referred to the Governor, through the Colonial Secretary, cases involving Crown Land in which he required instruction or some interpretation of the law.(5) All communications concerning Crown Lands in the Southern or Port Phillip District continued to be addressed to the Superintendent of Port Phillip.
In 1856, the office of Chief Commissioner was transferred to the control of the Department of Lands.
George Barney, who previously served as Colonial Engineer from 1836 to 1843, was appointed to another major public position, that of Surveyor General on 11 October 1855. Barney held the positions of Chief Commissioner and Surveyor-General until September 1860.(6)
By 1862, Abram Moriarty, who had previously been Commissioner for New England and McLeay River, was Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands.(7) Moriarty served as Chief Commissioner until the position lapsed some time around the end of 1870. Without a Chief Commissioner, the administrative office supporting the Commissioner became the Occupation of Lands Branch within the Lands Department.
1. NSW Government Gazette, 26 December 1848, No.146, p1862; Returns of the Colony for 1849.
2. NSW Government Gazette, 26 December 1848, No.146, p1862.
3. Returns of the Colony for 1849.
4. NSW Government Gazette, 26 December 1848, No.146, p1862.
5. Concise Guide to the NSW State Archives (Ca – Commissioners).
6. Returns of the Colony for 1855; Concise Guide to the NSW State Archives (S-Y): Surveyor General.
7. Blue Books for 1862.