Western Lands Commissioner

State Records Authority of New South Wales
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The Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No.12 1934) dissolved the Western Land Board and appointed a sole Commissioner to administer the Western Lands (leased under both the Crown Lands Acts and Western lands Act) of the State. The Act also created Administrative Districts corresponding to the Pastures Protection Districts and Local Land Boards for each district. The Western Lands Commissioner was to be assisted by two Local Land Board Chairmen. These three officers were appointed for a period of ten years.

The Western Lands Commissioner continued and expanded the work of the previous Western Land Board with -

* wider provisions for the granting of perpetual leases
* more liberal provisions for conversion of "agriculture" and "agriculture and grazing" leases into mixed farming or other tenures
* the provision of land for additional holdings and new settlement
* the provision of small areas for persons with limited means
* control and maintenance of the Queensland Border Fence
* administration the Wild Dog Destruction Fund
* initiating actions aimed at the eradication of dingoes and wild dogs

Responsibility for the 157 miles of dog proof fencing on the South Australian border was transferred to the control of the Western Lands Commissioner in 1934. The overseer and boundary riders previously employed by the South Australian Government were retained. "Additional camels were purchased for use on the South Australian fence, where the existence of many sandhills made motor transport more difficult than on the Queensland border." (1) Seven cottages had been completed for the overseer and boundary riders by 1937 while telephone lines had been installed along both border fences. (2)

The Wild Dog Destruction (Amendment) Act (No.40 1957) established the Wild Dog Destruction Board on 1 January 1958 to protect the Western Division pastoral industry from the destruction caused by dingoes and wild dogs.

Leasehold land granted under the provisions of the War Service Land Settlement Act (No. 43 1941) were commonly known as 'Soldier's Blocks' and went "exclusively to members of the forces and discharged members of the forces". These leases were granted in perpetuity and the terms and conditions stipulated that the lessee must hold and use the land for "his own exclusive benefit only" and would graze his own stock upon the land.

From 7 May 1945 the Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No. 23 1945) limited the amount of "consideration money" in transfers of grazing leases granted in the future in an attempt curb undue price increases and subsequent speculation. Restrictions were also placed on the devolution of leases to prevent the creation of inadequate land holdings; while lessee's rights were brought into line those in the Central and Eastern Divisions of the State. Each Local Land Board now consisted of the Western Lands Commissioner (Chairman), an Assistant Commissioner (formerly known as a "chairman"), and a local representative. (3)

The Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No. 45 1949) commenced on 16 January 1950 changing the criteria for the provision of land, re-appraisement of rents, and lease determinations. There was also provision for full ministerial control of transfers, sub-lettings, and leases in perpetuity. All Western Land Leases were now conditional on measures designed to assist land regeneration and prevent overstocking while the Western Lands Commissioner was not required to sit on Local Land Boards dealing with lease applications for Crown Lands. (4)

The Western Lands (Amendment) Act (No. 6 1967) allowed for the addition of a second Land Board Member for each of the Local Land Boards in the Western Division.

Mesquite (Prosopis Spp.) a thorny shrub (native to the arid southwest of the USA) was proclaimed as a noxious plant in 1969 with control of this weed devolving to the Western Land Commission in the unincorporated areas of the Western Division. (5) Constant monitoring is required, as the plant can lie dormant for forty years with subsequent aerial spraying of infested areas. (6)

Under the terms of the Commonwealth's State Grants Rural Reconstruction Act 1971 the Western Lands Commission carried out a rural reconstruction scheme. This involved the provision of 'build-ups' where western properties were restored to the status of viable economic units.

(1) Western Lands Commissioner Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1935 in Parliamentary Papers 1935-36 Vol. 1 page 76.
(2) Western Lands Commissioner Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1937 in Parliamentary Papers 1937-38 Vol. 1 page 82.
(3) Western Lands Commissioner Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1945 in Parliamentary Papers 1945 Vol. 1 page 79.
(4) Western Lands Commissioner Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1950 in Parliamentary Papers 1950-51-52 Vol. 1 page 367.
(5) Western Lands Commissioner Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1970 in Parliamentary Papers 1969-70-71 Vol. 3 page 232.
(6) Department of Lands Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1988 page 52.

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