On 4 November 1981, the Departments of Local Government and Lands were abolished and their branches were added to the newly created Department of Local Government and Lands.(1)
The Department of Local Government and Lands was responsible for managing crown land, maintaining land records, and reviewing legislation controlling Local Government. The Department was divided into the following four operational areas: Crown Lands Office, Local Government Office, Registrar General’s Office, and Western Lands Commission. There was also a Central Services Division providing centralised administrative support to all sections of the Department.(2)
The Crown Lands Office managed the Crown Estate in the Eastern and Central Divisions of the state by identifying and retaining land for future public use; protecting environmentally sensitive land; generating revenue through the development and sale of homesites and the sale and lease of industrial, commercial and rural land; and for the provision of land for public roads. The Crown Lands Office was also responsible for a land information service to government and the public by providing maps, survey plans, aerial photographs, Landsat imagery and information on the status of land, and for maintaining the State Control Survey.(3) The Office also administered the State’s systems of registration for land title, subdivisions, Acts of Parliament, Bills of Sale, Stock Mortgages and liens on wool and crops.(4)
In addition to the Crown Lands Office branches in Sydney, there were twelve decentralised regional offices located at Armidale, Dubbo, Goulburn, Grafton, Hay, Maitland, Moree, Nowra, Orange, Tamworth, Taree, and Wagga Wagga.(5)
The Local Government Office was responsible for the operation of local government in New South Wales by further developing its system and structure, and reviewing and updating legislation relating to the powers, duties and responsibilities of councils. The Department was also responsible for examining the boundaries of council areas, providing financial assistance to local government from funds provided by the State and Commonwealth Governments, and providing inspections, inquiries, licences, examinations, certifications, and approvals for certain council activities.(6)
The Registrar General’s Office was the land registration authority for all land in New South Wales. The Office investigated and registered land dealings throughout the state, maintained and provided access to land registers. In 1983, the Office maintained three land title registration systems: the Torrens Title System which covered seventy-five percent of land parcels in the state and had been operating since 1863; the “Old System” under the Registration of Deeds Act; and the Crown tenure system covering incomplete purchases from the Crown, term leases, perpetual leases and Western Lands Leases.(7)
The Western Lands Commission was responsible for the administration and management of the Crown Estate in the Western Division of New South Wales. The Commissions objective was to maintain the stability and productivity of broad-acre grazing land, in addition to lands on which superior or more intensive uses may be safely undertaken.(8) The Western Division was administered in terms of the Western Lands Act and Government policy at the time.(9)
The Department also assumed responsibility for Theatres and Public Halls, formerly administered by the Department of Services.(10) The Department of Local Government and Lands also provided staff for the following Boards, Commissions and Committees: Local Government Grants Commission, Inspectors of Local Government Accounts, Examination Committees, Local Government Boundaries Commission, Noxious Plants Advisory Committee and the Argentine Ants Committee, Geographical Names Board, Lord Howe Island Board, Surveyors Board, and the Wild Dog Destruction Board.(11)
On 15 February 1984, the Department of Local Government and Lands was abolished and the two Departments were established as separate agencies.(12) Also, the homesites work of the Crown Lands Office in the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Regions was transferred to the Land Commission.(13)
1. NSW Government Gazette No.170, 6 November 1981, p.5751.
2. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1982, p.9.
3. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1983, p.8.
4. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1982, p.7.
5. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1983, p.8.
6. ibid, p.10.
7. ibid, p.11.
8. ibid, p.12.
9. loc. cit.
10. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1982, p.3.
11. ibid, p.9.
12. NSW Government Gazette No.24, 17 February 1984, p.753.
13. Annual Report for the Department of Local Government and Lands for the Year ended 30 June 1984, p.2.