The Western Lands Act (No.70 1901) established the Western Land Board on 1 January 1902 to administer the Western lands of New South Wales. This legislation led to a series of changes in the Lands Department where the Land Board and District Survey Offices at Bourke were closed. The Land Board Districts of Hay and Moree were altered markedly while the Land Board district boundaries of Goulburn, Dubbo, and Wagga Wagga were redrawn. (1)
The Western Land Board consisted of a Chief Commissioner and two Commissioners who were appointed by the Governor for a period of seven years. The Western Lands comprised the Land Districts of Balranald, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Hay North, Walgett North, Wentworth, Wilcannia, and Willyama. (2) The Western Land Board established annual land rents and oversaw the conversion of many Crown Lands Act Leases to Western Lands Act Leases. The lease types included homestead, improvement, inferior, occupation, pastoral, and scrub. (3)
The work carried out by the Western Land Board involved advances to Settlers Boards, labour settlements, church and school land contingencies, the running of Gosford Nursery, prickly pear eradication, rabbit proof fencing, scrub clearing, and swamp drainage. Special services were also provided for the acquisition, clearing, and fencing of public cemetery sites plus the establishment of public parks and recreation reserves. (4)
The Western Lands Commissioners were also Trustees under the Water Rights Act (No. 93 1902) controlling a number of Water Trusts responsible for water conservation and irrigation measures. In 1903 the Western Land Board adjudicated proposals put forward by mortgagors and mortgagees to reduce debt and interest rates. The Western Land Board's work also extended to cover Artesian Well Leases and Residential Leases. Land was now classified according to the values of its recoverable assets and improvements (artesian bores, dams, and water tanks). (5)
A mixed farming and irrigation settlement was established in 1909 at Gol Gol on the Murray River (opposite Mildura) to test the viability of Mallee farming. (6) Throughout its existence the Western Land Board advocated the opening up of the State's Mallee lands. The right to transfer land was restricted by the Western Land Board to "prevent trafficking in allotments" in 1910. (7)
In response to severe drought conditions from 1912 to June 1916 the Western Land Board brokered a deal with the Government Savings Bank to provide advances upon the security of Western Land Leases. (8) Dog proof fences were constructed along the border with South Australia at the north west corner of New South Wales, however, wartime needs and the prohibitive price of wire netting prevented any work on the Queensland border. (9)
With many of its staff on "active military service" no lands were made available for settlement from 1916 to August 1918. (10) However, the opening up of the Western Lands recommenced in September 1918 with 1,854,762 acres of grazing land offered for lease. Returned Servicemen were encouraged to take out leases either individually or collectively (through amendments to the Closer Settlement Act). (11)
The Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No. 10 1918) appointed the Western Land Board Commissioners for a period of one year instead of seven while the Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No. 15 1918) enabled lessees to subdivide their leases for separate disposal of the lease portions. (12)
From 1 January 1922 responsibility for the control and maintenance of the Queensland Border Fence from Hungerford to the South Australian border was transferred to the Western Land Board along with nine boundary riders and one overseer who had carried out this work for the Queensland Government. (13) M.J.H. Whitbread "a native of the Western Division, a good bushman, and a practical dogger" was also appointed as the Inspector of Wild Dogs. (14) The Inspector fulfilled an educational role instructing lessees in the destruction of dogs while the Western Land Board offered payments for wild dog scalps.
In 1924 a "Superintendent of the Queensland Border Dog Proof Fence" was appointed. (15) The work of the "Queensland Border Force" was enhanced by the installation of six water tanks (10,000 cubic yards of capacity) along the border in 1926. (16) By 1929 a series of cottages for the "Border Force" and their families had been completed to allow continuous residence in the borderlands. (17)
From the beginning of the Great Depression the Western Land Board interceded with the Government Savings Bank on behalf of settlers in debt. Initially the economic crisis was ameliorated by "slightly improved prices for wool and two successive good seasons". (18) However, by 1933 a number of emergency measures were undertaken including -
* concessions to settlers
* extensions of time to pay rent and wild dog rates
* advances for developmental work
* unemployment relief
* provision of small areas for persons of limited means to establish vegetable gardens, orchards, or poultry farms
* land for the unemployed to establish homes
The Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No.12 1934) commencing on 24 August 1934 dissolved the Western Land Board and appointed a Western Lands Commissioner to administer the Western Lands Act.
1. Department of Lands Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1902 in the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly 1903 Vol 6 page 513.
2. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1902 in the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly 1903 Vol 6 pp. 548-557.
3. ibid. page 547.
4. ibid. pp. 562-563.
5. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1903 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1904 Vol. 4 page 543.
6. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1909 in the Parliamentary Papers 1909 Vol. 4 pp. 193-194.
7. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1910 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1910 Vol. 1 page 278.
8. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1915 in the Parliamentary Papers 1915-16 Vol. 1 page 289.
9. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1917 in the Parliamentary Papers 1917-18 Vol. 2 page 45.
10. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1919 in the Parliamentary Papers 1919 Vol. 1 page 193.
11. Loc cit. page 193.
12. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1918 in the Parliamentary Papers 1918 Vol. 1 page 917.
13. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1922 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1922 Vol. 1 page 228.
14. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1922 in the Parliamentary Papers 1923 Vol. 1 page 262.
15. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1925 in the Parliamentary Papers 1925-26 Vol. 1 page 113.
16. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1926 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1926 Vol. 1 page 184.
17. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1929 in the Parliamentary Papers 1929-30 Vol. 1 page 110.
18. Western Land Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1932 in the Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1932 Vol. 1 page 63.