Date of Interview: 15 October 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Heidi Scott
Place of Interview: Bli Bli
Edward (Eddie) Owen De Vere was born at Murwillumbah, New South Wales on 7 August 1914. In ca 1920 his family moved to Nambour, where his father leased the Commercial Hotel. This proved unsuccessful and within two years the family purchased a dairy farm at Dulong. E.O. De Vere left school in 1928 and started a butcher's apprenticeship with a local farmer's co-operative butchery. He then went to work on properties in Mapleton and surrounding districts. In 1934 Eddie De Vere moved to Kenilworth to run a dairy property 'Camden Vale' in the Brooloo Kenilworth Gap. He purchased the property towards the end of WWII and on 15 June 1946 he married Phoebe Elizabeth Horsfall. In 1951 E.O. De Vere was elected to the Maroochy Shire Council and served as a Councillor for No. 1 Division from 1951 until he resigned in 1967. He relocated from Kenilworth to Bli Bli to take up cane farming and in 1967 he was elected Chairman of Maroochy Shire, a postion he held until 1982. Eddie De Vere was awarded an OBE on 31 December 1980 for his services to the community.
Images and documents about Eddie De Vere in Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Edward O. De Vere, ca 1980.
Begin Tape 1/Side A
Childhood memories of Nambour businesses
CF: Mr De Vere, you tell me you were born in Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales, in August 1914, where your father was dairy farming. Then your family moved to Nambour in 1919, and took over the Commercial Hotel. What do you remember of Nambour at that time?
DE VERE: Well I can remember Nambour as a town of just dirt roads, streets I should call them, dirt sheets. And I can remember the bullock teams hauling the timber through, because it was a very big timber-producing area and I can remember those, they were some of the highlights, to see a big team coming up through the sh·eets. And my memory is just walking along the little wooden buildings that constituted Currie Street, they were little shops up the street and down what is now is Lowe Street, that used to be a paddock where the butcher used to keep all his delivery horses, where he used to deliver the meat in horse and cart in those days.
CF: Do you remember any of the names of the businesses then?
DE VERE: Oh yes, I do. Being in the Hotel [Commercial Hotel] I can remember next door to the Hotel was Mr Harvey, the saddler, on the eastern side and on the southern side was the J.J. Wilkinson the first probably auctioneer that the district ever had, he was there , quite a white-haired gentlemen, I remember him quite well. And then of course you got the Collins. The two Collins boys are gone now, but I remember their father when he had the main store. Whalley's had a store. Lowe's had the butcher shop. So I can remember G.H. Thornton used to be the newest auctioneer, I can remember when he came with a great fun-fair, fanfare, into town and, ah there was Hill the saddler.
Being a boy in a hotel those days, the hotel had yardmen, they had panh-y maids, they had cooks, they had the other maids that looked after the room and it's not a good place to bring children up in, on the streets and talked to everybody, and that was what I seemed to get a lot of fun out of, because all the business people knew me.
CF: What brought your parents into the hotel work? Their background had all been dairy farming, hadn't it?
DE VERE: Yes, I think it was an experiment of my father's wish to go into business and he was dairy farming. Then he sold that and went into and bought a horse team, and used to do cartage of horse teams down on the Murwillumbah area, and from there of course he come up and went into the hotel.
CF: And how long did your family stay at the hotel?
DE VERE: Only about 18 months. My mother didn't like it because she then had a family of four, at that stage, and I think she readily realised that it wasn't a place to bring up children in because, those days it was not uncommon for teamsters and woodcutters to come into town, and they might stay there till they've drank a fair bit of their pay, and they were around the hotels quite a lot. They were quite wonderful people, most of them, very friendly, but they'd get us kids and give us sixpence, and you could go up the street and buy a big packet of boiled lollies that was not good for you. I can remember that happening many times.
CF: So for this reason, your family then moved up to Dulong?
DE VERE: To Dulong on a dairy farm, yes.
CF: And you'd started school, presumably in Nambour, so where did you go to school in Dulong?
Mapleton businesses and schooling
DE VERE: Well first of all I should tell you where I went to school in Nambour. Where the present, new Council Chambers are, and that carpark that was part of the school ground in Nambour and the school was there, and I went to school there. Where the businesses are now between Bury Street and the Royal George Hotel, well that was just bush. I used to walk through the bush there to school. And so then I went to Mapleton, you asked. I went to Mapleton, I started school in Mapleton in 1922. Mapleton, believe it or not, those days was quite a busy little school, I say a busy little school because it was all citrus orchards, Mapleton, and consequently there was close settlement because for many years Mapleton used to grow wonderful citrus because of that red volcanic soil. But later in the times, Gayndah became the prominent citrus area, and Mapleton slowly went out because they didn't have irrigation potential.
But the school in my day it had about 100 students going to it, then it degenerated, or lost its numbers because of the citrus orchards went out, and the saw milling, not declined to nothing, but it did have a lesser workforce. And then the Mapleton tram, that was its terminal and that's where all the drivers and the firemen lived and the guard and some of the maintenance men, so that made quite a few extra employees.
And the store at that stage was a branch of the Whalley's store in Nambour and it had a staff of about seven and there was a hotel that was very busy because it was a tourist area those days, believe it or not. And there was two very big guest houses there, and they were always fairly well booked out too.
CF: So it really was quite a booming town in the '20s?
DE VERE: Yes, well they had the Ocean View Hotel, and then they had one of the guest houses name was Elanora, well the school has since brought the property that they were on, it was adjoined to school, and then there was Strongarra, and they were quite busy guest houses.
CF: Mapleton was really a very popular tourist place?
DE VERE: Yes, it was a popular tourist place. Those days people went more to mountain resorts. I'd give a parallel, the Blue Mountains in New South Wales was a very prominent tourist area in those days too. Well you know that the Blue Mountains is still alright, but it doesn't carry the same load of visitors as the coastal resorts do. I think as they developed better suncreams, I think people started to go, and got more interesting swimsuits I think... (Laughs)
CF: The trend moved away.
DE VERE: When they got more interesting resorts along the coast, well people started to go to the coast. But in those days there was those three, plus two other guest houses at Montville.
CF: Was the tramway a big reason too for the population to increase?
DE VERE: Well it made it a very interesting trip for people. Believe it they had one passenger carriage, but it was not unusual for them to put rows of seats on the log trucks and you'd see them shooting along sitting in the sun, fully air-conditioned because they sat out there in the open and rode these trams to Mapleton.
CF: Was it dangerous?
DE VERE: Oh I never heard of anybody falling off or anything like that, or getting hurt. But they used to have passenger days then, they would run trams from Nambour up to Mapleton and the people would then take picnic lunches and walk out to the west end of Mapleton where they used to be known as the Falls, the Obi Obi Falls. That happened every so often, it was quite a big day.
CF: Did the trams actually go very fast? What was the speed?
DE VERE: Down hill they went fairly fast. (Laughs) But on the climbing of that range when you realize the tram when it left Nambour, it had to climb from what about, two or three hundred feet from sea level up to about thirteen hundred odd, Mapleton is above sea level. There was some down-hill in that so there was a lot of up-hill and consequently it... I wouldn't know, I didn't know speeds then, I don't know whether they had a speedometer on them.
CF: It would have been hard grind though?
DE VERE: Yes, it was very steep. As it climbed the Kureelpa Range and the Mapleton Range, it was quite easy to get off and run along side it.
CF: Oh right. Getting back then to your days at the Mapleton School, what are your particular memories of it, do you remember teachers in the school?
DE VERE: Oh yes, I can remember teachers quite well. Surprisingly we only ever had, if that, a hundred students. I don't know what the Unionist would do with them nowadays, but they had a hundred students and two teachers, those days and there was a Mr Watts and Miss Morris. The Morris family still owned property up there until very recently. And so, well, if you look at Mapleton now and look at that first old school room we occupied that, inside, verandahs and underneath, and on fine days you'd go out underneath a tree. And that's how the classes were split around. But what do I remember, those days of course they didn't have grades they had classes, and mainly they only took you to fifth class, and then you went to Scholarship.
CF: Do you remember any particular subjects that were your favourites?
DE VERE: Oh yes. I think they call them mathematics now, we used to call them sums in our days or arithmetic and so that was my forte. I did always love arithmetic, and so much that I remember on about two occasions the teacher gave me the job of giving the class mental arithmetic, if you know what I mean. And you've got to be fairly slick in the brain to give a class that and keep the answers in the head yourself. So I used to enjoy that. History was alright, but wasn't my forte.
CF: How about things like art and music, was there much emphasis on that?
DE VERE: No, we used to have singing lessons, and I can remember the teacher asking me to sing up, and then when I did sing up, he asked me if I would not sing. (Laughs) I can remember that. It's strange that some of the students, I couldn't understand, when he had the old tuning fork, I couldn't understand how children could distinguish between the different notes he gave out, but some could pick them up everytime.
CF: Yes, I know what you mean. Tell me what sort of games would you play at school? Do you remember any of those?
DE VERE: Well, we built one of the first tennis courts in my time there, at a school in the region. But mainly cricket and football and rounders, those were the main games, plus the old usual one of Iackie. Hide-and-seek, that was it's name in those days. So if you get somebody my age, they'll remember Iackie.
CF: Did the school do much in the way of inter-school activities, would you have had school sports?
DE VERE: No, no. It was great to see it come in over the recent years, no we only ever once went to Obi and played them in football, in all my time I was there. Cause modes of transport weren't readily available and not everybody had a horse, and it was too far to ride, and there was only - when I went to school there - there was still the cream was brought from the Obi three days a week by horse teams. And they used to get bogged in wet weather quite often out on the road. I can remember being bogged. So therefore it was not easy to shift the students around.CF: Did you ever used to go on school excursions of any kind?
DE VERE: No, there weren't...I think you must remember they were pretty difficult times financially, when I was going to school, and I don't think any of those things were promoted. One of the things that we did do, that I took a great interest in, and that was, we used to have fruit packing competitions with Mapleton being a citrus area, and we used to pack, in competition with various schools that entered the Nambour Show and the Brisbane Show. I won a medal once for packing, best wrapped and packed case or something. We used to pack one case plain and one case wrapped and send them to the Brisbane Show.
CF: What sort of discipline was used in the schools in those days?
DE VERE: Well I think it was pretty good. I think if it was kept up nowadays it wouldn't do much harm. I only ever got into the punishment book once, meself. But I don't know, maybe what's kept me out of the punishment book was I had to get up of a morning and milk cows before I went to school and then walk about two and a half to three mile to school, bout nearly three mile, and then I had to go home to milk. Well most of the kids used to get into trouble before and after school, so I can remember a whole lot of them lined up, and I was just lucky, I suppose I wasn't in the line and they all got four a piece over some very serious breach of discipline. I can remember that only too well and I felt terribly lonely. I felt like being left out of it when they were all called out and given it. But it was just my work pressure that kept me out of it.
CF: Overall what were your memories of school? Was it an enjoyable time?
DE VERE: Yes, I'd have to say I didn't appreciate my years at school. Learning wasn't a great difficulty as it happened to me and I have very fond memories of my schooling days. So much so, that whenever they have a Back to Mapleton, I wouldn't miss them, but they always get me regularly to be their guest speaker for the day, Back to Mapleton days, and it's great to see some of my old mates come back. But I haven't got many class mates coming back.
CF: What, they're losing interest?
DE VERE: No, passing on. When you get to my age the ranks get thinner.
CF: So how old were you then when you left school?
DE VERE: Fourteen and one month.
CF: That was very young to leave school.
DE VERE: Well you were allowed to leave school those times at fourteen, and the only reason I went the one month, was that I was sitting for Scholarship, I was in the Scholarship class. And my father had a very serious accident, smashed up with a horse, at about three o'clock one day, well I know the day, the 19th December 1928. And I know it so well because it was my next sister's birthday as it happened, and of course there was no hospital in Nambour those days and he had to go Brisbane for treatment and it seemed strange, you know, the roads were so bad, he was taken to Nambour, to the doctors, and the doctors put him on the train and sent him to Brisbane, to a hospital in Brisbane. And so being the eldest of seven, my job was to come home and, well carry on the property.
CF: It must have been quite a responsibility at fourteen?
DE VERE: I didn't think it was at the time I suppose. I just, you know, I used to do a lot of work on the farm so it was, you know, sh·ange as it may seem, I used to have the old two horses and the plough, and I used to be able to do those sorts of things.
CF: What sort of thing were you doing on say an average day when you'd taken over the farm then?
DE VERE: Oh, I suppose, I, like all fourteen year olds, I did what I was asked to do by my mother mainly, because she was there. she was a marvellous person. And whatever, if she wanted me to go and chop a whole lot of wood up, I'd chop wood up. Course always got the cows in and milked them. We had a little bit of sugar cane growing, little bit by today's standard of sugar, and I might have to get the horse and we used to call them scufflers in those days.
CF: What's a scuffler?
DE VERE: It's a scarafier that you put through your cane to loosen up the soil and remove some of the weeds. And so we used to use the horse, so that was my job.
CF: How long in effect were you the man of the family? How long was your father away for?
DE VERE: Oh he had about six months in hospital, and when he came home, he had another few months before he could do any of the horse work, like I'm talking about the ploughing or any of that sort of thing. As soon as he was able to do that, then because of the limited funds at home I went out and got a job.
CF: Was it ever possible that you might have gone back to school and carried on with your Scholarship?
DE VERE: I think one of the things to me credit, is worth mentioning, the teacher of the day, by this time our Principal was a Mr Franklin, and he rode a horse out to our property, it was as I told you about three mile away from school, and asked my mother to let me come back to school again. But you gotta realise the diff icult financial situation of the time. I was the eldest of the family and things were very lean. I went out to work and from then I worked around, and I worked for about four years and I never even kept a pay packet myself. My mother used to give me a little bit of spending money out of it, till I was nineteen. So it was very diff icult. You must remember it was all the very toughest depression times.
CF: Yes, of course it was the start of the Depression.
DE VERE: Yeah, '28 was the start of the Depression. I'm talking about up till it was '33, and then she banked my first, she gave me a little Commonwealth Savings Book with eight pound in it, and I thought I was the wealthiest bloke in the country. I thought I was loaded.
CF: Did you ever regret having to leave school early like that? Is it something you've ever thought about?
DE VERE: Through those years - they were survival years - it never crossed my mind. But it did cross my mind in later years, very much later years when I started to get some business interest meself, and so I took a course by correspondence in accountancy, because that was my forte, as I told you earlier. And that stood me in good stead. I kept it going until it got too tough, and by that time I learnt to put together balance sheets and look at them and understand them. It was the basic things that I wanted to know.
CF: So when you went out to work then, when you lef t the farm, what sort of jobs did you get for the next couple of years?
DE VERE: Well I took whatever job was offering. I took cane cutting, cane chipping, there was chopping scrub, and these were some of what we call clearing land, you know, those days you chopped the scrub and then you burnt it and then what we call lumping up, we went and put all the chopped pieces that didn't burn into smaller pieces and stacked them. And that's how we used to clear the land. And then the butcher's ...
CF: When you mentioned that you were cane cutting, was that up at Mapleton that you were cane cutting?
DE VERE: Yes, yes and Kureelpa.
CF: There was cane growing at Kureelpa?
DE VERE: There was cane all over Kureelpa, yes those days, there was cane in the Kureelpa area. And that's where the best cane growing was happening then because they improved the variety and then they got to appreciate... they improved the variety for frost resistance and then they got to appreciate getting on to the flatter country was a desirable move. Not so much for mechanical harvesting because that wasn't even thought of those days, but erosion, washing of the soil in the heavy rain.
CF: On the hillsides?
DE VERE: Yes. So yes, you wouldn't credit it, the right hand side of climbing the Mapleton Range, just when you go up the Range, that was cane, right round all those slopes. The cane cutters used to cut the cane, the horse teams used to bring the slides, they used to slide the cane down the hill, loaded on the trucks. But they used to bring the slides up and the cutters would load the cane on these slides, or sleds, people call them slides nowadays. And then the cutters would take them down because those days the cane wasn't burnt, and all the trash and tops were left on the ground. Therefore it was impossible to take it down with horses in front of it because it would race up onto the horses, cause the ground would be so slippery. So the cutters used to take the slides down till they got down to the flatter bottom country and then put the horses on again to take it along till it was loaded on to the trams.
CF: Why didn't they burn it in those days. Hadn't they thought of it?
DE VERE: No, burning only came into cane cutting later than this. I can't tell you the exact years, but it came about because of rats in the cane, which spread 'Wheels' disease amongst the cutters, and the cutters went on strike in a big way. The mills would sooner have green cane, or what we call unburnt cane, so the mills after a lot of arguments and probably strikes, I don't remember them in detail because I wasn't in the sugar then, they agreed to it, but they stuck a levy on burnt cane, because burnt cane, you could cut nearly twice as much cane when it was burnt because you didn't have to remove the trash from it. You just had to cut it, lay it over, and then take the tops off it. A lot of them got very smart in that they cut it off and load it over, it was laid up the field, and then they used to have a circular saw driven by a little motor, and they used to drive these saws, push it along of course, over the tops of all this cane and it topped it mechanically.
CF: So it really was the very early start of mechanical harvesting?
DE VERE: Yes.
CF: Was it very hard work?
DE VERE: Oh yes, yes. You'd go into the cane season with a nice lot of condition around the middle and look nice and fresh in the face, and you'd come out like whipcord. You know, the time the season ended because, you not only had to cut it, but you had to load it by hand. All those were tremendous, physical strain on the body it was, and consequently, people had worked from just on the crack of dawn, until late in the evening to get their quota out because you were paid so much a tonne.
CF: You mean you'd cut right through the heat of the day?
DE VERE: Oh yes, you'd cut all day. You'd cut all day, and then you'd have to load it after that. But you'd take all this trash off.
Work as butcher's apprentice
CF: You were saying that you got a job as an apprentice with the butcher shop.
DE VERE: With the butcher shop, yes. I went butchering then, and that again was a bit of an unusual experience. I used to have to help with the slaughter. Help with what we call the break down of the beef. You'd bring it into the shops and break it down into the rumps, the ribs and the sirloins and the silversides and all those parts. And then you had to do the brining, that was put the corn beef away, pump it and put it, and then you had to make the sausages with all the scraps. That was a hard job making them sausages. Turning that mincing machine by hand, no electric motors those days. So anyway, and then I used to have to deliver four days a week. I'd drive the butcher's cart then from Mapleton to Montville on a Monday and a Friday. Then a Tuesday and a Saturday I drove it to Dulong.
CF: That was a horse and cart arrangement?
DE VERE : Horse and cart, yeah.
CF: How did the meat used to keep in those days?
DE VERE: Well, summertime, we used to start in the killing of about four or five o'clock in the morning, and right in the heat of summer. Because we had to get that meat into the shop and broke down. It was terrible you know, when you look back on today's standards. Meat was hot, you know, and we had to break it down and cut the orders of the steak, and that was so easy to cut up cold meat. We never had cold rooms, and the best we had was fly-proof shops, that was all we had. That's the best we could hope for. And so then we'd deliver it round, that was probably the Monday morning in the middle of summer. We'd kill enough on Monday morning to do the Flaxton, Montville run, and also the Dulong-Kureelpa run on the next day. So it was enough to keep us going for two days. So that was what happened. Then the same happened on Friday. But winter time of course, we'd kill the day before, and left it hanging in the slaughter house, and it was lovely to break down.
CF: In the cool weather?
DE VERE: Yeah.
CF: What sort of meat were you mainly slaughtering? Was it beef or lamb?
DE VERE: Beef, lamb and pork. Yeah, beef, lamb and pork.
CF: And where did you get the supplies from?
DE VERE: Oh, the beef we used to buy it from - that was another job, you used to be very versatile - we used to buy out in the Conondale area for Mapleton in those days. And we'd drive the bullocks, no road-trains those days, you'd drive the bullocks from Conondale down through Kenilworth up through the Obi and put them in the paddocks up there. And the pork of course was always supplied locally by local farmers. And sometimes veal, not very much veal in those days, but the lamb, well of course we'd buy a truck load of sheep and the sheep used to come by tram. Up to Mapleton.
CF: They'd be brought from out west or somewhere?
DE VERE: They'd be brought from somewhere, and come in by rail and then loaded into the tram and then up by tram. Well then you drove them out. We used to have to muster them every night and put them away because the dingoes would get there share.
CF: Oh you actually had dingoes?
DE VERE: Oh yes. Stacks of them. Stacks of them.
CF: And they were a real problem.
DE VERE: Oh yes. Real problem. We used to have to muster the sheep every night. And lock them up in a dingo-proof yard. So that's my experience of the butcher and then of course we had a lot of pigs ourselves too. We only used to keep brood-sows in those days for breeding young ones. we never ever killed pork in those day that was reared on slaughter yard offal.
CF: Oh, why was that?
DE VERE: Oh, just a feeling that the Manager had I think at the time. So we always got grain-feed pigs, you know, for killing.
CF: In that time, in the Depression, was meat very expensive? Was it something that people could afford?
DE VERE: Well, strange as it may seem, what shrunk my job out of existence was a firm from Brisbane started wholesaling meat in a big way. They used to send sugarbag-fulls of it up to various customers from Brisbane on the train and then it was loaded onto the tram. And the firm was named Anderson and Cameron, and they just about put us out of business with their very cheap... and other butchers too.
CF: So the meat would keep, coming up from Brisbane?
DE VERE: Yes it would keep, because they would do the orders up and have them in freezers down there, or in ice, on ice. I don't know if there was so much as freezers those days, but there was ice works. And they would have that whole lot frozen. They loaded them up from these great ice rooms in Brisbane. Loaded them in a heap in the railway trucks. Well that volume of meat stacked together that had been on ice all the time, it would enable it to keep frozen. Well then when they got them onto the h·am they done the same again, the Mapleton tram to deliver round the Ranges. So when you got the meat it was quite cold you know, still from Brisbane because if one single bag was kept by itself, it wouldn't have been so cold. So they supplied the meat at a price believe it or not, at about tuppence, two pence it was a pound
for corn brisket in those days.
CF: And what would it have been?
DE VERE: Been about four pence per pound. And that was for brisket, and then they used send up - our price was for fillet steak. I can remember it was quite expensive. It was the equivalent today of about ten cents a pound, that was fillet steak, it was the dearest cut we had and rump steak was another penny, those days cheaper. Rump steak was. And then you got down to the sirloin steaks and then back to the rib steaks and so on. Anyhow those were the days in butchering.
CF: Relative to what people would had been earning at that time - I mean obviously it sounds very cheap by our standards - was meat actually cheap, compared to what people would have been earning?
DE VERE: I think food stuff those days was reasonably cheap. See the basic wage those time was about, round about four pound a week. That was the basic wage. The average basic week. But a lot of people have worked for less than that, there was no... you were just glad to have a job because you must remember there was no other subsistance, there was no doles, or anything like that about.
DE VERE: Oh no. No help whatsoever. If you didn't get a job, and get enough to feed yourself with, well then you weren't fed. So there was no dole at all.
Effects of the Great Depression
CF: What happened to people in situations like that, I mean did people starve?
DE VERE: No, I think that, could I say in the Depression I was working on farms and then I went into the butchering and then I went back onto farms. And it was not uncommon to find people coming to the farms where I was working, and offer their services for five shillings - which is equivalent today to fifty cents - a week, and keep, as long as they were fed. But seven and six and ten shillings was quite a common pay a week in those times. I was one of the fortunate ones. I was never out of work one day in the Depression years, and I didn't have to work under a pound a week and keep.
CF: Did if affect the country areas all that much? I mean you hear pretty awful stories about what it was like in the towns.
DE VERE: See, I'll tell you the only other subsistance that people got was what they call relief work, you had to go out and do a certain amount of work, for the councils. You were allocated where you'd have to go and do work, relief work and you've got a certain amount of pay. It was a pretty low pay but that was the equivalent to the dole, but you had to do work, you gotta turn up for work.
CF: Were there any families around Mapleton that were very hard hit, during the Depression?
DE VERE: No, Mapleton had the dignity of being fairly - I'm not going to say wealthy, because nobody was wealthy in those days - but a town that had a lot of dignity because most people worked hard, number one, in those days. But secondly, they were fairly astute as far as their businesses was concerned. And generally Mapleton was not a town that had a lot of relief workers in those days. And of course there was a lot of timber work, which was hard work and people were prepared to do that hard work, if they got it. Keeping the tram-line fixed from Mapleton to Nambour. Plus all the drivers and so on and these sorts of things. And as I said the store had to start at seven. And then there was the two guest houses and the hotel. And there was a blacksmith's shop, which was very busy, keeping all the bullock wagons fixed and the horses shod, he had a staff of about three. And there was a bake-house up there which supplied all the region with the bread. Those were some of the things. But people did things to try and get a living. I was only at a function at Mapleton the other day where a person reminded me, did I remember one dear old lady, she lived in a house in Mapleton, and it had these ordinary windows in the front of her house, and she used to have licorice for sale and different sweets up there, we kids used to ogle at them. But anything at all to h·y and make a few shillings and then she run a few house cows, and those house cows used to run the roads, and she'd milk those and cart milk round the street.
CF: So I suppose a lot of people in that area, to some extent, would have been aiming at self sufficiency where they would have their vegie gardens.
DE VERE: Oh yes, their own gardens and fruit. Yeah that's true.
CF: How did you stay in the Dulong-Mapleton area then?
Move to farming in Kenilworth
DE VERE: Well I leased my first farm, that was the farm, the herd and all when I was nineteen, and I run that farm for, I leased it for a year, while the man was very sick. So Ilef t that after. Then I went, the next season I went cane cutting. And then as soon as that season had finished, I went to Kenilworth, to take over a property that a chap had bought, and I stayed working on the property for, well as it happens for the next thirty-three years.
CF: That would have been what, about 1934?
DE VERE: 1934. Yes.
CF: What attracted you to Kenilworth?
DE VERE: Well I think just it built me ego enough to go out and take over this property, I felt a big shot, you know, as a young fellow. And asked to look after it until he could come out.
CF: How did you get onto it?
DE VERE: Oh well I knew he was buying it. As a matter of fact he took me round the district looking at properties with him to see what property he would buy. So I knew where I was going. So I rode out through the Obi when there was no road down through the Obi in those days. So that's 1934. So I stayed there and eventually I took that property on half shares with him till about 1939.
CF: This was dairy cattle?
DE VERE: Dairy and a bit of beef and so on, yeah. Then I eventually bought it in 1942, and then I bought the two adjoining properties in later years. So I ended up I had about 800 acres out there.
CF: Presumably it was a very prosperous area?
DE VERE: Well it was alright, it was hard work.
CF: How many cows were you running?
DE VERE: Oh, about, I got up to about 200 hundred.
Prisoners of war working on farm
CF: Presumably you would have had workers?
DE VERE: Oh well those times I only had two workers, two helpers. But then later I went in and I had about -I planted bananas in 1943 - I had up to eight to ten working for me then at times when things were really busy. So that's how I really got started in life, because I didn't realise it until after the war was over. I was one of the fortunate ones because I had properties, and nobody to look after them, that they didn't call me up, but they took all me staff off me during the war years.
CF: How did you cope?
DE VERE: Well they ended up allocating me five Italian prisoners of war So we lived together and it was a very good relationship I had too with them all. I appointed one of them chef, and he used to go out in the paddocks and work with us too, but then his job was to order the meals and have them ready. So we got along very well.
CF: What was it like, I mean did you have provide security?
DE VERE: No, no. We all slept in the one house and so on. Itwas quite okay, we had a good relationship. They acknowledged they were prisoners of war, and as a matter of fact the captain of the group that used to come out, he said, "You know you've got the happiest lot of prisoners there is in the whole country". Well I said it must be hard work just keeping them happy because they gotta work every day.
CF: Well that was obviously very lucky then.
DE VERE: Yes.
CF: During war-time, was there very big demand for dairy produce and so on?
DE VERE: Yes. Yes, because they were short. At one stage in the War I went to a Captain Horsley and said "Well look the war's getting so serious, I think I should volunteer." Well he said "I'm gonna be one who's going to be talking hard to keep you out of it, because at present we're terrifically short of food from the producers." I might say I wasn't very enthusiastic, because by this time I'd acquired interest in this property. And I didn't know what I was going to do. But by this time I had two brothers away, and my wife-to-be had three brothers away and I was feeling the odd one out.
CF: You stayed on with the property then?
DE VERE: I stayed on with the property with the help of the prisoners, yes.
CF: Where was your produce going to?
DE VERE: Eumundi. We used to send cream to Eumundi. They were all on cream producing then, and of course, and the cattle well they were trucked to the meat works in Brisbane.
Kenilworth township, social life and sport
CF: Right. And when you first came to Kenilworth, what was Kenilworth like then? Was it a very big town?
DE VERE: No it wasn't a very big town. If somebody came into town who was a stranger, well everybody would be out looking at him to see well who's he, and where's he come from, and what's he there for. You know, because we knew everybody so well. See Kenilworth basically came from about five very old families, they came there in the 1890s, and I can always remember a chap saying to me there, quite some years after I was there, he said, "Look with a name De Vere, are you related to anybody here". Because everybody else was Uncle Tom, or Aunty somebody, or the relationship they'd married around. Oh they were wonderful people, we were lucky to get type of calibre of the people who were there, they were honest, good hard working families, all of them. And I said, "No". He was a chap who'd just moved into the area for a couple of years, I said, "No, I'm not related to anybody". Well he said, "Thank goodness. I've been dying to talk about some of these people and I haven' t had a chance".
CF: So I can imagine putting your foot in it there.
DE VERE: So, anyway I had no relations out there at all.
CF: What sort of businesses were there in town?
DE VERE: Oh well there was the little grocer shop, the grocer shop used to be drapery, and then there was a little newsagency, and a post office, and that's all. But it was quite fairly close knit family, you know, if you wanted to start anything, you got the whole district support, didn't matter what we wanted to start out there, as later years I got deeply involved with it. And it was tremendous co-operation and help from the district. They were very proud of their district.
CF: In an obviously very close knit little area like that, what was it like for social life and so on, were there a lot get togethers?
DE VERE: No, there wasn't a lot of get-togethers. Cause they used to have the pictures, they'd run pictures in the hall every Saturday night, and that was quite a night for us young fellows to go along to in the old canvas seats. Anyway, but we had some very pleasant memories of those, but there'd be about three or
four decent balls every year. They used to have a Bachelors' Ball in those days.
CF: What was the idea of that?
DE VERE: Oh, I don't know, as the district grew up a bit the chaps that were working in the mill and the factory and roundabout and a few of them, they used to put on a Bachelors' Ball, invite three parts of the district. They'd levy themselves X numbers of pounds those days, and put this on. And it used to be one of the big social occasions. Then there was, if I could name the balls that there used to be, there used to be the St. Patricks Ball, there used to be the Church of England Ball, and the C.W.A. Ball and in later years the Rodeo Ball and I think that sort of wound them up. But they were quite social occasions. The girls used to look - I don't know whether I'm looking back through rose tinted glasses - but they looked very beautiful the way they used to come out.
CF: Was it long frocks?
DE VERE: Very, oh yes, oh yes, long frocks. Men, no one would come out unless dressed in a suit, and a lot of them come out in the you know, black, they wouldn't have a dinner suit, but they'd put a black tie on. You'd be laughed out of the place if you tried it now.
CF: Would everyone go to all the balls?
DE VERE: Just about everyone that was able to go would turn up at those balls. The district as a whole would almost be there. And they were quite substantial functions. One of the funniest instances at one of the balls - I'll remember this one - is that it was raining like billyo this night, and this was one of the those balls that I was telling you about, and we had a chap come along in a little baby Austin. You don't remember them you're not old enough, but they were Austin seven, only a little car, they were the littlest car on the road those days. And another chap came there in his great cream, mail truck, he had the mail contract as well as the cream and he had all the blinds down cause he was the passenger one from Eumundi, used to run Kenilworth - Eumundi. Course being raining he had all his blinds down round it all around, and so these lads got the idea at a ball one night. They were normal lads in those days, and they picked up the Austin and they put it in the back of his truck. And of course he went home with his truck, and that's Mr Jack Hassell, one of the old Hassell families out there, and he took the baby Austin home. (Laughs)
CF: Would have been a bit of a shock to both of them.
DE VERE: Yes, it was quite a shock, but a very sheepish lot of fellows owned up where it had gone when the ball was over.
CF: Was there much else in the way of entertainment?
DE VERE: Oh yes, they were good cricket enthusiasts, tennis, and hockey, they had the best hockey team in Queensland.
CF: Hockey, I wouldn't have thought that a big sport.
DE VERE: They had a hockey team out there, Pickering family, that was one of the old families. They lef t one of their sisters out of the Queensland team one time, to play hockey, there was about four of them that played hockey. And they lef t one of them out, when they picked the Queensland team, so the other girls jacked up and they said, "We Pickerings will play the team that you've picked, the rest of whatever you like in Queensland." And they played a draw and then they had to have ten minutes exh·a each way to decide, and they reckoned the ref had to give it to the other team to justify why he left one out. That was the story. But that is true what I've told you about, they played the rest of the team.
CF: So sport was a very big thing?
DE VERE: Oh yes. They had a very good cricket team. Some of their cricketers got into what we call 'Country Week'. And they had a football only came in about 1936, I think but they never played any football much then, but they did play cricket, hockey, tennis of course, there was quite a few tennis courts around then, and they had an association out there.
CF: And were you yourself very involved?
DE VERE: I played tennis, and then I played nine seasons of football, Rugby League. So I was quite involved in that way. But I only played cricket whenever they were short, you know I wasn' t a cricket fan. I just didn't get the opportunity in my young life to take part in cricket.
CF: Because there was what, a lot of work to be done?
DE VERE: Yeah. But Idid play a lot of tennis.
Meeting future wife to
CF: And did you meet your wife in Kenilworth? Was Jo a local girl?
DE VERE: She was almost local. She came from Bundaberg, and lived in the what is known as Brooloo. That's the next, from Kenilworth, that's the next town towards Gympie.
CF: Is that where the state forest is?
DE VERE: Yes, it's in that area. But anyhow Brooloo is where she came from. Yes, that's where I met her. I met her one day on the road when she was quite a young girl, of about thirteen, and I didn't see her again until she was about sixteen, and I thought, gee she's grown up pretty good. (Laughs) I'll keep and eye on her. So then we got married about nine years after that.
CF: And had you actually got involved in Council work by that time, or was this before it?
DE VERE: This was before it. Yeah.
Establishment cheese factory in Kenilworth
CF: Tell me then, what actually got you involved. How did you become the councillor for the area, was it something you'd become interested in?
DE VERE: Well probably this I'd say, that I, by this time, - when I look back and reflect I didn't realise at the time - but I was showing up as a fairly successful farmer, I didn't realise it, but somebody said to me, an old man and he said to me only yesterday as a matter of fact right here, old Harding Smith family, but they said, "You were a real farmer". So it was showing up, and I was successful, me productions was going up, me banana plantation was great and all the rest of it.
So there was a move afoot to establish a proprietary cheese factory in Queensland. And Queensland those days was very dominated by co-operatives, everything had to be co-operative, if you thought anything different but co-operative, well it was worse than apart, those days, you know you were really on the outer. So they invited me to come and chair this meeting. Well at this meeting the farmers were invited to come along and listen to the proposal to establish a proprietary factory. Well I was at that stage just reasonably neutral, but the longer the meeting went, the more I realised well we were sending our product to Maleny, that had a factory and employed everybody. We were at the access of it all if you know what I mean, and we were sending our products to Eumundi where they were a little thriving community. We were sending - some of the farmers were supplying Gympie, with our products. And so here at Kenilworth, well you could shoot a cannon up the street after nine o'clock of a morning after all the cream trucks went out, and the potatoes and the other things went off to the railheads, and you wouldn't hit a soul until probably four o'clock that
So I started to realise that, well we could have our own factory and generate employment for local people. So I supported the move as the meeting rolled along. But to me surprise when I asked for a vote, would the people support the factory, I didn't realise it that a very strong contingent of the co-operative of Queensland Q.D.O. had arranged a walk-out.
CF: That's the Queensland Dairymen's Organisation?
DE VERE: Yeah. And some of the very senior people in that led a walk out of the meeting, and I was left with about a quarter of the meeting left. To listen to me talk.
CF: What was their objection?
DE VERE: Well, this was a break in the solidarity. You know, of the industry. Of allowing a proprietary factory to come in amongst us. So enough stayed for me to ask would those in favour that we look at this further come and sign a petition to the Government to grant a licence for these people to have a factory in Kenilworth. So naturally it progressed along and the Government set up a commission, and it sat in Kenilworth for one whole day. And so myself and two others had to give evidence for a factory and all the co-operative factories had their people appointed to give evidence, and that's the ones I've named and the Q.D.O. Anyhow we won the day and the Government ultimately granted that a licence be granted to Kenilworth, something to that effect. So of course, none of my makings of it. It was a win for the pro-factory people.
CF: Which company was it?
DE VERE: Kraft Foods. And it all turned out as I was hoping it would, which generated about twenty-five jobs, that weren't there before. So up sprung a restaurant in the area we didn't have, and up sprung a clothing shop, which we didn't have, or a drapery as you call them in those days. And up sprung the plumber shop, if anybody wanted to get anything, windmill or anything fixed they had to go to Nambour for it. Up sprung an electrician shop. And we got a full time bank branch out there.
CF: This was all within what?
DE VERE: All within a couple of years. But everybody knew they were coming in a very short time. See, so that's how it came about. The next thing I was approached, would I stand for the Council.
CF: And it actually had stemmed from...
DE VERE: Well looking back I can only see why it would have happened. Because all I'd done was milk cows, looked after my fences and paddocks and grew bananas, I didn't have any interest in public life at all.
CF: Actually I'd heard that there had previously been an attempt to have a cheese factory in the area, what was the story about that?
DE VERE: That was in war-time. They built it and all. It was built by the Government. A cheese factory in Kenilworth, and it was built to try and get protein food to our soldiers overseas. They couldn't send butter, they couldn't send milk, without you know, proper and great refrigeration, but they could get cheese there in limited quantities by looking after it fairly well. So the farmers all got together and opposed it. And they opposed it very strongly, so strongly that I think the war come to an end while the argument was still on.
CF: So it all died a death.
DE VERE: It all died a death. And so when this Kraf t won the licence to start a factory, there was moves afoot by somebody, why didn't they take over this cheese factory. Well then there was the protest by all the strong opposition to stop them having that factory. And so the co-operative had a fair input into that first factory, so they stopped them from having it, so they built their own factory.
CF: Was the original building ever used for anything?
DE VERE: Never. It's a bit of a shed. I don't know if there's any much of it left now, it's down towards the river.
CF: Right. The Co-operative had decided that that was definitely not going to be used.
DE VERE: That's right. Well they just threw everything in there. There's a quotation which originated with me from a chap that I had heard it once, I think, but for a chap that just worked and wanted to please everybody and do my own thing, I didn't think I had an enemy in the world. And the time I got that cheese factory started, well I could have entertained all me friends in a telephone box. (Laughs)
CF: So there really was strong feelings?
DE VERE: Oh yes, there was strong feelings. Some of the old farmers never got over it.
DE VERE: Yeah. But anyway, so then the next of course I...
CF: So obviously a lot of the town supported you?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it did when they could see the benefits starting to flow, and so from there of course, well...
Entry into Maroochy Shire Council
CF: This was when people then started approaching you to become the councillor?
DE VERE: Yeah they approached me then to become a councillor. In 1951. And nothing had been further from my mind to be a councillor. And then the local councillor came to me, Councillor Arthur Tanner, then, he was Deputy Chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council. And he approached me to be the councillor. Because he said that he wasn' t gonna stand for the next term, and I still didn't do anything about it, so then he come out and saw me, to my property, and said, "Well look, I'm gonna make it this attractive for you, if you'll say you'll go for the council, I'll resign, and I'll tell the rest of the councillors over there they've gotta put you in, in my place". Because the council has to nominate the person who's gonna replace a councillor. I didn't know that until after I was a councillor. I wondered why he had to tell them that, I thought once he told me to go in and take his place, I thought that would have been good enough. But anyway so, as it happened, we called a public meeting in Kenilworth, and I was endorsed in that public meeting to go forth as his nominee. So that's how I became a... and I promised, look I'll do three years for you, and if it interferes with me life too much, that's it. And of course I was there almost thirty-two years.
CF: What was your initial impact, obviously you went into it perhaps not totally committed, you probably didn't know what you were getting into?
DE VERE: Well I went into it and I was very interested to see what, what they really did in a council.
End Tape 1
Begin Tape 2/Side A
Kenilworth roads, water supply and sewerage
DE VERE: I didn't even used to read the papers what they done in the council. So after I'd been there a little while I started to realise what you could do by concentrated effort, and getting people to support you. And those days of course, all Kenilworth wanted was a road in and out of the place because there were dirt roads everywhere they went. You know, whether you wanted to go to Eumundi, or to Maleny or to Obi or wherever they wanted to go, it was just dirt roads, it was all dirt roads. And consequently when the wet come, all the crossings in the Obi and the Cooloolabin and the Walli Creeks, well they just might get their produce out and they might not for a few days, because the creeks flooded, and there was no way of getting their produce across.
CF: So your first task then was getting the road.
DE VERE: Well the first task I was to see was to get some of the roads on a priority basis, you know, so that the council get a resolution through and get the support of the council, the next main road job come out, would be a piece of road from Eumundi, you know just a section of it. And then you'd keep picking the worst sections, and then that was Main Roads in those days, all Main Roads Department, still is. And so that was that from that budget fund, I started to learn where all the budget monies come from and then from your own budget, then I asked for causeways to be built in these creeks so that farmers... well the water would go over in an even level and you could drive through them, you know, when the floods were on. Surprisingly what happens when you go through into a creek and it's just all a rocky base, and when a flood's going, well the deepest part is right in the centre. But what you do with a causeway, instead of having the water, say a ten or fifteen foot spread, you give it a forty foot spread, and consequently it gets down to about six inches deep, so you can drive through it, over the top of the causeways. So we built causeways, quite a number of them. They were the first moves, they was hailed, he's really doing something, you know, so I was pretty happy, we were starting to get bits by bits of the... there was no Bruce Highway then, the Bruce Highway, as was used as a Bruce Highway, came from Eumundi, out to Belli and up through the Mary Valley, that was the highway, and the highway now, of course as you know, goes from Eumundi up to Cooroy, and so on. So it wasn't hard to get the first piece from Eumundi out to Belli, they came along fairly quickly. I can remember the first election, that I had to face after that time, which kept me going, I only had four people vote against me.
CF: That must have been rather satisfying.
DE VERE: It gave me a tremendous kick. I can remember they announced it in the - elections used to be on Saturday and they come and announced it in the pictures, that night at interval.
CF: Oh you must have been very pleased.
DE VERE: So naturally I was quite keen to go on.
CF: So what was your next challenge after the roads?
DE VERE: Oh the roads, they remained a big challenge for a lot of years. Cause there was a lot of road to be done, and then of course the general town only had dirt sh·eets in it. We had all of the streets of the town sealed, very quickly and then of course we decided to put a water supply into the town. And that seemed to catch the imagination of a lot of people. Strange as it may seem, the only opponents I had was the ones that I had from the cheese factory days.
CF: Did this become a traditional opposition?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it was the traditional opposition, it was the opposition. Anyway we proceeded with that and as it happened we got a fairly economical water supply for the people of Kenilworth.
CF: Where did the Kenilworth water supply come from?
DE VERE: It's from bores, put down near the Mary River, where the old river bed used to be probably, half a century ago, and the water was still seeping through the gravel. So we just put bores down into that gravel, and was able to pump enough water to keep the town going. And of course the factory used the water, and
it was good for everybody.
CF: Was that an expensive proposition?
DE VERE: No it wasn't. Strange as it may seem, we raised some of the money to do that, on those days of an interest rate loan of three and three quarter percent. We raised the final bit it went up, it rocketed up to four percent. We paid four percent on the loan. And people might not realise, when you raise a loan for a local government project, that interest stays through, whether it's a twenty or a thirty year loan, it doesn't vary. It doesn't go up like your housing loans, lif ts up whenever the banks decide to shift the interest rate up. It stays at that same rate until that loan is paid out. So we were pretty lucky there.
CF: Did it mean much of an increase in rates across the town, I mean how did the system work for allocating rates?
DE VERE: Oh, well you just struck a rate for them, and then the initial stages of course, we took a little bit out of the general rate until everybody got connected up and then they produced enough rates to pay for the water rates themselves, out of their town, I think - I'm not too certain - I think they got the water at those stages for about twelve pound per annum. And everybody thought a pound a month, to have all the water they wanted was a pretty wonderful asset, because when the drys come and they had to cart water a long distance, drinking water you know, it was very expensive.
CF: And the bores always ran, you never had any trouble with the bores running out?
DE VERE: No, only had to put down extra bores later. You know as the town grew, the demand grew.
CF: How did the system work in those days. You got roads for the town, you got water for the town. Was it essentially that Division that would have to pay for all this?
DE VERE: Oh yes, that Division paid for everything. It was... oh no you didn't expect any outside help at all, for those projects. It went along very well, well I think one of the interesting side lights in that one, after we had the water for a couple of years, everybody had their own vegetable garden. You know, because they could get plenty of water for their vegetables and there was some beautiful - there's good soil in Kenilworth - and they could grow some lovely vegetables there. And of course everybody had their house cow, and they used to leave their house cows feed off the roads, because there was good pasture on the roads. Well of course kids would come out and leave the front gate open, and in would come the cow and eat the cabbages or the peas or the beans or whatever was growing. And a real ding-dong fight developed in the town after about... they were at me for ages to pound the cows, well when your in public life, you like doing popular things but you don't like doing unpopular things. So, and nobody's changed to this day. (Laughs)
CF: That's what it's all about isn't it, yes.
DE VERE: So they called a public meeting and put me on the mat about it all, and everybody in the town seemed to have turned up at that meeting. And of course they said that it was time that the people - the anti-cow people - said it was time we had a good reliable supply of milk and also get a supply of milk for the school kids, you know school milk, it was just being talked about in Queensland those days. So the meeting settled down to a fairly harmonious meeting and I'm watching it very carefully and I could see well, the winning trump will be on this, say yes I'll pound the cows. So I gave them so long that I would get rid of their cows, and then we'd send the herdsman out to pick up their cows. Ninety-five of them accepted it. But then the meeting finished so quickly, they got onto the next argument was, with so much water, everybody having half a bath for water and having the sink full for washing-up, different when they had a tank, they had to be careful about it. They left their sullage water run, and it'd run into the next door neighbour's yard. And they were in a real old ding-dong, and developed into, "You let your damn water into my yard, you ought to see the mess, and I can smell it", and so on. So then they asked me straight out, "What's the answer to that", and I said "Well, the only thing I could think of was sewerage".
So out of that meeting came a resolution, that I investigate the cost of sewerage and report back to another meeting. And the story's all in history now of course, but I did investigate it, I came back to a meeting, the only objections I got was my opposition from the cheese factory days. Some of them had retired and lived in town by then, and we went ahead, and we had sewerage and we were one of the first towns, which had its own water supply and sewerage. We had it before Gympie, Redlands, Redcliffe, course naturally Nambour and all these places here, and they had their own water and sewerage. But it wasn't me so much, it was the people.
CF: They were pushing.
DE VERE: Well they wanted this problem cleaned up of their sullage water going. So that's how it come about.
CF: Right, so you were then able to initiate it, carry it through.
DE VERE: Yep, yep.
CF: But obviously this did seem to be only happening in the Kenilworth area. Why is it the rest of the Shire didn't seem to be keeping pace?
DE VERE: I think that everybody was frightened of the cost. I can remember councillors saying when I applied, you have to come back to the Council then to apply for a loan to go on to get the money to start all these projects. I can remember they said, "Well look we'll back you on a loan, but it's your head that's gonna be chopped off, because people can't take this". Nambour should have been sewered years before. Years and years.
CF: One would have thought so with the population they had.
DE VERE: Oh yes, and the problems they had, all the pollution going into the creeks and so on. But anyway as it happened, I didn't think it any big deal at the time, again as I said by the time we put the diggers through everybody's back yard, and dug out their favourite cherry trees, and their rose plants, and mucked up their concrete paths, I didn't have a lot of friends lef t there either. But what I learnt out of that, why I never hesitated when I became Chairman later, of sewering all the places, within six months of that being sewered, say if you went to those people and say what would you do away with, your footpaths or your streets or something else, or your sewerage, and everybody said you can take everything but the sewerage. They just appreciated it so much. Af ter all the years of using the old thunder box down the back yards, going out on stormy nights with a torch, I don't know what you did when you didn't have a torch, but anyhow.
CF: So they appreciated the convenience.
DE VERE: They did, the convenience inside.
CF: So Kenilworth by then, had water supplies, sewerage. What would your next priority have been then?
DE VERE: Well by that time our schools was a major problem in developing, because our children used to end at a grade and only a few went to Scholarship because they couldn't afford to be sending their children away, or they thought they couldn't because they had to board them away to send them on to any secondary schooling whatsoever. Was a move to h-y and get some sort of secondary education in the place. And so I travelled the district pretty extensively and I knew all the people intimately by this time, because after all I'd been on the Council a few years. And we decided to apply for the closure of a number of the small schools, Lower Kenilworth, or Gheerulla whatever you like to call it. The Obi Obi, Kidaman, Cooloolabin, and there was another one, Bulumba, but it was closed. And have a central school in Kenilworth to be taken to a you know, a secondary level. And consequently we got those all closed with again a great deal of heart burn, because some people traditionally had grown up with their school in their district, and just was going to be reluctant to lose it. It was a long story over many, many months, but I did have the support in the move, by a Mr Jack Pizzy, the Minister for Education. And because he would like to see it happen in some of Queensland was to bus children into where they could get a better education, he was quite keen about it. And we made the first big move in Queensland, the biggest move in Queensland. To close so many schools on one day.
CF: Really. What year would that have been, that central Kenilworth was set up?
DE VERE: The school? Oh you'd have to take me back a year or two. My daughter was in the first class. I didn't do it for that reason, I might say, that was my eldest daughter. Be about twenty-one years age.
CF: Right, would have been about '64?
DE VERE: Yeah.
CF: And that again was quite a turmoil?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it was quite a turmoil to see all our favourite schools being closed, and I suppose I would have felt it too, but I wasn' t tied to any school, because my kids were on correspondence. My wife was teaching them by correspondence, we were too far away.
CF: So what was the reaction once it was set up, how did people take it?
DE VERE: Oh well of course, this again, was you know, it was one of the highlights of my career according to the people in that area, to get this high school into the area. And so the numbers dramatically grew. I hear rumours that their numbers are dropping, now I don't know why, but they said they're down to what they used to be quite a bit, but I don't know about that.
CF: Did the school end up going right through to High School?
DE VERE: No, it went to what they call a "High Top". And that took the students to Junior level, and then the Department decided to put on a bus that those who felt that they were good enough after Junior, what's that in grades today, nine and ten, isn't it. And to take them up to that level and then they were given a free bus to
another High School. Which enabled them to you know, carry their education through. Quite a number did that, and they turned out pretty bright kids, they went onto University. Which was denied them, in fourteen years only four children ever left that area, when I was doing that survey, ever lef t that area to go away and board and take Junior education. Only four in fourteen years.
CF: So it really was a big thing.
DE VERE: Oh it was great lif t in the prestige of the area.
Involvement in committees
CF: There seemed to have been a lot of interaction between yourself and the people in the area, were you involved in a lot of committees and that sort of thing?
DE VERE: Oh yes, well of course they straight put me on the Hall Committee. When I became Councillor, I was patron and life member of the Bowls Club, I was the deputy of the Rodeo Committee - I originated putting the rodeo committee together. The only reason I wouldn't take president was that, well I was too involved and I couldn't be sure I'd sit there at every meeting. Because I was on Council and I had other business interests at the time. But I used to get there to most of them.
CF: Where did the idea for the rodeo come from?
DE VERE: The rodeo was born out of an idea of necessity, and that was, that they had the old hall there and they had a debt on it, that had been there for years and years and years, and the Hall Committee hadn't, as I told you before they only had four or five major functions a year, and nobody used to do much about it, so they called a committee together, an invited committee, I was one of the invited ones, and said what are they gonna do with this debt. And we suggested having a sports day. And out of the sports day we had throw the broom and I forget all the other things, step in the hundred yards, and that sort of thing, but we had two or three horse events.
And the horse events had proved so popular that we decided, in '48, that we would have a... we'd run a big rodeo. So we run the first rodeo with only fence on one side and when the bullocks got round the other side, they'd race down into the creek and well we used to be gathering bullocks up for two days after the rodeo was over. And then we saw how popular it was becoming we were one of the first to go into rodeos in this part of Queensland. Nowhere else, the only other rodeo was in Warwick. There was nothing else. So I went out to Warwick, by invitation to look at their rodeo, and I thought well we can easily beat these blokes. No, so we did, and we had one of the biggest rodeos, at that period in Queensland, in this part, in south-east Queensland. And it developed to be very popular, paid off the debt on the hall in no time, built all those new fences and crushes, and I think we even built that big supper room, oh and expanded the halls, oh yes the halls, they are twice the size they used to be, we done all that. Out of rodeo.
CF: Kenilworth itself - there seemed to be a lot of community action within it. What was it like? Was it an insular little town?
DE VERE: Well, I can remember when we started to raise funds for the hall. Kidaman Hall was just up the road, and they said, don't you come into our area raising, and they were only about, well you can drive there in five minutes in the car. Gheerulla said we don't want anything to do with your hall or your debts that you're gonna create up there, so I think they were forced into a bit of insolence because the other groups were so jealous of their few people, and they did warn me when I got this idea of putting up a decent hall, you know big hall. They did warn me don't you come into their area, and see some of them got some of the committee people that had to be wrote in there that we couldn't go and seek support any further than a three mile radius. But anyhow, so we done it out of the rodeo, and the rodeo paid for all the things we did. And we put all those extensions, we sealed it, built that big supper room, built that big toilet block and built those wood yards, rodeo yards.
CF: Was there a lot of community spirit shown in other ways?
DE VERE: Oh yes, yes. In that tight little three miles?
DE VERE: Yes, because when you look at it, Kidaman Creek Hall is about... well you'd drive there in three minutes, five minutes out of Kenilworth at the most, and yet it was out of bounds to us.
CF: And how about things like community type things, like parks and so on, was there much of that in the town?
DE VERE: No well, no there wasn't. But it developed into that at a later stage. The park they've got there, is one that I feel pretty proud about, because a firm in Gympie called Cullinane's when they thought Kenilworth was going to move, in case they built a shopping centre out there. So then they decided they wouldn't so I approached them to see whether they would sell it to us. There was an acre in that piece of land, and they said yes. So I went back to Kenilworth and I said why don't we grab it early and make a central park in the town. So we did do just that, we had a public meeting and I was very generous at the time, and I think I put in a hundred pounds towards it myself, and a few others followed up with other quite good substantial donations, and inside of only a few weeks we had enough money to buy it off Cullinane's. And then we set about working bees and we built all that fence around it, we done the fence and the painting of the fence, and set it up like it is. And then we asked some assistance from the Council, and they put some fill in the centre of it and put a pipe drain right through it.
I always think the public of Kenilworth are tremendously appreciative, and even the Council at the time wanted to call it after me because I'd done so much leg work on it. But I thought there was a lot of people in Kenilworth who'd done so much for the district before ever I'd came there, and I was insistent that that's known as the Kenilworth District Park. I thought I was only just starting in public life then, and I thought well, I said to them I can remember, saying well naming something after a chap like meself so young, well it's nearly like writing his autobiography. (Laughs) So I wouldn' t have it. But anyway, I'm very proud of the way that happened, so when it happened that's how it happened.
Then we started a tree planting campaign around the sh·eet and the roads and so on. So it's now quite a... for many years it got the Tidy Towns of Queensland, and the school. And that all emanated from a chap that we had, and I supported him strongly out there, a chap called Walter Cummings, and he did so much work, he was so meticulous. You know, he used to do some odd things, he's retired now and I can say this, if he saw a kid dropping a little bit of paper on the street, he would grab it and pick it up and said, "Now take it home to your mother, and tell her you dropped it in the sh·eet." And the message got round, and the kids were dead scared of him.
CF: No wonder it was winning Tidy Towns.
DE VERE: Yes. And so he could take most of the credit.
Running farm when in council
CF: How were you finding it yourself then? Obviously you were very involved in Council functions, how was your farm continuing on. Had you kept the farm on?
DE VERE: Oh yes. I didn't neglect it at all, because I had two staff all the time, and you know, I'd go out and work with them probably till lunch time, and then go off and do the things I had to do and let them carry on. Then in later years I had a very supportive wife who used to keep me well-primed with what should be done, or might be done, or what wasn't being done. And so between us we were very successful right to the finish.Well by the time, I had that farm, and I had a granary in Kenilworth. Those grain sheds are still there, we used to supply all the farms with grain. I'd buy it in big semis from out in the Downs, and hammer it up and sell it to the farmers. It got to quite a fair size business there, a few years. And I also had the cane farms down here, and I was on the Council, so I had a lot to do.
CF: With you being on the Council, obviously there was a lot to do for your own Division, for the Kenilworth area. But were there Shire-wide issues, had the Council had got to that stage where people were looking at the whole Shire?
DE VERE: Oh, some were. I was probably a bit lucky this way, that probably because, in my day as a councillor, I was one of the youngest councillors for years, because you didn't get any pay those days, or practically none, you just got a sustenance sort of thing. And I used to get eight guineas a quarter. That was your pay, and you used to get paid every quarter. So therefore most of the other councillors were sixty and beyond.
CF: People who were retired?
DE VERE: Yeah, well people who could afford it well and truly. And so in my early days. So I used to get invited much more than any of the others did to, up to Buderim, to Maroochydore to tell me about their problems. I think they thought that, I was probably a bit younger we might get him and brain-wash him, or he might be more receptive. So I did get round to a few of the other places. And so therefore I did become involved more than the other councillors did because I was invited by the people to come to their different things.
Maroochy Shire's roads and tourism
CF: What were the big concerns, Shire-wide?
DE VERE: Oh, mainly roads in those days, it was sh·eets and roads. See Maroochydore, right up till I became Chairman in '67, well there was only five streets sealed in Maroochydore, the rest were dirt roads. And so it was a big effort to get those underway, to get the councillors to realise that you know, they had to be done. They used to go around talking about tourist promotion, I said bring them up and see clouds of dust up the streets, we've got streets full of potholes and water, stagnant water, I used to be very hostile about that.
CF: When did people start talking about tourism, as a concept for the area?
DE VERE: I think it would have to be at about '58 or '59, is when they start to even think that tourism was anything but one of these fancy names. You know how they talk about the odd people today you know, they talk about them a bit, and say I think they're alternative lifestyle. They say they're the alternative lifestyle people. Well you were nearly looked at as an alternative lifestyle person if you got too involved in tourism in those days.
CF: So it went against the tradition?
DE VERE: Yes, so what was expected, you know, let's look after our own, forget about those people. Well there wasn't many places in the whole Shire that you could buy fish and chips, let alone go and have, restaurants. The first real restaurant to be opened was Boolarong. It was a drive-in thing, they used pull up all the blinds, and you drove right up to the door and went into it. You could go to Coolum, even in 1967 when I used to do an inspection of problems in Coolum, well you either had to take your lunch with you, or not have any, or arrange for somebody to give you a cup of tea up there.
CF: So the shops and the restaurants just weren' t there?
DE VERE: They weren't there.
CF: What were your feeling about tourism in those days?
DE VERE: Well I approached it fairly cautiously, you know, I thought well if there's this concern about it, I can remember one very distinguished old councillor, saying to me, "What's your attitude to this tourism?" He said," What do you think of it?" And I think I gave him a real political answer, you know I never said very much yes, or no. But I thought I'd wait and see, you know, to see what it was like, so it only took me a few years to realise that it was another industry that had to be nurtured a bit but not gone overboard about. And so that was my approach to tourism. But then in later years I could see that it was a significant indush·y, and I took the first group from here, to Sydney to Melbourne and to New Zealand at my own expense, to go onto radio and TV, and newspaper promotion about tourism, and "Come to the Sunshine Coast", you know.
Views on David Low's achievements as Chairman
CF: In your time, before you became Chairman, say about fifteen years, during all that time, Dave Low was Chairman. What were your feelings about Dave Law's contribution to the area, his achievements?
DE VERE: In the early stages of Dave Low coming here, it was a breath of air that the Coast needed, when he came there. He was innovative, he was enthusiastic, and he initiated some projects which should stand in memory to him.
End Side A/Begin Side B
CF: For example?
DE VERE: Oh an example was the hall, for Nambour. Nambour didn't have anywhere they could even hold a function. There was Kenilworth, that I represented, had the only major hall in the Sunshine Coast, we did, Caloundra had none, but Kenilworth had one. And here was a city like Nambour. And it was quite a tussle to get that hall and consequently as a matter of fact it went to a ballot by the people and refused and quite a lot of Nambour people refused it, you know. They said "Oh we don't need it." So it came up a second time, in another, later ballot, and I'd have to say that Dave Low, I did influence him on the second time, I said now the first time that, I said, "Kenilworth, they built their hall entirely, and they were only allowed to go three mile to collect all the money, Gheerulla had one, Eumundi had one, Buderim had one, Coolum had one, and they were all only able to go round their own immediate people to get their funds". Now I said, "I think you should say Nambour's gonna put up so much of the money towards this." Because those days we had financial separation. Each Division had its own funds. He conceded, and the proposal went forward that Nambour was going to pay quite a substantial amount to the hall, and then the rest of the Shire the rest of it. I think we built it from about fif ty or sixty thousand pounds, the whole thing, you know, it's such a fiddling amount to be arguing about, but they did. There was great celebration the night that the vote went through to proceed with the hall. So that was one of his major projects that I'll give him very top marks for.
The other one was opening up the Coast from Caloundra to Noosa. He initiated the moves for that. And that's why it's known as the David Low Way. And even that day in Council, and when the Noosa Council said no, they were so cranky about it, they said no way in the world it's gonna be known David Low Way, somehow the name has crept in for a little while afterwards. And but I was the saving vote, because I knew how much worry and leg work he'd done to get this, our Council voted evenly not to have it called the David Low Way. And I voted and pleaded with them to give it the vote because nobody had done so much work to get that on. So that opened up the whole coastal region you know.
CF: Why would his own Council have voted against it, I mean couldn't they see it was a great achievement?
DE VERE: I don't know, if you ask me that, I wouldn' t know at the time what their thinking were, but that's exactly what happened, you know they were just not going to have it. And because Noosa got in very early and they made their stake, their claim, I think they might have lobbied some of our fellows, they said no way in the world it was gonna be called David Low Way. So but he did do all the leg work because in the State electorate he represented Noosa as well. Then of course they very quickly got in and named the other piece up to Mooloolaba the Nicklin Way.
CF: Do you think it was because of his having both positions, his being a Member of Parliament as well, that he was able to get the Coastal Highway?
DE VERE: Yes, I believe on these occasions he was a very great friend of the Minister for Lands, and the Minister for Lands, Mr Muller he was, drafted the legislation for these development leases, you know, he drafted all that originally, he got his department to draft it. I can always remember old Alf [Muller], we were here talking about it one day, and he said, "You know in a developing state like Queensland", he said, "the Minister's got great responsibilities." And he said, "If he finds that the Act is conflicting with what he feels what should be done, well his responsibility just to change the Act".
CF: Very forthright man.
DE VERE: Very forthright. I can always remember him saying that.
Bli Bli Bridge
CF: Well that obviously would have made a big difference to the Shire, opening up the access to the coast.
DE VERE: Yes it did. Yes, and then the bridge of course over on the other side here, it was the David Low Bridge down here, or the Bli Bli Bridge as it's known as. It was a very contentious issue.The Mill used to bring their cane from the other side, put them on a punt. And they used to put the trucks, load them on the other side, put them on a punt, punt them across the river and put them on the tram line and take them through. So as very interested in the financial side of it, I put together a proposal to get that accepted by the people, because it was a very contentious issue too.
CF: In what way?
DE VERE: Well people didn't want to finance it, they said let the people over there build their bridge if they want it. There was very little money collected from over there and so it was all collected from this side. And so I put the proposal together. A third had to be met by the people of the land that was on the other side, and a third had to be met by the Mill, and a third was met by the whole Shire. I think when I look back on it I must have been a bit of a contentious bloke, mustn't I? So that was how it was financed. So then after the development started to take place over the other side, and the valuations increased so considerably, that when I became Chairman we decided to abolish that separate rate on the other side because it's so insignificant. Because the valuations had dramatically increased. But in the first stage it was about, they were paying about two and six in the pound, you know to have that bridge.
CF: That's quite a lot.
DE VERE: It was a lot. On their farms and their properties over there because there no businesses over there, so that's how it happened.
CF: And during David Law's time, did he do a lot to introduce business and that sort of thing in the area?
DE VERE: Oh yes. See he was vitally interested in the business and he was very keen to conserve the solidarity of the business in the Nambour area. Probably one thing detrimental to him in that way, that the Main Roads badly wanted to build a by-pass round Nambour. They badly wanted to build a by-pass round Nambour and they had it all going ahead, and he fought tooth and nail to stop it. Because it was the general feeling then, that if any town was by-passed it was a dead duck. And that was the attitude of the main business core of Nambour too, so he didn't take the full responsibility for it. I tried to influence him that a ring road go, so that they got get sight of Nambour. But I wasn't worried greatly what happened to it really, I suppose I lived in Kenilworth those days. But I can always remember when I became Chairman. I won't name the Commissioner, but the Commissioner of Main Roads was there at the time, and when I went down with my first deputation, he said, "De Vere, you're the Chairman up there now", he said, "you'll come crawling through that door, right down on your hands and knees some day asking me for a by-pass of Nambour", he said, "you had it, and you didn't give us much support". And so I clambered for the by-pass for years, and it's gonna happen next year.
V.I.P. visitors to the Maroochy Shire
CF: We'll get on to that in our subsequent talk. The other thing I've noticed from reading the "Nambour Chronicle", the old papers and so on, during Low's time there seemed to be a huge influx of VIP visitors to the coast.
DE VERE: Oh yes. Yes that was one of his fortes, if I use that word again, he loved big social functions, he really loved them. And we used to have some whopping functions you know, if somebody visited the place. I think the State Government were pretty happy with him because it gave them a good impression, their international visitors or important visitors of Queensland, because this is a lovely area to come to. So they used to come up there and we used to have some big wing-dings, I can tell you that.
CF: Yes. How did people feel about this, you know the local people?
DE VERE: Well so much so that I was gathering the feeling of the people, when I became Chairman, I made it very clear at the start, there was going to be a drastic curtailment
CF: It really was an expensive operation.
DE VERE: Yes, it was a very expensive operation, and in a matter of fact, some of the prominent business of the place reminded me
afterwards that they used a lot of good freebies and now they said they never get one.
CF: Was it good for the area though, you know as a PR exercise?
DE VERE: It was good to start, yes it was very good to start. But even then councillors started to get sick of them.
CF: Bit over-done?
DE VERE: Yep. Not so much over-done, I think we got sick of having to front up, you know well for meself I had to drive from Kenilworth over.
CF: I've noticed that everytime there was an opening of anything there seemed to be a huge ceremony for it.
DE VERE: Yep. That's right. That's right. Yes and it flowed on, I suppose it got into my blood stream a little bit. I can remember - this is a funny one - we talked about Kenilworth sewerage. When we opened Kenilworth sewerage, it had to be quite a big opening.
CF: You don't think of a big opening for sewerage, do you ?
DE VERE: Well you don't do you. But this was quite a memorable occasion, and some people have said they still haven't forgotten it, who are old enough to be with me. That day I put it up to, you might have saw Ed Simms photograph in the paper with his Rio?
DE VERE: Well then, I got about six of them on a committee, and they said, well just leave it to us, I said I want it to be good, the Chairman's coming out, Mr Frank Nicklin's coming up, and so on. So these are some of the things they organised that day, for us, for a start, and told me nothing about it, they just said, "You just keep out of it now, you're right". So for the first off we got Frank Nicklin to go down on to a dais, open it, and there hanging in front of him was a great bullock chain, and that was pull the chain sort of a thing. (Laugh) And then just when he started to talk of course, in came six pall bearers carrying a fabricated old toilet, you know and they laid down in front of Frank, and they went through the sermon of putting it to rest, dust to dust, ashes. So went through of this, but when they put it down, they had a young kid inside, and of course he opened the door of the toilet, raced across the paddock, and of course that amused everybody, pulling up his duds as he went.
So Mr Nicklin started to get going with his speech again, and just got going, and then in came their main auctioneer, Bill Boxsell,who was only just lost, we've only just lost him, Bill came in ringing his bell, and he's got toilets for sale, toilets for sale, going cheap, and he had about four of them on a truck just pulled up outside. Well then we got that far down the track, after this great thing was laid to rest, this other part and we sold his toilets. We let Frank finish his speech, and he said well I now I formally declare this open. We told him just to give the chain a pull, and they had a chap over the back with one of those plunger explosive things, in an old toilet box. And of course they pushed that, and it blew into pieces, frightened hell out of us all. (Laughs) You know the ages, down through the ages.
CF: Oh, a procession?
DE VERE: Yeah, Down Through the Ages, it was very good, you know, took all the kids in walking to school, transport then, got two on a horse or three on a horse. And then school buses, and that old Rio, and I found that old Rio as it happened. That's another story, Ed'll tell you how I found. It was in an old shed at Yandina. Anyway, and then when I first went to Kenilworth there used to be an old chap, old Pop Reynolds, he used to have the job of cleaning out the toilets and he had a horse and slide. And he used to put them all on his horse and slide and he'd take them down to the sand island down there behind they call it Pollys Island, down behind Kenilworth, and this is where he used to bury them see. Well that was in the procession and all, and of course he had a big pot tummy, I remember this Rally Miles, and here was these tins with little bits of paper on it, you know how they blow out the tops of the tins. Bill Robinson, if you ever see Bill, although he's very sick at present, but he said that's one he'll never forget.
CF: So it really was the age of the big opening?
DE VERE: Yes, big opening, I mean it was a big opening, everybody was there. Poor old Frank, he had about three gos of starting his speech that day. He was the Premier then.
Campaign for Chairman of Maroochy Shire Council
CF: So tell me what decided you then to actually run against Dave Low, for Chairman?
DE VERE: Well I think it was public pressure. I had it for the election before, I was asked by a number of Nambour business people, and I didn't decide to do it. And then there was the pressure then from some Maroochydore people and I didn't. So they put up their own candidate down there. And so the next year came round. Mr Low was not enjoying good health, his health was deteriorating quite badly. So much so that I was disappointed, lots of times because he wasn't coherent enough for me to... by this time I was Deputy Chairman of Finance for the Council. And I used to get quite disappointed, but it was a tremendous reluctant step for me, so much so I even pleaded with him not to stand again because I was under pressure to stand, and I felt that I would be standing. So it was this plus the fact that I'd felt that I was coming over here [Bli Bli] to live. I used to be in Kenilworth those days because I had two daughters and they had both finished their education, out in positions and I wanted to get over there where it was easy for them to call on us. And I was corning over here to go into business of some sort. So I put all this together and decided, yes I would let my name go forward, but I didn't before I... Mr Low was in hospital this time, quite some times he wouldn't see me, so I sent him a telegram to say I was letting my name go forward before the closing date. So that's how it come about.
CF: Was it a difficult campaign, was it very traumatic?
DE VERE: For me it wasn't. No I just set me program up and I just went round the Shire and told them what I was going to do, and I was pretty fortunate at the time to get in because, I think a lot of people used to say to me look you won't make it, because the Labor Party has put up a candidate.
CF: And who was the Labor Party candidate?
DE VERE: Chap called John Dougherty. Quite a good cane farmer. And he was you know, a real strong, staunch Labor man, and his family. And they said well they'll take all that section of that, and that means you've got to get the others, but it happens I got enough, well I got plenty. And so that's how it went, so I just run it to what I had, but I didn't think I was gonna win though, I got the shock of me life.
CF: How close was the vote, in the end?
DE VERE: Oh, I don't remember, but I can remember the papers said that I... they put a great headline up, if you read the papers they said I crashed in or something. Anyhow I had a very substantial win. There was no personal attack on Dave Low , but he didn't seem to have a grip on the financial situation like I would see it. And that was that the instability of the economy was worrying me very much as Chairman of Finance. And that was we were getting to a stage where we had a higher loan rate, than we had for a general rate. Now that's most unusual in any local authority in Queensland.
CF: What does that actually mean?
DE VERE: That means we were paying rising loans and doing everything with which only had to meet so much a year. It can look very good to the public, because you raise a hundred thousand, for a round figure, and you'll spend that hundred thousand but you've got it over twenty years. And you' re paying it back, but you're paying that same thing over year after year. Well if you raise half a dozen of them, of a hundred to two hundred, or three hundred thousand, and then you' re paying them off over that period of time, but you've got no room to move if you come into a recession or depression. Because, there's only one rate that you can reduce, and that is your general rate. And so therefore if you've got your loan rates fixed they're in a situation where you had to meet over half your funding had to be fixed, you only had to reduce it. So I'd set about to restructuring the finance, and it took me about three or four years before I got it round but the loan rate was around about a third of the general rate.
CF: So this was a important of your campaign?
DE VERE: It was important to me. I was Chairman of Finance, and I believe that I did understand the economics of the Council, so that's the way it worked.
CF: So essentially it was the policies that David Low...
DE VERE: Yes, that policy was one that used to worry me. It personally worried me because I didn't like sitting there and saying well you signed all this, which I had to as a Finance Chairman, and so you must endorse it. And that won of course, and secondly as I said the other policy was there was no effort being made to put water on Buderim, and the sewerage was just about a dormant issue, and the filtration schemes. We had a water supply, which nobody would use.
CF: Because of the state of the water?
DE VERE: Because of the state of the water. It wasn't filtered. Therefore it was not uncommon to run out a dishfull of water and find little worms and things that had come through the whole system in it.
CF: These were issues, things filtration and so on that you felt important?
DE VERE: Yes I didn't push them very hard, because Dave was softening up towards those, but he was not softening up towards water to Buderim, or this loans and general rate at all.
CF: Do you know what his attitude was, you know why he took this approach?
DE VERE: What on the financial side?
DE VERE: I think everybody has their particular item at which they're excelling, and I think his outstanding one was promotion. But it wasn't business acumen. And that was that side of it. And then of course the other projects, that I mentioned - sewerage, he stepped around that one for a long time, because of the cost side and he thought it would make a very big impact on the voters. Also he was not gonna touch town planning, he said, "You'd stir up more trouble than you would cure". He used to always tell me that. And so therefore we were, growing anyhow, you could do whatever you liked in the area.
Probably water was an issue, particularly on Buderim that he was not anxious to get ahead with. And I think it developed into a bit of a personal matter within there, because it was quite possible to put water into Buderim, because I was only on the Council, Chairman of the Council twelve months when I influenced the Council, to go ahead with water in Buderim, we had water there in about fourteen months after I become Chairman.
CF: And what do you think his objection to having water in Buderim was?
DE VERE: Just a personal feud there with some people, I think, and also that he may have believed too, that he didn't have enough water to do it.
CF: So effectively do you think yourself then, that the fact that you didn't make a personal attack, that you campaigned on policies, do you think this is what swung things your way?
DE VERE: Probably when I look back on it, I think the people want to know what you're gonna do, and they want to know good reasons why you're standing. If I'd have started to attack him, well I suppose they'd said well it's a feud between him and the Chairman. Because I got criticised quite strongly in the media, not so much strongly by the media itself, but in the media, why didn't I fix these things up while I was there. I remember getting that quite often, particularly from the Labor fellow. Why didn't I do them. They said he never ever attacked the Chairman, and he's not attacking him now, what he'll do when he gets there.
CF: What was your answer to that?
DE VERE: My answer was no answer, I'm like the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday. I didn't talk about it.
CF: Right. In other words you waited to get in.
DE VERE: Yes. Then proceeded straight to the point, went straight for the jugular.
Priorities as chairman of council
CF: So, in 1967 then, you'd become Chairman of the Maroochy Council. You'd taken over really from a man who was very flamboyant man, a man who really had done a lot for the Shire. How did you feel stepping into his boots, so to speak? Did you try to emulate his style, or were you concerned with establishing your own?
DE VERE: When I think back on it, I never ever thought of emulating his style at all, I went in with a great feeling of responsibility that I had to get on with some of my own ideas, try and introduce some of my own ideas. Must remember you had twelve councillors, and when I first went in ten of them said, "Well you're not gonna change anything in this place". And so I had a difficult time for a few months, until I stood up one day when I opened a meeting probably about, after about three or four months, and I can remember this so well as today and I said, "Well gentlemen I've got a message for you today," I said, "for three months you've been trying to frustrate anything that I've been trying to do," I said, "I'll give you a parallel of two other councils that tried this in the last term in Queensland, was Maryborough and Townsville, that said, well we don't care what the mayor wants to do, we got the balance of power. And if you think back on those councils they were decimated, there was hardly any of them left," I said, "the public out there know what I'm trying to do, through the media, so that's just my warning".
CF: What was the basis of their opposition?
DE VERE: Well they all supported the previous Chairman in the campaign.
So that was it.
CF: So it was really very much just a dog in the manger thing rather than a philosophical thing?
DE VERE: Oh no, after a while, two or three dropped off, four or five dropped off, and inside of a year there was at least ten out of twelve would listen to ration and reason, and vote according to their conscience. And they forsake the other two and finally the other two. So by the time I'd finished my first term, I had a very harmonious Council.
CF: So how long was it before you were really get into the things you wanted to do?
Connecting water to Buderim
DE VERE: Oh it took me about four months to initiate the moves to take water to Buderim. It didn't take so long to get the other produce going because the public outside wanted them, they knew that they should come, so it didn't take very long at all, and we were going along a very harmonious Council.
CF: Right. Getting water to Buderim, is this something that had taken a long time?
DE VERE: Oh, it had been years, and it had been talked about for years, and requests had come from there, but as I have mentioned to you earlier, there was a little bit of bad feeling amongst a few important people, and they had crossed swords with the previous Chairman, and nothing was going to be made easy for them. But it was quite satisfactory the way we economically worked it all out, and we had the water, I think, by the November of '68, we had an official turning on of the water.
CF: Right, so within twelve months?
DE VERE: Twelve months from when I could get hold of the thing, cause it took me the first few months to make the Council realise that I was quite determined to go on with it, and they were quite prepared to look at it rationally.
Economics, roads, town planning and high-rise
CF: Right. And what were your other priorities then, once you
DE VERE: Well, apart from restructuring the economy or the economics rather of the shire, was well to talk about town planning, and promotion in tourism.
CF: Perhaps you could talk first, about restructuring the economy of the Council.
DE VERE: Yeah, well the restructuring of the economy, when we moved into Buderim water and sewerage for Nambour, well you had to raise fair, substantial amounts of loan funds. But when you understand the financing of councils, like I do, you would realise that you can do something with your general rate on the outside. So we raised our bulk of our loan funds with them, which are general works, they were put into specific works like the water and the sewerage. With a consequence, those projects meet all the interest in redemption. When you do water and sewerage, the people that benefit, pay for that benefit. So therefore that didn't load up the loan rate of the people with the consequence, not raising any loan funds for general works, in the Shire, enabled me to raise greater amounts, because you are limited in Local authority of how much loan money you can raise. It enabled me to raise greater amounts for the water and sewerage projects, by eliminating the road projects, which it was desirable to do, but lifted the general rate slightly all the time. But consequently in probably three or four years, instead of the loan rate being the highest rate, you know it was substantially reduced and with the general rate being the dominant rate, which it should be. Because I mentioned to you that you've always got to be aware that whatever debt you create with a loan rate, the interest redemption must be met whether we were going through a recession or times are getting tough.
CF: It goes on forever?
DE VERE: It goes on till that loan is paid out. But a general rate, if you want to be a bit easier with your ratepayers, you can be, so I got it back to a situation where I felt it was very financially stable, the Shire, the financing of it.
CF: So that was your first step?
DE VERE: Yep.
CF: And then what were your other considerations?
DE VERE: There was a number of things that people wanted. Nambour wanted a swimming pool, a new Olympic pool, right at the start, and they used to bring deputations to me. They said they'd been promised by the previous Council they would have one. Maroochydore was going to have a swimming pool built that was tidal, down at Maroochydore, and they were promised it, and I could see that it was gonna be a death trap, because all it was, was a concreted piece, and it filled up with the tide with no bottom in it, and consequently it was quite dangerous. So I convinced the councillor of the day to abolish any thoughts of going on with it because it was not going to be an asset to the place, and so I had to keep Nambour and Maroochydore then quiet for probably twelve years, until I got on with priority jobs like road works and town planning and all the other development works that were needed.
Begin Tape 3/Side A
CF: Which roads would have been the priority then?
DE VERE: Well, getting a bitumen road out to Kenilworth was one of them of course, and getting some roads in some of the rural areas that had school buses trying to run of them, because as soon as it became wet weather, well the school buses, it was not uncommon to have to send a grader or somebody to tow a school bus that was in trouble. So trying to get all the school bus routes sealed. That was a promise that I'd made to myself really, because I was earlier very much involved in establishing school buses in the Kenilworth region before I became Chairman. And I knew the tremendous responsibility that was with drivers and parents to make sure that the school buses got through. And there was many, many miles of those to be done. Many miles. But then of course tourism was just being recognised as pretty important for while I, we, took some of the earliest promotion material and myself to southern states to promote the area as far as tourism was concerned - so much so that I developed a bit of an affinity with Mr Bruce Small, or Sir Bruce Small. He hadn' t done any promotion, he was Mayor of the Gold Coast at the time, and I can always remember the papers down there, somebody sent me a copy of it and they give him a rap over the knuckles, whatever De Vere could do he could do better, he had bikini girls.
CF: Was there a bit of competition at that time between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast?
Maroochy Shire Town Plan
DE VERE: Yes there was. Up here thought, well whatever the Gold Coast was doing that we should be able to get on with too. And I found people that would come in here looking for development in the area, and the first thing they used to ask me about, well where's your Town Plans. So they can see what sort of development they could have. And consequently we had no Town Plan. So, next move to appoint a Planner, to come in. So I went to the Local Government Department, and asked if they could give me recommendations, and they were very guarded, they said, "Well we can give you two or three numbers, we don't specifically want to be involved with any one." So they gave me two or three names, and we picked James Birrell who is now a councillor in Maroochy Shire Council. His firm was one of the names they recommended to me. So we set about getting a town Plan together and so every development that came in over the next year or so, while that Town Plan was first being formulated, we used to submit them to him, or his department so that he could determine whether it was gonna fit in with what he was hoping to make out of the area. It took probably a couple of years to do the planning of the Shire because it didn't have a place to start from.
CF: So how do you formulate a Town Plan from nothing, so to speak?
DE VERE: From nothing, well for a start you have to look at the whole of the area that you're in, and to decide, well what is the best type of development for that particular area. You'd look at here and you'd say, well we must keep all this rural, where I'm living here now. And well after being in other sea-side resorts, you'd look along the sea shores and you'd say, well this is going to be retirement or holiday country. So then you look at it again in closer depth, and you'll say well this, it will need commercial modules of development, so you've got shopping centres and so on where they can develop. Then you've gotta look at where it is desirable to keep this residential development, where people coming to retire, and where they would like to live. And then of course you have to look at your holiday units sort of area. So those are basically some of ... then of course of all the ones nobody likes to tackle, is your industrial areas. Everybody said we should have industrial areas so we can get jobs, but don't put it near us. And then you have to look at your extractive industry areas, like say quarries. So those are basic requirements initially in a Town Plan.
So when we did do the Town Plan, I would have to say that I, nor any of the councillors, and not a great deal of the ratepayers knew what was to be required to ensure that we had a proper Town Plan. So we had to rely on the town planners and the Department of Local Government to advise us, we've all learnt a lot since of course. So they set it out, and we had very little objections, and after you've done your town, your preliminary one, it comes to Council, and Council looks at it over a period of a few months, and you take each section, and you tell the planner, well I'm not happy about that type of development, I think you've got too much commercial, you've got too much residential, or whatever it might be. And so then after we've had a look at it, and decide what we should be, we submit that to the Local Government Department and they in turn go through that and look at it to see whether there's any conflicts of interest could develop, and I'm talking about conflicts of having industrial too close to residential and so on and many other facets.
Subsequently it then comes back to us, and that Town Plan - I don't think it's been done with any since - but I took it to every nook and cranny of the Shire, to public meetings to ask the people and took objection forms along with me and said, well now I'll explain it in minute detail to the best of my ability and here's the objection forms, if any that you don't like, you can object to. From there of course we got very few objections, it surprised me really because the issue that came up later was high-rise, and it was the same as Gold Coast's those days, and limited high-rise, and so we later asked to be limited to sixteen stories, which Gold Coast as you know, has probably got forty eight, three times the size. And so some of the councillors at the time and some of the people at the time, thought it was a symbol of development to see a high-rise come up into their area, or some building going up above two stories. So some of them asked for extra land to be set aside, so we didn't think there was anything greatly wrong with that so we did expand it in a few places, a few places.
Anyhow after that goes through all those processes, and we've made our modifications after talking to all the people, over the many months, it went back to the Local Government Department then for their blessing, and their approval and consequently it's gazettal, and once it's gazetted it is cemented into place. It's law then for people to abide by what's on there. And also for the Council to abide by that when a developer comes in. If you're a developer and came in, and you wanted to put up a commercial shopping centre, well you must be - if it was in the right zoning - you must be allowed to do it. If you wanted to put up a high-rise building, well if it was in the right zoning you must be allowed to do it, only comply with the building requirements.
CF: So the Council can't, within its own meetings, can't overrule something that's been gazetted into the Town Plan?
DE VERE: It's gazetted, it's cemented into place, and all you've got to do is abide by the council building requirements, set-backs and so on from the front and the structure of the building. Those are the requirements.
CF: And when did it start to become a problem, you say essentially the community as such accepted it as a Town Plan, they probably quite liked the idea of a bit of high-rise. When did it start to become a contentious issue?
DE VERE: It started to become a contentious issue probably, I wouldn't know the exact year, I should have got some of this information out for you, but I haven' t, but I would say it started to become an issue in, probably about 1978, '77, '78. Because we were getting a few of them, and we were getting a few of the people in that had sort of picked on here as a quiet retirement area, they hadn't expected it to develop. And consequently people were finding us, and of course as you'd realise, and I'm proud to say it's one of the chosen bits of the world to live in, this area, and I've been over a fair bit of it now, and I always wonder why I go away, but I go away to find out how good it is at home.
And so they started to object, and they wanted it a three stories only. And everything had to be four hundred metres back from the shore line. Well this was not going to be acceptable to the public at large or developers and above all it was not logical. Because I looked into it in various parts of the world, and talked to people, and all we had to ensure was that we didn't have any shadow casting on the beaches whatsoever. That was it. And also to make sure we had enough set-backs on buildings so that we didn't create a cheek-by-jowl sort of development. So we got round to the next initiation of a building bylaw that we did was set-backs, and also we ensured that they could only put so much development on a certain piece of land. So that got round that they were only allowed to build on, or less than a third of their land that they had. If they wanted to get bigger, they had to buy the next door block, and put it with it. So I could sense after quite a few months - probably I'm a bit unlucky, the paper expanded somewhere around that same time to a daily. They really had a feast, you know, it was good writing.
CF: There was big coverage on the high-rise issue.
DE VERE: Yes, it was a great issue for them to fasten onto when you're trying to expand a paper. And consequently I was aware of this, but I was also aware that well I've got to do something about it. And so I looked at it all and I thought that travelling myself a little bit by this time, I'd realised that carrying your ports up a three-story lots of steps, walk-ups what we called them in those days, was just not on. People would not come up here as tourists. If we're looking for tourist economy to develop, well it was not on, because people would not have that. Besides the small buildings never could employ anybody to be on a duty, late hours at night-time. You had to look at something a bit bigger, because tourists throughout the world generally were looking for somebody, their light on at night, and not just having a key to the front door, when they came home, to feel a bit safe when they came to a place at night-time.
So I looked at the economy of going up, how many storeys would we have to go up before they could put lifts in. And I went to an architectural firm in Sydney - I thought I'd get right away from Queensland - and talked to them at length about it, and they said the minimum that you could possibly build, economically, with a lift, would be six storeys. So while I didn't please a great multitude by wanting, well not a great multitude, the limited multitude, that's a bit of a wrong phrase...
CF: I get the sense of what you're after - there was a certain number of people.
DE VERE: A certain number of people. So I asked the Council to support this six-story limit but they had to have lifts. So for that sort of a reason, and I thought this would make a bit of peace. But it went on for so long. So when we decided after many months of looking at what we do, because you can't do things quickly in a Council. I know the people at the time thought, oh he could stop that if he wanted to, yes and cost you a fortune, and it would still go on. Because they had the law, as I said earlier, cemented into place that they had a right, when they bought that block of land, they bought it as Res C or Res D, and they could do whatever was in that category.
So the whole thing took many months to become a reality, because you, first of all as I said earlier with the Town Plan, first of all I had to get agreement with the Council that they would except a six-story. And that didn't happen in two or three meetings, which is two or three months. Then you had to have that drawn up as a part of your new revised Town Planning.
Then you had to put that out for three months, minimum of three months, we used to say a hundred days, out for the public to object to it. That was the law. Then after the objections come in, well then you had to consider them all by Council. Then after you'd considered them, you had to then send them off back down to Brisbane, to the Department of Local Government. The Department of Local Government sends their fellows up here, to investigate. They don't come near the Council, they go round and investigate whether you've made a fair job of your revised Town Plan. That can take somewhere around fifteen to eighteen months. That doesn't care how smart you like to be.
Consequently in that time, everybody was aware that we were gonna bring it down to six storeys, and any fellow that had his money in his pocket, they were racing to get their applications before the Council, because then they were legally entitled to an application to be considered, on the basis of which they put their application on.
CF: Right, so there was a big rush before...
DEVERE: There was a big rush in that interim. From when we decided to do it till when it actually happened. And they all had their applications in to go ahead with their projects. A lot of them had their applications in. And we had to look at them in that light. And that was something that I didn't get a lot of help from everybody, media included, to make the public aware of those. So, so much so, when the gazettal took place I was so relieved to say that now we can rest in peace, that that the thing is there, but I don't think it was ever spelt out to the public that their fears were over.
CF: No I can't say that in my own perusal of the media, that that ever came across.
DE VERE: No, it was never allowed. They just were what I can tell you, as far as I was concerned, and as far as the Council behaviour at that time, was within the interest of the law, and we were just caught up in the situation. You can't just stop it overnight.
CF: Even amending it to the six-story level, when you put out your amended Town Plan for opinions from the public, did you still get a lot of opposition even to the six storeys?
DE VERE: No, from memory, and I haven' t got a ready recall on that one here, but from memory, no it was reasonably well accepted. There was only about two councillors that objected to it. But they were the ones that said we should stick to three-story walk ups. But truly I was in Alice Springs the other day and I stopped at a three-story walk-up, and boy I was knocked up the time I got our ports up. I walked up two, and I looked up the next lot, I've gotta go up them too. And I can tell you that, that was one of the best things we did, was to stop that nonsense.
CF: So really it was a sort of dilemma between people wanting the area's tourism to develop, bring in employment I guess, and on the other hand really not change anything?
DE VERE: That's right. I felt tremendously responsible. And so that's what we did do at the time. We settled down to a six-story, and if I'd been asked to do it today, and the economics of the building, which I've talked to major people, it would have been eight storeys. Because I think the eight is... the cost of a lift is quite considerable, and you're nearly always got to have a standby lift, and that's two lifts. Even if the building is only low, it's because well if a lift breaks down, the people are in trouble, they've got to walk down all those steps. So that was one of the factors of which I felt that the ... Well it was an opportunity made for everybody to make a lot of noise about something, but there was never credit given to the worry that was went through.
As I said, when it was finally gazetted I said to my wife, it was the greatest relief in my life over the last couple of years, or three years. Because I said now go and book a h·ip, and so we went overseas. I think because of the protracted or the length of time it took to have that Town Plan gazetted, or the amended Plan gazetted, so that we could have control and keep the buildings down to a six-story, we would have saved a lot of people a lot of money. Because people were rushing in knowing legally they had the right to go ahead with the project once they got their plans approved by Council. And so you might notice there's still some blocks on the coast , where they were going to put down their foundations. And the economy caught up with them. They've down-turned the economy, and they couldn't afford to go on with them, and consequently they've lost a lot of money getting them that far.
CF: Effectively did the high-rise issue die a bit of a death along with the boom dropping off anyway?
DE VERE: Oh yes. The high-rise died because nobody wanted to go ahead with six storeys. That was one of the reasons, but then of course the recession at the same time was...
CF: They didn't consider six storeys economical?
DE VERE: No. No. Not for what they'd paid for their land. And they weren't going to go on with them, so that's how it come about. And of course the recession then put the lid on it all. And then I think the attitude of the incoming Council, well they only wanted three storeys, and consequently nobody was going to build on their land at that, so that's brought it to an end.
CF: What was your attitude to it when it was at its height? I've read about the action group, say at Mooloolaba Spit, where they were very active against the high-rise. Was it a very difficult time?
DE VERE: Yes it was difficult. As a matter of fact I asked the Council, and they did accept it, so we rezoned that very early because I was concerned about the Spit because the Spit is a fragile area. It's only made up of sand. And I felt that if there was major flooding or major erosion from the sea, that it was put in a bit of jeopardy there. So we did down-zone that and that upset a lot of people with a lot of threats of suing the Council, but none of them ever eventuated because we did let it come down to a three-story height there.
Canal development and flood study
CF: I know from my reading that you were very concerned about things like the foreshores and so on. What were your feelings on the canal development that was starting to become an issue in the late '60s?
DE VERE: The canal development was probably the only way that some of the land could be developed. Otherwise it would have stayed just stagnant swamps, because the land was so low that it wasn't much above high tide. And therefore - and there was some big areas of it, particularly on the northern side of Maroochydore, I'm naming there, as the canals there, the River Breeze Estates it's known as now - that land would have still been sitting there as a mosquito-breeding, sandfly-breeding place if it hadn't have been for canals. I was very confident of that, and it was the only way it could have any economy, economical development done was by canals. And so a Mr Ken Neill, picked up the ball and run there and I tried to get a number of major developers interested in it before I finally got Mr Neill to take off, and he done a major job there. Now of course well people are very proud to live in there.
CF: How about the proposed development at Marina Gardens, at Bli Bli? That seemed to become a very conh·oversial issue?
DE VERE: Well it did. So to make sure we were on safe ground, I had geological tests done on that there to ensure that they would have a case to build on. And they proved to me that it was marine mud under there, and consequently it would have cost them a fortune to develop that. So I immediately became disinterested, but I did take the Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, down onto the site one day - he used to probably visit me here periodically - and cause just down the road from where I live, and said, "Now Joh, what about buying this and making it a park to be held by the Crown." But he did investigate it, but he found out as much as I found out, that nobody could develop it, so we just said no it wasn't to go on. The people took us to court, and they got the right to go on, but then we set the conditions, which they could never have met. They had to... oh it was tremendous fill, they had to do it, and they had to put what we call weight, they had a load testing the ground, they had to put thirty ton of weight on each block over a period of time to see what it subsided to. They would have had to get a hundred thousand dollars a block.
CF: Did it seem many years before they gave up the attempt?
DE VERE: Oh well, they'd bought it. They'd bought it and they took us - when we knocked them back - they took us to court. So then the court ruled that they had a right to go ahead and develop it. So we had to put our conditions on. So the conditions we set was to ensure that the ground wouldn't subside. I knew that they couldn't possibly economically ever develop it.
CF: It seemed at the time that the Council was under some pressure from the State Government to approve it. Was this the case?
DE VERE: I can't recall that. They naturally, this chap was a very close friend of a friend who was then a Minister of the Crown. And it was through that doors or back doors, whatever you like to call them, that we were asked to relook at the thing very seriously. So this was probably when I had the samples taken to see what was under there, to make sure that it was on safe ground and saying no, we wouldn't let it go ahead. So then of course he took it to the Crown. Took it to the court, and the court did approve it. All we had to do was set the conditions. Well we got the best brains in the country, and explained them our fears and showed them the tests that we had taken and this is the conditions they come up with. Not only did he have to dig canals, but he had a weight-test the land to ensure that it wasn't going to sink when it got a thirty ton house on it.
CF: It was round about this time then that the Council initiated the flood plain studies. Was that a difficult thing to get through?
Was it initiated because of the problems of canal development?
DE VERE: Yes, there was a lot of development around the mouth of the river, and by this time well most of the development of the canals is probably in the Landsborough Shire, on the Mooloolah River, but there is still some in our place, in the Maroochy Shire. But they were generating problems that concerned us. And that was the fast run-out after a big tide in the River. Well when the tide went out it was the run-out that used to be making it hard for mooring of boats safely number one, but it carried siltation from up-stream down too and was generating problems faster than normal in the mouth. But we thought we should have a flood study carried out, because there was on the eastern side of the Maroochy River, there was proposals coming up for canal development. There was this proposal down here that you mentioned, Marina Gardens. There was a further one just down the road near Petrie Creek, and the ones down there. I didn't want the same problem to happen that happened at the Gold Coast where they got too far back with their canals. The fast run out of the tide was creating erosion problems in some of the lower, down the river developments because it was washing the banks away.
So the flood study was initiated which, for a start , the Government was very tardy about taking any part in it at all.
Then finally they said, "Well we'll do a third, and the Council can pay for a third, and the developers can pay for a third". Well of course, you know what happened to the developers when I put that to them. They said, "We haven' t even got anything to pay on yet, we mightn't get our approval soon." So the Government of the day, I approached them again and af ter about another twelve months they said, "Well we'll pay half if you pay half." And so that was the state we took it on, on the undertaking that when we did approve of a canal development, if it was a feasible, that we levy them their portion of our cost.
CF: Oh I see. Retrospectively?
DE VERE: Retrospectively, so that was what was going to happen. But I might say nothing has ever happened since then.
CF: So what was the outcome of the Study?
DE VERE: The Flood Study is there, and the information is tabulated, and everybody knows what will happen with major run-offs in the area. The Flood Study of course we had to put stream gauges all up the Maroochy River, right up to as far as almost to the Wappa Dam. On all those bridges, you might have noticed sometimes they got gauges on them, well that was to... somebody up there had to record if they got six inches of rain, they immediately had to ring in - we had people recording the rain - immediately ring in to show what would happen down stream.
CF: Interesting. And did it in the end, did it favour or not favour canal development?
DE VERE: Oh it was not against canal development, but it was certain constraints and size of the canals. Size was limited to certain configurations. Enable the river to handle the water down lower without flooding the people.
CF: You mentioned about gauges and so on, all the way up to Wappa Dam. During this time I gather you were probably attacking the water problem at Nambour. What were your challenges there?
DE VERE: Oh well, of course I think I mentioned to you earlier, the filtration of the water supply, but then of course the place started to grow. And everything was paying off, about promotion and telling everybody that we're at the best part of the world here, and they were coming here and development was travelling at such a pace. We trebled the capacity of Wappa [Dam]. We fifty percent increased the Image Flat Dam, and then we found that wasn't going to last us we still had fairly tight water restrictions. We then had to look for a further dam, and we decided to build the Cooloolabin Dam, which was going to be treble the size of the capacity of the expanded Wappa Dam. So it had a fair amount of water it was going to hold. But then of course we had to hope for rain, and that was the years that we had all those droughts, one after another.
CF: Yes, I read about those.
DE VERE: And there was dry times. It was very, very worrying actually but the growth was here, and development was taking so much water too, the mixing of all their concrete and keeping all their works wet.
End Side A/Begin Side B
CF: Was getting the Cooloolabin Dam built a very big project, a very expensive project, how was it funded?
DE VERE: By Council, by Council with a government subsidy. I just forget the exact rate of the subsidy at the time, but mostly all by Council was funded. And now of course when we've had a few years of good water, everybody says it's a great project, but for a number of years it was known as the big white elephant, you know because it never filled. It's got limited catchment, that was one of its difficulties. But however it's now proving its worth as a major storage and can keep the whole of the Shire going for quite a long time. Particularly if there's no rapid growth rate either.
CF: Right, it's tended to flatten out.
DE VERE: Plateau.
CF: I'd read at the time when Cooloolabin Dam was being proposed and built and the Engineer then, or Consulting Engineer, was Jack Muholland. He seemed to be with the Council a long time, perhaps you might tell me something him.
DE VERE: Well, I wouldn't say much more than we had little differences towards the end of that, because he gave me a figure which he could build it for, which was less than half of what it had finally ended up. And of course that upset me no end. And I of course I had to go and resume land, and I didn't get his support in helping me talk to these people, and that upset me no end.
CF: He wasn't actually employed by Council?
DE VERE: No he was a Consulting Engineer.
CF: He seemed to have had a long time relationship with the Council?
DE VERE: Yes, he done some great work, but you know he should have been the Shire Chairman because he wanted his own way all the time.
CF: Oh I see, very difficult. So what were your other problems. I mean you had the challenges of high-rise, canal development, the water problems seemed to have been solved then.
Surfair site and sewerage at Coolum
DE VERE: Coolum was a place like some of the other places we know, they wanted water. Development was starting to move in on there and again I had a little difference with our Consulting Engineer. He wanted to take an underground pipe across the river. I didn't want it, so that's why we've got the twelve-inch pipe that goes down across the bridge. But he looked into it and convinced himself too that what I was arguing about was right'. And so we put a twelve-inch pipe up to Coolum, and we got water there. Course they no sooner had water than they had sewerage problems too. The old story, one follows the other. So we started a sewer at Coolum then too.
Those are some of the things that have happened there. Make an interesting story that could be told about that side, was when Surfair was first promoted as a hotel site, and they were going to build that area over there. They were very big-hearted people with tremendous foresight of the area at the time, and they were going to build a international hotel there and they were going to have condominiums, and they were going to have many acres of residential living, golf courses and so on. And they did do some of them too. They built the hotel, they built a golf course. And they done a few other important things in the area, but to get their hotel licence in the first place, they had to apply to the Licensing Commission to get a licence, and I worked fairly close with them, so much so that somebody said that I had shares in it, but all I wanted to do was to get some development over there so I could get a water supply to Coolum. And you can only pay for a water supply if you've got economic development on the road. You can't run twenty miles with the water main and not serve anybody, so I wanted development over there. So I went to the Licensing Commission and a few of the things had to be satisfied before they'd give them the licence. Amongst them was a good water supply, had to be able to fire fight with it, and had to be adequate supply for all their toilet facilities, plus a satisfactory treatment for their disposal of their effluent - sewage effluent and bar effluent and all that. So I didn't know how we could possibly get water there. But I would say this for Mr Mulholland, well he said, "I'm back to the old "under the river idea". You don't like it for water for Coolum. I think we can take water up there from Picnic Point up through North Shore, up to the hotel site." So I said, "How much would it cost." And he said, "Well", those days he said, "twenty thousand. There's only just laying the pipe of polythene will do the whole job." So I asked the hotel people for twenty-five thousand to cover extras and so on that could develop. So they gave me the twenty-five thousand, so I handed it on to Council.
I went over there and I can remember talking about it. And so we put a pipe from, a two-inch polythene pipe, from Cotton Tree at Maroochydore, under the River, through the River - Mr Mulholland worked all this out - under the River and then we put an ordinary trench digger up through North Shore, right up to where the hotel is and we got water there, and they got a licence.
CF: What a saga!
DE VERE: And a lot of that polythene pipe is still buried over there somewhere.
CF: Isn't that incredible.
DE VERE: Yeah, so it's still under the River, or wherever it might be. But anyhow that's what happened. So now they've got water and we got a hotel.
Coast Vs Hinterland rivalry in development
CF: So you were getting a lot coastal development then obviously with Maroochydore, Coolum, Surfair and so on. Were you still experiencing that problem of the rivalry, the coast verses the hinterland situation?
DE VERE: Oh yes, but that's always been there, and I don't think it was much different. But I probably kept a pretty fair balance with what was happening for the people because as soon as we sewered Nambour, before we finished Nambour, I had the planning well underway for the coast sewerage. And then we got back to establishing a new off ice in Nambour, first of all we established an Office and a Library and a Child Care Cenh·e at the Coast. I think they felt that they were getting a fair crack of the whip, and well I couldn' t have done much else for them at that stage. It didn't matter if we'd had an off ice down there, it wouldn't have worked any better. So there's always been this little feeling that we pay all the rates and you give equal amount of services. It used to be the reverse years ago. Nambour was the biggest rated area, it was the heaviest rated area, and the Coast was just very moderately rated. Today of course the pendulum has swung the other way and the high rating revenue now comes to the Coast area.
CF: There's always been a bit of movement that there ought to be a Coastal Shire. Is it ever a practical possibility?
DE VERE: It's one I've given a lot of thought to, and I feel that it will eventually happen too, but not in the near future because you have to be fairly cautious on this approach because years ago, Nambour wanted to have a Nambour Town Council, and the councillor moved over there in Nambour, a councillor Venardos, that we have a town council at Nambour and forget about the rest. But I opposed it at that stage, and I would still be very cautiously approaching the project of a coast town. They're all saying well we'll take from Noosa to Caloundra, goodness gracious, that's about forty kilometres. And the Gold Coast has enough trouble, with twenty-two kilometres, twenty-two miles, and they always reckoned that Coolangatta, they were the forgotten end, and from Southport up they were sort of the forgotten end.
CF: Oh I see what you mean.
DE VERE: So if you've got nearly double that distance, it would be pretty hard to administer.
CF: Would there really be enough revenue on that strip to warrant a Council?
DE VERE: Oh yes, there would be enough now in the Maroochy end, there would be enough revenue, you know without ... the revenue coming from there now is quite substantial. And I was always alert that this might happen and this is why, that when there was the push for Olympic Pools, I made sure Nambour got one and the Coast got one about the same time. And child care centres, when Nambour got one I made sure the Coast got one. The Libraries, well when Nambour got its big one we made sure the Coast got one.
CF: So you aimed at a balanced development?
DE VERE: To make sure that if ever it did happen, well they could sort out their costs fairly easy, because each one had about equal facilities.
Development of Council Chambers and Nambour Library
CF: Tell me something about the development of the Library in Nambour, within the Maroochy Shire essentially.
DE VERE: Well Nambour, when I was first Chairman and quite a few years after I was Chairman, it had a little library that, oh well it was an apology for a library really, it was such a little thing. The staff, two of them would have to stand sideways to let a customer past to look at the books. Itwas really, it was just a jammed up little one there right next to the old Council Chambers. And I had some good friends in the State Library board, Mr Ryan and Mrs Lyons and I used to call on them quite often, discuss the future of the possibility, and they said you know, we could do a lot with Libraries up in that region if we could only get the co operation of the three Shires. Those days of Regional Libraries, you were really the great performer if you had a Regional Library in your area, because that enabled, briefly, that you bought enough books for the three areas, the three Shires, and you interchanged them every so often. So that once they were read out in one area, well you did a move around with them. Or if a special book that didn't have a great turnover of use was in your Library, if somebody wanted it in another Region, well we could get it for them and give it to them. So it had lots of advantages I thought at the time. They convinced me it did.
So I had to negotiate with the Councils then to try and get this about. And I would have to say that I got fairly ready support from the late Ian McDonald, who was Chairman of the Noosa Shire that he would gladly join in the move. But I was not so well supported by the southern Landsborough Shire. They were a bit wary of it. And course it took some time to become reality. As a matter of fact we had a quite a big meeting in the Maroochydore Surf Club one day. And I got all the people that mattered in the Library World to come up from Brisbane for the meeting, and out of that meeting it was resolved that we proceed and set up a Regional Library. And consequently we all had very much improved Libraries, we all had tremendously improved Libraries.
See a Regional Library attracts a bigger subsidy than an individual Library on your books, State Subsidy. So that was one thing in its favour, apart from all the turnover of the books. And so it grew from there. Then we set up the Bookmobile to give the service to the country people. So it brought a great deal of equality as far as in people's lives right throughout the area, because they had the opportunity of having just as good advantage of a Library as the people that live right against the Library. They could order books that they wanted to read.
CF: So the premises meanwhile in Nambour were also...
DE VERE: Oh yes, well the premises for Nambour, well then we knew that we would have to move out of there, and consequently we decided to look for some sites. Money was short because there were many basic things that had to be done. So many roads, streets, bridges, you know all these child care facilities I'm telling you about and sewerage. So we bought first, the Baptist Church in Nambour, and it come up for sale, and I had an architect look at it, and he gave me quite a nice design, which would have made a very wonderful area, could have holy books up the front and towards the back could have had books like, just like me to read. Anyway it had a crying room in it, so you could have brought the children along. Anyway, so we progressed from there, and in the interim then, well before we got really moving, we had decided that something had to be done about Council off ice space.
That was the first thing that stalled us. And the Council office space we had people underneath, they were working in very cramped conditions - we had people in rented rooms across the sh·eet in Nambour - and it was a most disjointed office, and it didn't matter how we looked at it. I even went and saw the Bank of New South Wales about buying the bank. And then we were going to shift the Library out of that little building up to the Baptist Church, where people would know it was, straight in front of the present Council Chambers. And so, the more I looked at it the more I thought well this is going to be just a great conglomerate, when it is finished, and would serve nobody's best interest, because you'd need a push bike to ride from one side of the Council building to the other. Cause one end was down near the Railway Station, the other end was halfway along Currie Street. That's how far it would have extended.
So we had to look for another site, to see whether we could find one, and I thought this would be the big upset of Nambour, or anybody to see the old Council Chambers being vacated. So I don't think I talked to anybody but one Council Officer, and I'll name him, the Deputy Clerk at the time. I said, "That's my dream," and I said, "you can come for walks with me some day instead of going home at five o'clock, and we'll go round the town to see where we put it". So we looked at various places, down at Howard Street - we looked at a couple of sites there - and I finally settled me sights on the present site where it is now, where the new Council Chambers are now, and then I brought more people in to discuss it with them. That used to be the cordial factory of Nambour.
CF: Wimmers Cordial Factory, was it?
DE VERE: The Wimmers, yes that was the cordial factory of Nambour, Wimmers, and they said, "Well you've got no chance of buying that," they said. "Jack Wimmers just will not sell, he's quite definite. He's got a special bore there that's got a special quality of water that made Wimmers drinks very special", and he did have, it was there. Anyway, I thought well let's try. So by this time we owned the Baptist Church which is in front of the Council Chambers, where those steps go down. And the house and shops, just on the upper side of that in Currie Street were for sale, and so I thought well I'd have to move ever so quietly, without telling everybody about it. So I went to the people that owned the house, and the shops, and made them an offer to hold it for X-number of days. It was agreed on. And then my main attack was on Wimmers, to get them to sell where the factory was. And so I convinced Wimmers, that they couldn't expand where they were, because this time we had a Town Plan falling into place and they couldn' t expand there, because it was not the type of industry we would allow. And after a long debate with all the family relations that owned it, they all got together for me, they were very co-operative, very good. We agreed on a price, after a lot of haggling, but we agreed on a price. So right, on the proviso that I found him somewhere that he could take his factory, that was going to be satisfactory.
So that got me on the search. So I went out Burnside way, eventually, because I was told about the site. And so I went out there and we settled on a piece of land which one of the Wimmer family were very happy about, and so, from there I went and clinched all the options... no I didn't, I called a meeting, Special Meeting, I gave two days notice, and I called it for three o'clock in the afternoon. So that it wouldn't get on radio and TV, and everything else that night what we might do. But I'd already taken into my conf idence the manager of the radio station and the editor of the papers, I'd taken them over and showed them my concern about the inadequacy of it all, and they agreed with me. So I called that meeting for three o'clock that afternoon, to get this resolution through, because I wanted to go and clinch the deals next morning, on these deals that we'd done, and I didn't want them to go out that we'd already gonna take their site, and they'll back out and push their price up. So I had that, the next morning I signed the others up. So that's how it happened.
CF: Quite a business coup.
DE VERE: Yes, well it had to happen that way. It had to happen that was because, and the media was very good to me on that one. So much so that I don't know any other place in Queensland, that has built completely, had taken this old chamber and completely built a new one, without raising hell about it throughout the whole area.
CF: When you consider the problems of getting the old one rebuilt after the fire, it's quite amazing you would have got that magnificent structure.
DE VERE: Not one protest, not one protest letter. Not one. And people just went straight through and took that. Mr Peter Richardson, I'd pay tribute to him, and Mr Pat Marr. He was the manager of 4NA, and Peter Richardson was the editor of the paper at the time, and they talked to me like good sensible councillors when I took them and showed them what I had in mind. They didn't talk like, what you'd call radical, hard-core newsman.
CF: So effectively then I suppose you'd lost the site for the Library. DE VERE: Lost the site for the Library, that's right. So you asked me about Libraries, so then here I was back to square one, there was only the little, squiggly Library down the street. And so then the Commonwealth Bank had decided to put their place on the market. That's where the Commonwealth Bank was for years in Nambour. So they had a price that the agents told me was $350,000, and I thought well, I'd made them an offer of $200,000 for the building. I think I knew that they'd put the big price on it, like everybody else does, but I'd heard on the grape vine,they were prepared to take $250-$275,000 for it. I'd heard that, but I don't know how true that was at all. So finally we'd got that then for a $190,000. Then we did qualif y for a $50,000 government subsidy for setting up a new Library. The whole Library - the building only cost $140,000 - it was another coup.
CF: With the building then of the Shire Chambers, how was that funded, was it very expensive?
DE VERE: No the whole lot cost just over two and a half million. The whole lot. Today of course if you wanted to build it, it would cost you about five. Might cost you more. It did things for that end of the town. I always like the title that some of the business people call it up that end. They used to refer to it as "Ed's Shed". (Laughs)
CF: Hardly fitting for that structure, is it?
DE VERE: Well I used to be up there every night at five o'clock while it was being built, seeing how it went up. And I had a great Council at that time. They didn't upset me, they just left me alone, with the Shire Clerk, and one or two of the councillors took an interest in it. The rest of them just went ahead with the project. No controversy whatsoever.
CF: Yes. Very unusual. It seems a very modern design, quite ahead of its time. How did you settle on that?
DE VERE: Well, I'm gonna tell you. I brought a couple of architects here, and told them to go ahead and design something, right into this room here. And they designed a building, which I thought was not what I would expect, whatsoever. So I told them to go back to the drawing boards, and Mr Birrell, again come up with that one, and I said that's it, that's it. I just felt like that it was next door to the White House.
CF: Yes, it is very, very impressive.
DE VERE: Yes, so I asked about the cost and the difference of the one that was the first lot of proposals, and there wasn't a great deal of difference in them. And when you think that building will be there, comfortably another hundred years, because it's established that if ever that place grows, the reinforcing rods that go up through that building are just bent over and polythened over the top. They're there. All they gotta do, if they want to put another two stories on that building some day, all they gotta do is go up and take the polythene of the roof, and straighten the rods up and they can just put two stories, three stories, four stories if they wanted to.
CF: It's very far-sighted.
DE VERE: We did that because in my looking around for designs, I'd been as far north as Townsville and everywhere I was commissioned to go, I used to go and look at their Council Chambers, and Townsville had one of the latest at that stage. I looked at a number of them, probably about eight or ten. And when I went to Townsville and I talked to the Shire Clerk or the Town Clerk, or the Town Administrator they call him up there, and I talked to him - I've forgotten his name now - and his Deputy, and they said, "Don't make the damn mistake that our fellows here made. They argued for four months over whether they would put foundations down equivalent to take any more storeys, and then decided for X-number of thousand, (I think about forty thousand), that they wouldn't do it," he said, "and before we got into it we were full".
CF: They'd outgrown it?
DE VERE: No, before they got into it, they said, "They've still got some of our staff away at another place". So I explained this to our councillors and they accepted it too, put down the foundations, so this could go up if ever it need be.
CF: So how do you feel about the proposed new site now for the Library where it will go in the shops opposite. Do you think it will work?
DE VERE: Well that was part of the project in the first design, that was designed to go in there. Yes it was designed to go in there. And it's designed so that you could walk in off Currie Street at a certain level, and you could walk right through, and come in to the main building on the first floor.
CF: So eventually it is now coming to completion?
DE VERE: Yes, this is the completion of it, yes, it was designed that way. No it will be a very cosy set up .
Development of child care and sporting facilities
CF: So essentially you got your Library set up and the Council Chambers. What other areas were you looking at, say in public facilities? You mentioned a couple of times building child care facilities, was this because there was coming a change in the population pattern?
DE VERE: Change in the population pattern, plus the fact that so many women, mothers, young mothers, in particular just never got away to get their hair done, or come and get their teeth fixed up or go to anything at all, without having to look after children. And these were country people mainly we were looking at, at that stage. They just never had the opportunity of getting any free time away. So it was different to what it is today. Those days it was open too, if you come in with your young child and you wanted to do a little bit of shopping on your own in town a bit of carefree shopping, or as I said, wanted to go the to dentist or the optometrist or the hairdresser. Well you could just leave your child in there for just one hour, two hours, or three hours, four hours, up to six hours, I think it was. Whatever you wanted. So that became so popular. And we only just run that through the period of the year, we closed down for about five weeks over the Christmas period, four weeks over the Christmas period. We kept it open up to the Christmas shopping. But we found then that a lot of mothers say, oh, "Jane's looking after the family today, the elder daughter, but she was at school all the other rest of the time". So therefore we didn't operate through those times. Now today, nowadays it caters more for working mothers.
CF: Right. And the funding in those days, was that government subsidised?
DE VERE: No. Entirely by what was taken, plus a subsidy from the Council. We were one of the few Local Authorities that actually established Child Care Centres those days. There was none down here as far as Brisbane on the south side, and I don't know where was the nearest one on the north side, probably Bundaberg, I think.
CF: Right. So it was a very novel idea at the time.
DE VERE: Yes well, we used to have people coming from Noosa and people coming from Caloundra up and really getting all the information they could about how it operated and so on, because they felt they should have one. So they were very popular. So then that was why I had no hesitation in recommending establishing one at the Coast.
CF: How about with sporting facilities, there wasn't very much in the way of sporting facilities when you became Chairman. Did you address a thought to that?
DE VERE: I'm gonna go back to the Child Care Centre - something I'm very proud of just briefly. It was in financial trouble, even with the Council subsidy. And a group of ladies got together with my wife, and they used to go fund raising. And mainly to keep the Child Care Centre going, because the Child Care Centre then used to operate in a room adjacent to the Council Chambers. It had to be cleaned every night, it used to be in the old supper room, what's now the supper room. Well the floors had to be cleaned, if it was a function in there because you couldn't let kiddies run round on a floor where somebody had been spilling drinks, or spilling food, or whatever else might happen. So they set up this fund raising committee, and they were known as The Committee for a few years, and they were raising funds so that this Child Care Centre could operate. And out of their enthusiasm, they decided, "Why can't we have a Child Care Centre?". And I solidly backed them.
And then they got the backing, so they decided to proceed with that, and then they got ... Rotary came in with them and Apex. Apex done something towards the furnishing, and Rotary done quite a lot towards the building of it. So the whole project was built practically by raised funds, that present Child Care Centre. And my wife's committee got known then as the Jo De Vere Welfare Committee and of course...
CF: Oh that's where it grew from?
DE VERE: They grew from, that's how it started, from trying to keep the Child Care Centre alive, because I gave them my financial and moral support, because I knew how important it was for
country people. So then after they got that one off, I think then they looked at Meals on Wheels. So then they raised quite a few thousand to get the Meals on Wheels project started. And then from that they went for ambulance, and you might see one of those plaques up there's given to Eddie and Jo De Vere because of the work that they'd done in the ambulance work. And so that's how it become a reality, the Child Care Centres. I found out how much they were appreciated, so I'd no hesitation in recommending we have another one at the coast area.
Right, now you asked me about sporting fields. Well I'm pretty proud at the efforts that we did make as far as sporting fields were concerned. When I first went in there, we only had five recognised sporting fields in the whole of the Shire. That's fields where sports could go on at the same time. When I left there after fifteen years, we had thirty-seven. Quite a growth of fields.
End Tape 3
Begin Tape 4/Side A
DE VERE: Quite a growth of fields, and that needed a lot of enthusiasm and energy on behalf of the people or urging by the people, supported by the Council, and able to get on with the job of acquiring land, and setting them out. So I had a lot to do with the establishing it and I believed in them tremendously, because I found out that in my early career in public life, that children that had an adult committee, arranging things for them, arranging their fixtures, looking after them and making sure that everything went well for them - they felt tremendously important if they had adults looking after them. And it gave them a great moral uplif t, and gave them a great feeling of responsibility. I ended up taking an interest in all the netball movements, the cricket, the rugby league. They paid me the honour making me patron of, oh I wouldn't know, but I think I had about fifty odd patronships at one stage. And in all the codes - that's the, union, rugby union, rugby league, and the Australian Rules, and the soccer, and we brought in the touch football afterwards too. Of course, it's come in. And then of course all the cricket and netball movements. Well I've been very much involved in them over the years.
CF: It does seem the whole district is very sports-orientated.
DE VERE: Yes well I think all this came about by facilities, you know for an area with not a big population, I think we've done very well. I could name a few of the sporting committees that have made a tremendous contribution to getting their land established. You know we bought land out at Palmwoods there, and they established some fields there very quickly with the assistance of Council. We bought 150-odd acres here at Buderim, and they've established what, four soccer fields there now, two tennis courts, and five hockey fields, and a pony club arena, and the cricket. So that's just in one area that had had nothing. Then when you go down to the Australian Rules, well those fields were established in Palmwoods, and also down at the Coast, and there wasn't anywhere for them to play at one stage. Now they've got great fields, and great club houses. And then of course you get on to the soccer. It's only this week that Buderim has had their
approval for subsidy from the State Government, a proposal which I'd been negotiating with the State Government with them for a few months. And they're now going to proceed to build their new club house, which is about $148,000 they're going to spend. So these are the type of facilities that we never dreamed we'd get when I was away back, because the only club house we had was probably a tin shed on the side of some field where you could get in out of the rain. And these lovely facilities, only a few months back, I had the privilege of opening the Junior Rugby League at Maroochydore, and their project there was about $190,000, and they've got facilities now that they're inviting some of the top teams from the city, from Brisbane are coming there to play. And so who would have dreamed it was just a paddock five or six years ago.
CF: Yes. Quite an advance. You mentioned that both with charity fundraising things like the childcare centres, and also with playing fields and so on, there does seem to be a lot of community backing for it. Do you think this in unusual in Maroochy Shire from your travels?
DE VERE: Well I don't know, I think it might be. Because I just noticed when I had a function to launch last Sunday, and people made the comment to me, you know its great to see you people in public life about. Of course I'm not really in public life, but I'm still about. And I think I participated in a lot, and the public likes some off icial support, they really like to have official support, not stand-offishness. No, you know, if I like to be critical of some of the councillors, some of them don't even turn
up to functions in their own area, and I'm there repeatedly, and I thin!< the people like to feel that officialdom are interested in them. And this is why we've had tremendous support.
CF: Do you think it needs the two factors, it needs the leading and support?
DE VERE: Oh for sure.
CF: Perhaps I could just read a little quote to you that I actually saw in the paper, it was back in January 1980. It spoke about you being the executive Chairman. It finished up by saying, "there always has to be someone in this role, although the Council may work with him and modif y his actions, someone has to take up the ball and run with it, and this he does". Do you think that's a fair comment on the way you interacted, the way you led council?
DE VERE: Oh I know I had tremendous public support, you know and I've been out of council now about four and a half years, and I still get marvellous public support. It's very heart-warming to see that public support. But when I look back, I did get it at that stage, but I did participate more than anybody else participated.
CF: Yes, the idea that it needs somebody to lead.
DE VERE: Well, I don't know whether you'd call it lead, I think you push the other bloke up front, but you' re there, you are there officially, and consequently people like to feel they've got some official recognition. I know I would anyway.
Arts and the establishment of the Ed De Vere Gallery
CF: With sports and so on growing, the development in community service facilities, what other things then were you addressing yourself to?
DE VERE: Oh well the arts and you know the other cultural side of it. Because I played a fairly prominent part in getting the first craf t cottage going in Buderim, so much so, that I think there's a little plaque up there saying I officially opened it, in recognition for what I had done for them. And we had none of that before we had ... we had people coming into our area I noticed over a period of time, and they said there's nothing to do up there, you can't pot or weave or paint or anything else. So we did get that one started in Buderim and that was a very wonderful group. And there of course I started to appreciate the value of that to another section of the community that didn't want to go out and watch football or to go surfing and so on. There was another section of the people. And that section of the people then we eventually built an art gallery at Maroochydore, and out of the blue they'd made up their mind to name it the Ed De Vere Gallery, and they didn't tell me till the first night, and I never knew until first night they opened.
CF: A well-kept secret.
DE VERE: Until they were launching it. It was only because what I,they said it wasn't because you got a gallery here for us, but it's what you've been doing for the support of the arts. But I was aware that, as I said earlier, about young people needing adults, I was aware that there was another section of the people that wanted some other cultural interest, but they couldn't put their thumb on.
Alternative lifestyle culture in the Shire
CF: At this time, I suppose getting into the late '70s, it would have been the start of what they were calling then the alternative life style culture on the coast. Was this something you were finding you had to cater for in different, even in basic things, like obviously land use and rezoning? There were different things they wanted.
DE VERE: Yes. Yes it was pretty difficult to adjust to them too after following the letter of the book for so long - some people come in and wanted to throw the book away. I found that was one of the difficult things. I had to say, well they are another group and some of them are fairly well-educated, and yet we're not fitting in with what they expect to find here. So I did amend my thinking a little, and I say it was a pretty hard thing to do, to say well I'll try and think a bit like them, but I mustn't sacrifice the vast body of people just the same. And as far as their development was concerned, you might have heard of the Starlight Community. They gave me the worry of me life what to do with them. And as a matter of fact, I've made the suggestion way back, which is only just been implemented now, because they took the law into their own hands when they couldn't get what they wanted.
CF: What were they actually pushing for?
DE VERE: Well, probably I wasn't well enough educated to understand what they really wanted. But they wanted to live their own way without paying rates, without getting building permits, without complying with requirements of roads, and so on. And they wanted to live out there, in harmony with the place, and do their own thing, some of them were good leather workers, potters and a few other sorts of things they used to do, and just come and sell their wares.
CF: What area were they settled in?
DE VERE: Out from west of Yandina. Out in that region, that's where they first came, and they got a property there. And so you know in public life, when you've got a problem and nobody else knows about it, you don't go near it yourself. (Laughs) And it grew in the absence of those years. When I did decide I had to go out and have a look at it, there was a number of homes there you know, but none of them complied with our requirements, what we were making people do in other parts of the Shire. You've gotta build a room with a certain room size, you've got to have certain ceiling heights, and you've got to have certain requirements as far as the disposal of your effluent, and all the rest of it. So we had to sort of make up some more rules. And so we endeavoured to, for a long time, forget that they were there. (Laughs)
CF: It's the easiest thing at the time, yes.
DE VERE: But we did make a suggestion, and it's been amended a little bit, and now adopted by Council, and I'm pretty happy about it, and that will give them title to their land. But they've got to bring certain things up to certain standards.
CF: This is the idea of group title is it?
DE VERE: Yeah, sort of a group title. So I'm hoping that will give them piece of mind because, you know some of those people came to me very upset when they found we could close them down. And we were closing other people down, one dear old soul down at Maroochydore who I got a real rousing on, she put up a tin shed in her back yard, and she made it out of rusty iron and so on, and course we gave her a notice to pull it down, because the neighbours all complained. And she didn't do it, so we sent the Council gang in to pull it down. Well then I said, "What are you doing with the blokes out the bush?" So you know if you leave it alone long enough people forget about it, and that's what I did too. (Laughs)
CF: Did it bring a change to the area, do you think having the different groups coming in?
DE VERE: It's brought a change in two ways. It brought a change to the area but it also brought a change to a lot of those people. I've noticed this, yes it's brought a change to them as well. They no longer you know, well they came more normally-dressed people when they came into town. You would see droves of them walking up the street then before. And h·uly I wasn't very happy to be associated with them. I'd speak to them, because I was Shire Chairman. Their children, well I think you know they never ever had them dressed reasonably at all, sometimes not anything on at all. But so they changed, and we've changed. I think the tolerance level by both levels, they've sort of updated themselves, a lot of them were quite good before, but a lot weren't. So they've changed and we've changed.
CF: It seems to have been a very tolerant area for different views. I mean there seemed to be a lot of different religious groups spread through the Shire, and a lot of new religious groups too, and yet the Shire seems to accept this. Is this a fact?
DE VERE: Yeah, they came in my time. And well I made it my business to get to know them. First of all I looked to see what harm they were doing. The majority of them in my book, amongst their own people, were only doing good. And so therefore I myself adopted a very tolerant attitude and advocated adopting a tolerant attitude to them, and well I think that sort of thing spread through the community at large. And we got along fairly well. There might have been one or two that were difficult, but the majority of them were quite good, even though they were newish religious areas, and they expected something. I think the only time that I got a little diff icult with them was when they said, "Well we're religious orders and we expect not to pay rates". Because once you're an established religious order you don't pay rates on your church, the land you hold on to your church, under your church's name. So I couldn't quite accept that one, so I don't remember where we really ended up. I don't think we ended up anywhere. I think they ended up paying their rates. Think that's how it ended up, because it was just too broad a sweep of the brush, you know they were going to say well we're living on fifty acres out here, we hold services here once a month. At that stage - I don't know whether the law has changed in the last two or three years - but at that stage a service had to be conducted on the site at least once a month, and it qualified for rate free.
CF: So tell me, with a new influx of people coming to the area, how was tourism developing over this time. What was the Council input into it?
Upgrading of Shire's caravan parks
DE VERE: Well after the promotion that I was telling you that I'd done by going to the South a few times, there was an increase in them coming here. The Sunshine Coast Bowling Association had a good influence on it because they used to put on carnivals. And they used to send invitations to the Victorian and New South Wales clubs to send up delegates. That in itself started to fill up our caravan parks, and from there of course, they used to go back and say, well the climate was lovely, the surf was lovely, but the low standards of the caravan parks - they hadn't experienced them anywhere in Australia. And the dogs, I can remember one of them saying, we should have employed a Pied Piper, to pipe the dogs out, sounding like a bone, so they could take all the dogs out of the place. So out of that we realised that we had to have a good look at ourselves.
So we set out then, progressively, to upgrade our caravan parks. Cotton Tree was one of the first we took on, then we took on Mooloolaba, and we took on a number of them to put a decent standard of a caravan park, and we put on attendants, looking after them too. Those days it was just somebody'd go down and collect the rents off them and away he went. So it was an investment, I used to always argue, as our contribution towards tourist promotion was having decent facilities.
And then we put on a dog catcher, and I think we went through about half a dozen dog catchers in as many months, because everybody hated the job after they were there for a while. People who were used to allowing their dogs to run all over the place, and when their dogs were picked up and taken by the Council dog catcher, well he was the most unpopular bloke in the place. But that started to pay off.
And then of course, once we lifted our sights on this at Mooloolaba, two lots in Mooloolaba and Cotton Tree, and the one lot there at Alexandra Headlands, and then we went to Coolum. We did a big one at Coolum, then we did one at Mudjimba. And then the more affluent people were starting to be attracted to our place, and they started to want to look at something a bit better like units. So then the unit builders came in. But it grew basically from the caravan up. There was nothing much, only people who came in caravans, or day picnickers. That was all we had to cater for in my first years as Shire Chairman.
Growth of business and industrial development
CF: How about the growth of business, was that increasing proportionately with the growth of tourism?
DE VERE: Yes, yes. Oh there were a number of extra businesses came into the place. And the first supermarket was the Butts Supermarket that came of course. And again I had quite a lot to do with that, they called me in on the committee of three or four of them and we used to discuss just how much difficulty there was going to be to establish a supermarket on the coast. And it was nearly going to be forgotten at one stage, but we managed to keep them together till they put their money in and that's what's happened, and it was the first supermarket.
CF: Did you actively go out to encourage business, particularly industrial development?
DE VERE: Oh yes. Well the industrial sites, you mentioned those, we had no industrial sites and I used to approach Mr Benston, the head of industrial development, in Brisbane, knew him personally well and I used to, every time I used to see him and I used to ask him, what can we do to get some industry in the area, because I was looking for alternative employment. And so I got them to come up here, and of course we went round and we looked at various sites. The one on the Maroochydore Road was one, the one at Yandina was another one, two at Yandina, the one where the Yandina cemetery is.
I shouldn't be rude and say, but I'm gonna just tell you the little joke. When I was trying to get them, after I got the Government to buy them, and set them up as industrial sites, then I had a look for people that might come and use them. And I can remember trying to get Hume Pipes to try and come into the area, and they ummed and ahhed, and they said "We're noisy, you know," they said. "Is there anybody about there who could protest?" Now do you know where the area that I'm talking about is?
CF: Yes I do, very well.
DE VERE: Between the cemetery and the railway line, that was the area that I looked at to try and get an industrial site. I thought well the trains running on one side and the cemetery on the other side, well you know, they shouldn't have much, and the highway on the other side - so they shouldn't be much to upset them. Well he rang me up from Melbourne, and he said, "Is there anybody about". And I said, "Yeah, there's a lot of them, some of them been there for years". Well he said, "That's the end of it." I said, "It's a cemetery". (Laughs) So anyway, it happened. We got that one established, and as I said then, I went to the chap at Yandina who owned that farm at the Yandina place, and asked him why not offer a piece of his. And so then I went to Brisbane, but I made a kill for him, he sold his industrial land, he was a dairy farmer, I didn't know. CF: It was all the Bowder Estate wasn't it?
DE VERE: No, no, no, that was a different one. And so, anyway so we got that one started. Then the Ginger Factory was in real big trouble, and relocating them was the next big problem, because everybody in Buderim was complaining about the smell of the waste of the Ginger Factory, and they had to dispose their waste somewhere. They used to send it down Mountain Creek, without any, you know, final treatment. So we got the Ginger Factory interested up there, and so I went and done a lot of leg work to get people. I even went to Sydney and saw people you know, down to there to try and get them up. The McCullough' s factory, I went out to their factory, they went out to a little factory in Sydney, and I went out and saw them. And asked him to come up here with his factory, you know. I heard he was trying to get out of the place. So then I went to the Government and got them to help us by putting up buildings and renting them to people, so that limited capital people could come in.
CF: Oh right. That really is taking the initiative.
DE VERE: Yes, so they did do that, and they came in and they built some of the factories and rented them to them. The Crown owned the land, and they owned the buildings, and they rented them to these people so they could use their capital to get into their industries. So it's done very well, the industry side of it. That was the important side, but I was looking for you know, you can have all tourism, but you were looking for some basic employment.
Issue of Councillors with real estate interests
CF: I remember reading at a time when industrial estates were developing, particularly over at Maroochydore. There seemed to have been a bit of a problem at the time about certain councillor or councillors having in interest in the land. Was this much of a problem on Council in general? I mean obviously a certain number of your councillors would have had real estate interest or land interest. Did it prove a difficult problem, were there scandals about this sort of thing?
DE VERE: Yes there was at one stage. And I think they were more media scandals in one instance, than they were in other instances. But in other instances I did find that or I felt that some councillors being on the inside could see opportunities coming and were making use of them, and I was most upset about that. Because I did deliberately set out in my own career to keep my own image clear of anything like this, because that's why I bought cane farms when I could afford to invest, cause I had several opportunities offered to me for quick investments, quick profit investments, and other things. But I kept clear of them because being Shire Chairman. I think the last one that they really pleaded with me to invest in was the Buderim Hospital. And I would have liked to have been in the Hospital, because I knew it would eventually be good, which it's proved to be, but I thought sure enough they'll say, well you put a hospital there because you're Shire Chairman. So I didn't appreciate this, and I took the opportunity of telling these ones that worried me, and anyway they no longer stayed with me, so ...
CF: Did it reflect badly on the Council?
DE VERE: Oh I think tried hard to do it, but they would only have had one blemish on mine, and it would have ended. But I was so - if I use the word - "squeaky clean", because I had my own brother said to me, "Thank God you're off the Council", he said, "because we're not game to ask you to do a thing for us while you're there".
CF: Was there tremendous pressure on you being the Council Chairman?
Pressures of being Chairman
DE VERE: It sure was. Yes, you had make sure that there wasn' t the slightest little dealings with yourself. I might say this house here was designed, the architect designed it, and because it was a very sloping block at the time, he put it a foot closer to the road, than I found out it should be. And when he was going to present the plans to the Council, I said, "Are you sure?". And he said, "Well it is a foot closer, but I do it everywhere on steep blocks". Well I said, "You don't do it on this one". So I just kept myself that clean.
CF: Did it put a lot of pressure on your family as well?
DE VERE: Oh just the outside of the family, as I said I had that brother of mine, that he said, "Thank goodness you're off the council, I'm frightened to have me road graded".
CF: Yes, this does happen in political families, doesn't it?
DE VERE: I didn't find it hard, because I'd set myself that. And I'm like the Victorian Premier, I always travel second class, while every other Shire Chairman - I did travel economy class whenever I had to go to conferences, while every other Chairman used to travel first class. But I was happy. Because when I travel for myself, I travelled economy class, so I couldn't see any difference.
CF: And towards the end of your term then, were the pressures very hard on you not to run again?
DE VERE: Oh well, the pressures were there, I enjoyed them, they were tremendously rewarding years. But I had felt that my, I had the feeling that my family didn't want me to go again and after all they had stayed firmly behind me for thirty-one and a half years. And so I thought well, that was a big lot of their life to give and it was very valuable to me too. Had to go out every election time giving out how to vote cards and what have you. So I felt I would then be seventy-one, and I thought well there's a time, and that was why I didn't, as well as the other factors. I don't know I probably would have a lot to contribute now, but I did work hard but I enjoyed it.
CF: There was obviously a certain bitterness involved in the high-rise development issue. Did that contribute a lot to your deciding not to carry on?
DE VERE: Oh a little bit, but it would have, I think they would have probably have felt well if he's back again ... I got the blame for the high-rises - I explained to you earlier - I was abiding by the law. I want to know where those people were when we called for objections, for the high-rise in the areas, because that was their time to make their presence felt, but they never thought of it. And once it became an issue fanned up by media reports and what have you, oh there was lots of things, but I'm glad that I stayed the way I did, because I looked at some of the things that people tried to stop going ahead. They were ultimately very valuable contributions to the community at large today.
Reflection on time as Chairman and Councillor
CF: What was your feeling in general about your thirty years, thirty years plus, as a Councillor and Chairman?
DE VERE: Well as I said they were very rewarding years. And I think that being accepted by the people, you know for some of those years I wasn't opposed even, well this in itself gives you a... two times, just one chap said, "They're going to make you have an election anyhow". He went in at the eleventh hour and didn't do anything else about it. So I was really not opposed about three or four times. Twice as a councillor, and once not opposed, but then the other twice, the chap just put his name up and didn't campaign or didn't give out how to vote cards or anything. Just went through the motions. And so I think I can feel fairly satisfied that I was, by the fact that I've been invited by so many to come back again, if I would stand again. But as I said, analysing my family situation, I can afford to be out of it, secondly that was important, that I can afford to be out of it, as well as my family contentment. Well, to have you along asking me about it today. (Laughs)
CF: Can I ask you a question about the method of selection of Chairman in this area, and in Queensland in general. The direct voting for a Chairman, as opposed to councillors voting for their Chairman, what's your opinion on that method?
DE VERE: Well it leaves the Chairman very free. He can express his own view, he can assess what the public out there at large think of it, he hasn't got to be concerned with the councillors round the table. You're responsible for all that happens.
Relationship with neighbouring councils
CF: In your time in Council, the neighbouring Councils - I presume you came into a fair bit of contact with them - what was the working relationship with them?
DE VERE: Excellent. Excellent. I could give you one quick one, and that was when I was h·ying to get water to Coolum, and I could see that I had some insurmountable difficulties, no Surfair Hotel, no development there. So I went to the Noosa Shire, which I'd recommended three or four time with the previous Council, to go up to Noosa, because they've got over supply of water, and we'll run a pipe down from Peregian down into Coolum. Twice that Council took deputations up there on my resolution. And twice they were told to go home and forget about it. When I became Chairman, and I rang up the Chairman and asked him was it any good to me coming up. And he said yes there would be. So I went up there, twenty minutes of addressing the Council with two of the same members of the previous deputation but a different Chairman. And they said, "Yes, we'll consider it, we'll give you water". Landsborough Council, exactly the same, so I had an excellent relationship, never once was there any disputed boundary issues whatsoever.
CF: Very good. You put this down to the approach, the sort of approach that you'd make.
DE VERE: Yes, not being heavy-handed. Now that was one incident where it was so quickly resolved that my Council and I come back and couldn't believe it.
CF: Would you like to make any comment on the Council, on the two Councils that succeeded you?
Comments on the two succeeding councils
DE VERE: Well the first Council that succeeded me, just immediately succeeded me, they were too remote from the people. They didn't fully understand, they only understood that they had to, well stop things that were happening, and consequently, they didn't understand how the dairymen felt or how the cane farmers felt or the fruit growers felt, and they didn't understand the Chambers of Commerce. I think particularly the business people of the coastal region, they were tremendously upset.
I can remember just being invited to a big builders' conference, I suppose they hit them most. And when they introduced the Shire Chairman, there was about four people clapped. When they introduced me as their guest for the night, they cheered and clapped. That was twelve or eighteen months afterwards, so that was an opinion of the people. So I think that was unfortunate that they didn't understand just what was expected of them. Now I had all those years of experience as a councillor, and I think that helped me tremendously, I understood most of the requirements of the people, what was their priorities in their mind. And so that's how I felt it was unfortunate, and I think it was, you know ... it wanted a change from that attitude, because for an area that's got tremendous potential in the future we needed that.
Now you asked me what do I think of the present one, is that what you ask?
DE VERE: Pretty hard one to answer isn't it, they're only six months old. Well I would say that there is a lot of experienced solid citizens this time, compared to the last time. There was no real solid people. You got people like the business people in there. As long as they keep a balance now of their thinking and make sure that they don't desert the rural areas or the hinterland areas, they're going to be an improvement on the last one. A big improvement.
Outlook on future direction for Maroochy Shire
CF: In conclusion then, perhaps you might like to tell me what you feel is the future direction for Maroochy Shire.
DE VERE: Well, primarily I say, that it will develop into one of the prestigious development, residential development, areas of Australia. Because we have a climate that's not matched by many other places. We don't get too hot and we don't get too cold. We got that middle of the thermometer sort of a climate, which is very attractive, having being to the south and having been to Darwin in recent weeks, I just longed to get back into this climate. So people all over the world are going to find this area. Then the other nature's gifts we've got is our scenery, we've got from the coast line to the Blackall Range. As far as residential living is concerned, there won't be too many years past when you'll find million dollar homes built in those areas, because the rich and famous, or the wealthy people will find us, and they'll want this type of environment because we're close to a jet-serviced airport, we've not far from a capital city with the four lane highway coming up here. And we're going to have all the facilities of the updating of hospitalisation, and all other facilities are going to be right at most people's doorstep.
And as I said, the residential areas that can be built on yet are unlimited in this area. You can get back into the high country and you go back here, without going onto the shores if you want to live a bit away from the sea, and you can look out and see the sea, you can see the liners, the ships going past. I don't know anywhere else in Australia that they've got this to offer, so that is the very important section of it.
Now secondly of course as a tourist area, luckily I had the privilege of serving on the Beach Protection Authority for a great number of years, and we were able to initiate early in our career in this area here, a preservation of our foreshores. And consequently with the high-rise not one of them was allowed to cast any shadows on the beach, so that meant they had to be, the six storeys had to be well back from the beach. And so there won't be the pressures on the beach. We built early cross-overs on the sand dunes, we forbid anybody to take even enough to put in the bottom of their canary cage, of sand to take away. So our understanding of how fragile beaches can be in this area here, and now they're being looked after this way, they're being fenced, and consequently without a doubt we must become a very selected area for people that want to holiday and want the opportunity of walking and going along beautiful beaches.
I have just one fear of this that when the international great volume of travellers in Europe and those places find us, they might be just a bit heavy for us on our beaches, because no where can they match here, with the Mediterranean or anywhere in those places like we've got here. And yet they're there by the droves and once they find us, with decent accommodation it will be built along the areas and it will be well serviced as I said, by air and road and all the other facilities. You ask me where it's going to go, I feel that it's quite unlimited, without destroying this type of lifestyle that a lot of people are hoping to get.
CF: Thank you very much.