Interview with: James Fred H. Murray
Date of Interview: 17 December 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Fred Murray came to Nambour in 1946 and in the same year he completed his qualifications as a surveyor and opened a surveying business in Currie Street. He conducted surveys for numerous engineering and subdivision projects and his clients included private enterprise as well as Local and State Governments. Fred Murray became one of the Lands Department's top contract surveyors and was President of the Society of Registered Surveyors (formed in 1973).
In 1974 he turned his attention to Local Government administration and served as a Maroochy Shire Councillor for Division No. 3 from October 1974 to March 1976 and from 1979-1985. He was elected Chairman of Maroochy Shire Council in 1985 and retained the position until his retirement in 1994. Fred Murray was awarded an O.B.E. for his service to the Maroochy Shire community. He was actively involved in a number of local organisations, took a keen interest in sport, sports clubs and sports administration and together with his wife, Mary, he became a notable competitor in motor rallies during the 1950s -1960s. Fred Murray also played a leading role in various environmental matters including the Wetland Sanctuary at Bli Bli . He died in January 1996 aged 76 years.
Images and documents about Fred Murray in Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: James Fred H. Murray, Maroochy Shire Councillor, December 1984. Image credit: Picture Sunshine Coast.
Fred Murray oral history [MP3 60MB]
CF: Mr Murray, you were born in Neutral Bay, Sydney, and moved soon afterwards to the Gladstone area, where you commenced your early training as a surveyor. Can you tell me what attracted you to a career in surveying, your family were farming there, weren't they?
MURRAY No, well actually my father was a surveyor. He humped his bluey actually into Queensland, and served articles with a staff surveyor. His father was a banker, and my father started off in the bank too, in Newcastle area in New South Wales. And he became disenchanted with banking, so he thought Queensland looked a healthier place. So he humped his bluey into Queensland, became articled to a Queensland staff surveyor and eventually passed his surveyor's exam, and then he went off to New Guinea for a couple of years. He joined the AIF in New Guinea, and he was one of the first ANZACs onto Gallipoli, and he was one of the first surveyors of Gallipoli, strangely enough.
After the War, he came back and he started off as a contract surveyor, based in Gladstone. And he and Mother got married in Sydney and I was born in Sydney, and eventually I arrived in Gladstone, and my father at that time was cutting up a big property, series of properties in the Boyne Valley, Soldier Settlements they were, and he took up a holding block, the actual homestead block on one of the properties he was subdividing and that was our home for the next twenty years.
CF: Right, so moving into surveying was a fairly logical move for you.
MURRAY: That's right. But then I went through a period as I grew up. First of all we used to go out in survey camps all over Queensland, up to places like Pentland and Lulworth, you name them, Ayr, Home Hill and all those places, sixty or seventy miles out. And usually used to travel in a horsedrawn vehicle, which they used to call a wagonette. It had four wheels and was pulled along by two horses, sometimes four if the going was rough, and we camped in some isolated places, sometimes a hundred miles from the nearest store. And that's how I grew up. I lived that sort of life till I suppose I was nine or ten, doing correspondence work at schools and then came back to a little place called Ubobo, in the Boyne Valley, and I used to go off to the Ubobo School. And I eventually got the Scholarship, and then I went off to boarding school. I was away at boarding school for about nearly five years.
CF: So that was in Brisbane was it?
MURRAY: In Warwick.
Survey work in the Maroochy Shire
CF: Once you qualified then, did you go back?
MURRAY: No, I came back after schooling. I matriculated. I decided I might be a farmer, so I spent a year running the farm - this is the property in Youbobo - and I had a feeling that maybe farming wasn't for me. I didn't like getting up at four o'clock in the morning and milking about a hundred cows. I then became articled to my father, as an articled survey student, and I eventually passed my exam. Well actually I didn't pass my exams for some time. The War intervened, and I was called into what they called the Allied Works Council, the C.C.C., the Civil Construction Corporation. And I worked on aerodromes mainly, setting out aerodromes, mostly places in north Queensland. Townsville and Charters Towers and Breadon, went right out to Camooweal, and right up to Normanton, and Iron Range and all these places. I worked in that capacity during the War, and I got married during the War in Charters Towers actually. My wife was an Army nursing sister. She also came from Gladstone, we knew each other before the War. Got married in Charters Towers, and that's where we were when the War was about to end.
And I came to Brisbane, got myself a job with the, what was then the new Local Government Department, that was the beginning of what is Local Government now, and I worked as a surveyor for the Local Government Department for about eighteen months at Southport. And during that time I finished my surveying exams and by chance a surveyor in Gympie offered me a job in Nambour. The job in Nambour was worth twelve pound a week, and that was four pound a week more than I was getting as an assistant surveyor with the Local Government Department. I was getting the princely sum of eight pound a week for the Local Government Department, four hundred and sixteen a year. Yes, so I took the job in Nambour, and I worked for this fellow called Vernon White, very well known name. He lived on Buderim in the early part of the century, and he migrated to Gympie. I worked for him for about six months and I began to think to myself, well maybe I should be working for myself, so that's how I started in Nambour.
CF: So that was 1946?
MURRAY: In 1946, May 1946.
CF: What were your first impressions of Nambour then?
The Murray Building, northern end of Currie Street, Nambour, 1980
MURRAY: Oh it was a funny little place in those days, about two thousand people in it. And there was no water supply, and when I first came here I lived in a tent down in - what do they call it - I say I lived in a tent in a funny little place down in what they called Frog's Hollow. That was down Riley Road, near where Lanham's Sawmill is now. We lived on the banks of a little creek there, and I suppose I lived there for about three or four months, until my wife who was living in a flat in Redcliffe decided that she'd like to join me up here. So we used the local wood carrier's truck and put all our worldly belongings on the wood carrier's truck and up we came one Saturday morning.
Of course we had sent some things by way of the train, so when we eventually arrived in Nambour we pulled into Station Square, and I got off to see what had arrived by train, and left my wife and two small children - I think there were three, one was a baby in arms, and the other two were toddlers - in the truck. And the truck was one of these tip-trucks, and my smart boy, about the age of about eighteen months or two years found the pedal that worked the tip-truck, pushed it hard and the tip-truck went up and all our worldly goods were duly lodged in the mud in Station Square. It was a great beginning.
CF: Fairly inauspicious start?
MURRAY: Oh very inauspicious, yes. Well, we duly collected them and we went up to a house, the little weatherboard house that we'd found and arranged to rent up in Mapleton Road, and it was raining like anything. It was tremendous. I don't think it's ever rained quite as much again. But we got to this property, it was near where Harold Blackman now lives - or Harold Blackman's wife now lives - and it was a very old greasy track going down to this weatherboard shack, and the truck slipped off the greasy track, and went down into a gully about sixty or seventy feet below. And from there we carried all our belongings into the house. And we lived there for a little while until we got ourselves adjusted, and eventually we lived in, we lived in two or three places in Nambour, once in Aspland Street, and then eventually, with my mother-in-law's help I must add, we bought a home, which was one of the original homes of Nambour from Mrs Currie, up on Currie Estate, and that was our home in Nambour for I'd say the next twelve or fifteen years. In Magnolia Street. It was a lovely old place, just above the tennis courts, and I was a keen tennis player, so it was in a wonderful position.
CF: Very handy. So you were of established then with accommodation.
MURRAY: That's right.
CF: How was work going? What were your first jobs?
MURRAY: Well there was never any problem with work in Nambour. When I came here we were overwhelmed with work, I was the only - when I came here there wasn't a surveyor between Gympie and Nundah in Brisbane.
CF: In demand?
MURRAY: Well, very much in demand. There were two surveyors, one was Vernon White in Gympie, and the other one was a fellow called Gavin Newman, who lived in Nundah, and I arrived in Nambour. Well that made three of us. And so when I started I basically started off with a booking of about fifty or sixty surveys to be done straight away.
CF: Why was there so few surveyors? Was it just that not a lot of people were trained in it?
MURRAY: Well, there weren't a great many surveyors in those days, and there wasn't any great demand, except Nambour. The North Coast as we used to call it in those days was a rapidly growing area. Whilst there were only two or three thousand people in Nambour, there were fewer in Maroochydore and Coolum. Caloundra was probably the biggest of the seaside towns and it was only a fibro shack place. And the main part of Caloundra in those days wasn't in Bulcock Street, it was in King Street. The Police Station was in King Street, and all the commercial hub. I think there was solicitors in King Street too.
Maroochydore was only a little fibro shack. There was only one way into Maroochydore. That was down what they call the Main Road now. It was mainly bitumen, pretty rough bitumen too. And Maroochydore itself, there was Butt's Store. Butt's Store was the big thing in Maroochydore. There was no solicitor. There might have been one doctor. I've forgotten, but there certainly wasn't any more than one doctor. I'd rather doubt if there was a doctor in Maroochydore, and there might have been four to six hundred people I suppose. And there was quite some difficulty. You could drive from Maroochydore by way of a gravel track, to Mooloolaba.
But Alexandra Headland was really non-existant. The only thing at Alexandra Headland as I recall it was the big Presbyterian house that was the home of Tommy O'Connor and his sisters, and I think it was a boarding house in those days. But on Alexandra Headland itself, great big saucer underneath Buderim Road, there would have been, I think there was Hooper's home, and Mrs Sutton, and that was about all. There were only about two or three homes there, until you got right around onto the top of the Headland, looking down into where the main Buderim Road comes out, and the McClintocks had a holiday home there and about half a dozen other people I suppose.
Then in Mooloolaba, the only part of Mooloolaba was the frontage that now is the main street and the main cluster of homes in Mooloolaba was facing the Mooloolah River, round where the old Shell carpark, in that area. Where Mrs Culpan lives, all in that area, that was the real old part of Mooloolaba. And there were a few houses. Cilentos owned a house down Parkyn Parade. But it was very, very small, you'd be, you know, hard put to probably find three hundred people in Mooloolaba.
CF: So essentially they were what, holiday places, second homes?
MURRAY: Just holiday shacks, basically. Coolum was the same. Coolum would only have, probably in those days only about fifty or sixty homes. And you had to go into Coolum then of course, by way of the, well the road, it was a pretty rough old track too, coming in from Yandina.
CF: So your early jobs then were essentially around Nambour?
MURRAY: Yes, my early jobs - you didn't get much work down there - my early jobs were cutting up farms here. Pineapples were the big crop. And a lot of people from the south, people came back here who'd been camped here during the war, ex-soldiers, particularly Victorians, Victorians mainly I'd say, a large proportion. And they came back to settle on pineapple farms. And in those days pineapple farms were really big business, and the average size of the farm that they were cutting up was about fifteen acres I suppose. But the migration here you know, from then on has been very, very heavy.
CF: And that was really the start of the boom.
MURRAY: That's right. One thing I must tell you is when I first opened my office here, there was no office space available and no offices. But Clem Renouf you may have heard of Clem - Clem and I opened an office in the same building, and we shared the same typist, for about the first two or three months of our initial business venture here. And that was in a place called Bury's Cafe, it was only about fifty yards up the road from where we are today. And Mrs Bury's still alive, she's June Upton's mother, and she ran this cafe, quite well, and Clem and I had an office upstairs.
CF: So really things like office accommodation were pretty scarce in Nambour then.
MURRAY: That's right.
Local Identities and Growth of the Maroochy Shire
CF: At what stage did things start to grow in the town itself?
MURRAY: I'd say in the late '50s. Late '50s it really began. When I first came to Nambour the big store was Whalley's, a great emporium. They used to say it was like Myers in Melbourne. But you could buy almost anything you know from a tooth pick to an elephant. I don't know if they had elephants, but they had every other darn thing. And old Mr William Whalley, he was the businessman of the town, very, very stately old gentlemen.
CF: You actually knew Mr Whalley?
MURRAY: Oh I knew Mr Whalley.
CF: Oh, I'd love to hear your impressions of him.
MURRAY: He was a gentleman. A very, very fine old fellow. He was very sharp, business-wise. I remember one time - I could tell you a funny story about Mr Whalley - When I first started here he always used to call me Mr Murray. I was a young twenty-six year old, and Mr Whalley was in his late sixties I suppose. But he was always very business-like. There was always Mr Murray and Mr Whalley.
And one morning, I think the Brisbane Exhibition was on, and we had a second-hand car, and it didn't have any brakes. And we were still living up in the weatherboard shack in Mapleton Road, and we were setting off for the Brisbane Exhibition, and I ran out of petrol on the way down. So I thought to myself, well I'll let it run out of gear, in neutral. It was a 1936 Ford V8, and what I didn't know about them was that they turn left quite OK in neutral. But if they turned right the steering locked. Gliding down Blackall Terrace, I negotiated the first two bends - and Mr Whalley had a lovely big home halfway down Blackall Terrace - and through the third bend which turned right, the steering locked. And I didn't have any brakes. All I could do was throw it into gear, and we came to a cluttering stop through Mr Whalley's fence. Just pulled up outside his front steps, and Mr Whalley'd just come down to get his morning paper. (Laughs) "Oh, Mr Murray!" he said. I said, "Mr Whalley, I'm very sorry", and made all my apologies. He said, "Think nothing of it". But anyway he helped me push the car out and we put the car on the road, and started the engine and away we went. But I'll always remember Mr Bill Whalley, he was a nice old gentleman.
CF: So that was essentially the big store in Nambour?
MURRAY: That's right. Well Whalley's Emporium was placed where Lowe Street takes off from Currie Street. Right across there, and it burnt down, I've forgotten the year, but it was in the late '40s would say.
CF That probably would have been the big '48 fire.
MURRAY: That's right. And subsequently of course the Council resumed some land there, and I carried out the surveys of surveying Lowe Street and Short Street and into Ann Street. And in those days all that area down in Ann Street and where the new complex is, that was just a cow paddock, a dairy farm. I think it was owned by the Lowes I think, The Lowes were a very well known family. The butcher. As a matter of fact old Harry Lowe, the old butcher, he was a Chairman of the Council at one stage. J.T. I think his name was, it wasn't Harry, J.T. Lowe, that's right, J.T.
CF: So they were some of your early surveys?
CF: When D.A. Low then became Chairman in '52, it would seem that Nambour really started to surge ahead then. Perhaps you'd like to tell me something about your professional involvement with Council then.
MURRAY: Well D.A. Low I suppose could be accredited with putting Nambour and the Maroochy Shire on the map. When I first came here, there was a fellow called Andy Thompson that was the Chairman. I don't know whether he was defeated. From memory I think he was defeated, but Dave Low - when I first came across him - Dave Low, he worked at the railway. He was a clerk on the local railway station. He was quite prominent, and a very forceful fellow, and he was prominent on lots of committees, like the Chamber of Commerce, and the Progress Associations and all these sorts of things. As I recall it Dave Low followed a fellow called Mr Walker, and Mr Walker died - Harry Walker I think his name was - he was the Member for Cooroora, and I think he died and there was a plebescite and Dave Low won the plebescite and became the Member for Cooroora and that really put him on the road to doing things. He later became the Shire Chairman - I might have my sequences wrong there - but I think he then became the Shire Chairman in the early '50s and from then on Dave Low did a tremendous amount of work for the Shire. He really put this Shire on the map.
MURRAY: It was Dave Low, along with Frank Nicklin, who was responsible for linking the coastal towns up with the David Low Way, and nearly all the development along the frontage there of course was done by development leases. Kawana Estates took one. The first one was T.M. Burke, and they took a strip of land, that used to be an artillery range when I first came here, from Coolum up to Noosa. And the conditions of the lease as I recall it was that they were responsible for constructing the main arterial road, and they also paid the Government a percentage of their sales of the various allotments so that they developed to a certain standard. And the next one that followed was Suncoast, and they took up property from Mudjimba north to Yaroomba, in that area, and they were responsible for constructing the road from, really from Yaroomba, right through to Maroochydore. They helped construct, contributed towards, the bridge over the Maroochy River, and Petrie Creek bridge and so on.
And then the third one, the third development lease of course was the one that Kawana Estates are still developing. And that basically linked all the coastal towns, and that gave them the thrust to become what they are now. And of course since those days the big inland towns, which were Landsborough, Nambour and Cooroy, have been left far behind. I think the only one that is really still prospering is Nambour. Which even now is the commercial centre of the Sunshine Coast.
CF: That method of developing the coast road, do you think it could have happened in any other way. Would it have been possible to finance it any other way?
MURRAY: I don't think so. I think in that time it was an achievement. Of course this happened in the late 1950s when sewerage wasn't thought very much about. Brisbane wasn't sewered in those days, and sewerage was left out of all the development contracts.
CF: Oh, so it was essentially the road building.
MURRAY: There was only road building and allotment developing. And so sewerage and water supply were left to the local authorities to supply, and of course this has become a tremendous burden on local authorities now. Landsborough have their problems in Kawana, and Maroochy has their problems at Marcoola and Mudjimba, and I would suspect that eventually Noosa's going to face the same problem at a northern Peregian and all those places north of there. And of course we have too in southern south Peregian, which wasn't included, I don't think, in the T.M. Burke contract. That is being done by Crown Land development.
CF: What would you see as Low's other main achievements?
MURRAY: Well Dave Low achieved many things. He achieved a railway station. He achieved so many things that they're uncountable. But he did more for this Shire whilst he was here I think than any other man had done before him. Of course he had all the advantages too. But he was quite a - what should I say - a character, in that to do all the things that he did, he put together an entourage that he took with him on inspections, and I can still recall going with him on many of these inspections. He'd have Bill Robinson, the photographer, and myself, and the Shire engineer. And he'd have the Press and a little fellow called Harry Dunker who drove him most places. Harry was a sort of a odd job man who did everything. He was the organiser. But Dave, he'd be lined up probably with a number of his councillors. And he usually had a consulting engineer, in those days it was Jack Mulholland, and I can still recall taking a trip across the Maroochy River - I think it was one Sunday from memory - and we all marched out to where they were going to have an airport. And we went across I think the first section in Ferguson tractors. Then we walked the length of the airstrip,and Jack Mulholland explained to us which way the runways were going to run and so on. And just a few months later I got the job of actually surveying it. I surveyed the centre line of the airstrip.
CF: This is the site that became the Maroochy Airport?
MURRAY: That' s right, this is the site that became the Maroochy Airport. Then some years later I did the surveying myself right around the airport, taking the boundaries of it. So those early days I knew it very well. Other things that Dave Lowe... when Dave Lowe took over, we didn't have a water supply here. Well he brought water, with the aid of Jack Mulholland, first to Nambour and then to the Coast. We didn't have sewerage and he initiated the sewerage scheme, and of course the sewerage scheme had to follow the water. It was Dave Low who really initiated all these schemes. Apart from many, many roads.
CF: When you say he brought the water on, was it a very difficult, expensive job to do?
MURRAY: Well it was in those days. See we'd gone to 1958, I think, before we even started thinking about water. So by 1958, the population of Nambour had risen to about five thousand. Although the beaches hadn't grown very much, Nambour was developing rapidly. And for a town of five thousand, living in an area where there was a rainfall of over sixty inches a year, it was unbelieveable that we didn't have a water supply. I think there was a little bit, probably when you have that sort of rain and your tanks become full, you know, for eight months out of the year, you tend to forget the necessity for it. But we eventually got to the stage where water supply became necessary and so Jack Mulholland recommended that the Council go to Wappa Dam, and the Wappa Dam was built. And then the scheme was extended to Maroochydore after that. From Maroochydore it went to Buderim and then out to Coolum. Well Coolum came a lot later than that.
CF: You've mentioned Jack Mulholland a couple of times. He seemed to be an engineer with the Council or working for the Council for a long time.
MURRAY: Jack Mulholland. I first met Jack Mulholland in 1945, when I went to Brisbane while I was working for the Department of Local Government. Jack Mulholland had an advertisement in the "Courier-Mail" for a surveyor. So I went and saw Jack Mulholland. He was fresh out of the army. He was a major, returned out of the army, and he had a little office in Queen Street, and I went and saw him one lunch hour, I well remember. And he offered me a salary a little less than I was getting for the Department of Local Government, so I reluctantly declined.
Well next time I came across Jack Mulholland was here on one of these expeditions with Dave Low. Besides walking over to the airport, we walked up and down a lot of dry gullies here looking for water, looking for a dam site, and this is where I met Jack Mulholland. But Jack Muholland took his part too in the early history, because it was he who built the Wappa Dam. It was he who put in the Nambour water supply and later the coast supply and the sewerage, and then of course he recommended and built Cooloolabin Dam after that, interspersed of course with many other schemes such as Kenilworth. Kenilworth was an isolated scheme, really I think the person who pushed for Kenilworth was Eddie De Vere. But Jack Mulholland was the consulting engineer for many of our early civil engineering projects in the area. A very good engineer.
CF: I've also heard during the D.A. Low period there seemed to be a huge influx of V.I.P. visitors. Was this essentially a feature of D.A. Low's chairmanship?
MURRAY: D.A. Low was very adept and able to attract V.I.P.s here. Strangely enough, he never took any great leading part in Government. He was a good back bencher, but he never became a Minister. I don't think he ever had any ambitions to. He was more concerned with using his position in Parliament to promote the Sunshine Coast. But he did bring a lot of V.I.P.s here. I remember Princess Alexandra, I think it was.
CF: Yes I've read that there was quite a lot of organisation. Tell me something about her visit.
MURRAY: Well, she seemed to follow the... when I first came here, we had a dilapidated old railway station. And I remember, I think I was a member of the delegation who met the then Minister for Railways, Mr Dugan, and told him about the shoddy condition of our railway and how we really deserved better. And we got a railway station, it was a very good one for those days. And some time later, possibly only twelve months or so, Princess Alexandra arrived. I don't know whether Dave Low knew she was on the scene and especially got the railway station for her.
That was possibly the day of the greatest crowd I've ever seen in Nambour. The whole of Station Square was completely full, and the crowd even was backed up into Currie Street. It was quite a magnificent occasion. I think she only stayed for about twenty minutes, from what I recall, but everybody came to see her. There was something else of course for Dave Low. It was he who organised our Civic Hall.
CF: I heard that was quite a fight actually to get that built.
MURRAY: Yes. Yes. It was, and I think as I recall it, it was paid for by the Division 2 ratepayers too. They had a special rate levied for it. But the things that Dave Low did for the town! Oh, he ran into opposition and he came in for some criticism. He was rather adept at selling Council land. Those days, rates weren't bringing in very much in value, so, he had to raise - we didn't go for loans - so he had to raise money somewhere else. So we had a lot of land on the Council books that we'd taken for arrears of rates and these sorts of things. And Dave chopped some of it up, he subdivided other parts. And he sold this, and of course this brought in more capital and I think he spent it wisely.
CF: At this time, were you starting to become involved or getting interested in going on Council yourself?
MURRAY: Not really. I don't think I really became interested in becoming a councillor till the middle '70s, really.
CF: You had other involvements?
MURRAY: Well I was more involved. I was quite keen on sport when I was younger. I played a lot of tennis, and quite an amount of cricket, and then I became attracted to motor rallies, and when those sort of things got out of my blood, I decided it might be time to put something back into local government.
CF: I heard that you and your wife were actually very successful in the car trials and so on.
MURRAY: Yes, we were fairly successful. I think we won the unofficial Queensland Trials Championship. I say unofficial because in those days they didn't have an official Trials Championship, and we were the leading rally winners for about three years. I've forgotten the years now, from about 1956 to about 1959 I think. And during that period we went on an Around-Australia trial, the Ampol Trial, in 1958. And we went on another one in 1964. We were fairly successful. I think in 1958 we were the second Queenslanders, and my wife was the leading lady. I think she won the lady driver's prize. She drove most of that trial, which was about nearly eight thousand miles herself. I think she drove about six thousand of them.
CF: It would have been quite adventurous.
MURRAY: I did most of the navigating on that. And I think we only lost 140 points, and that put us over-all about probably in the first thirty out of I think there were 160 starters. The trial went from Sydney, north to Townsville, and across to Normanton, and I've just forgotten the route now, but I know we went through Burketown and into Adelaide, and then back down the coast to Melbourne, then north into northern New South Wales and then back into Sydney. But it added up to about seven and a half thousand miles. The 1964 one was probably a bigger trial and we did better in that one. We came third in our class, we should have won it. And we were first Queenslanders, and we won the husband and wife prize, and I thought we did pretty well.
Fred and Mary Murray parked at the Ampol Headlands Service Station, Alexandra Parade, Alexandra Headland, 1965.
Entry into Maroochy Shire Council
CF: Very good. So really it wasn't till the '70s that you started to think about going onto Council?
MURRAY: No, that's right. I don't know really what... I actually became involved by way of a resignation. Kevin Parker, who was the councillor for Maroochydore, resigned about mid-way through a term. I think he'd served about a year and he resigned. And Council, well they still do, called applications to fill the vacancy, and I applied, well actually I was asked to by Councillor Merv McClusky, who was councillor for Buderim, and I was successful in getting on. I served two years then, and at the following election, I was defeated by two votes. That is in Division 3, and strangely enough my son-in-law and my daughter, who both lived in Division 3 in Maroochydore, weren't on the roll so I don't know if that affected me or not. But I also made a mistake in that one. I never had a scrutineer, and my opposition did, and I don't know whether that caused my demise or not. But I've never let it happen again. Well then I got back the following term, and this is my third term in a row, plus the two years I had then.
CF: So even though you lost out that first time, you were still inspired enough to give it another go?
MURRAY: That's right.
CF: And what interested you enough, in the first two years?
Maroochy Shire Council 1985.
MURRAY: I think strangely enough, the next time I came in, I think I became Chairman of the Finance Committee. That's about number three in pecking order I think. Ray Steinhardt was the Deputy Chairman, and Eddie De Vere of course was the Chairman. And what attracted me in local government, I think, was Town Planning really. See Town Planning only became a force in the State in the late '60s, in the early '70s. And I was always keen on Town Planning . I've been a member of the Royal Australian Planning Institute since 1948. And so that attracted me, and also I think that I was keen to put something into the area that I've done so well out of. So that's basically why I did.
CF: Were the councillors able to have a lot of input into the Town Planning?
MURRAY: Well they have this way, that it is they who make the decisions on applications. And really a Town Plan should be a flexible guide line, that's the way it should be applied, but unfortunately, if you listen to town planners, it's inflexible and that's what kills it. But my feeling is, it's a guide line and that's the way it should be applied. But councillors do have a lot of input because they are the judges who make the decisions. And there's also unfortunately I think some councillors do let themselves become a little bit too emotionally involved in decisions, and they take perhaps a little bit too much notice of lobbying. It's very difficult, Town Planning. I think you've got to divorce youself from your friends and everybody else if you're going to make decent decisions.
CF: Was lobbying as powerful back in the '70s as it is now?
MURRAY: Oh no, no. Heavy lobbying only began, the late '70s about 1978, '79. It was never as heavy as it is now.
CF: So really the first Town Plan was probably fairly smooth.
MURRAY: Yes, we had a good Town Plan. It was introduced by Jim Birrell, and it was a very good Town Plan. Unfortunately, I think heavy lobbying has destroyed some of the best parts of it. My feeling is you know there's room for conservationists and there's room for developers, but you can't let one take precedence over the other, and this is what's been happening I think.
CF: Well back with that first Town Plan. After it had come through, there then seemed to be a lot of controversy over, firstly the canal and then the high-rise development. How did the Council deal with these first cries of protest?
MURRAY: Well that's difficult to answer now, I've really forgotten.
CF: Was it something you'd expected?
MURRAY: Not really, not really. I'm always surprised when people complain about highrise. I don't mind highrise, but I'd never live in a highrise if you paid me. But I think it's necessary because, only in isolated areas. I think highrise has got to be placed in places where it doesn't affect other people's living. For example, it doesn't affect views of people living on a hill behind it, and it doesn't affect well, you know, the old hardy old annual. It doesn't affect shadows on the beaches, and air tunnels and all these sorts of things. But if people want to live in the highrise, and I think people who come on holidays, and we're always talking about it being a great tourism centre, the majority of people who come up here on holiday anyway, want to see the beach or live close to it. And if you only have three story walk-ups, number one, you get sick of walking up three stories, and number two, there won't be the accommodation for the number of people who want to come here, or for the businesses that are here to accommodate them. I don't think so.
I think there's got to be a limited amount of highrise in suitable positions and at the moment my feeling is that if we allowed highrise just into Sixth Avenue and nowhere else, we would be doing no harm. And I do feel that we've also got to allow into our Town Plan some sort of zoning by which a worthwhile development could have the right to apply to place highrise in perhaps other suitable positions. To me that is just being sensible.
CF: I see there's probably always going to be a bit of a dilemma then between wanting to encourage tourism and, to some extent, wanting to preserve things as they are.
MURRAY: That's right. Because the biggest problem I think that I've found are the new-comers. The older people, who have lived here, are basically resigned to the fact that we've got to have development, and they go along with a certain amount of highrises as acceptable development. But the people who have only been here for three to ten years, if you go through the ones who are complaining most bitterly, 80 per cent of them are in that category, the three to ten year people who've lived here.
CF: Is that why you say that when the first Town Plan was going through, there really wasn't any opposition?
MURRAY: No, there wasn't any great opposition.
CF: And you think this would be the reason for them starting to appear then?
MURRAY: That's right. As far as canals are concerned, I think we've learnt a lot about canals from the Gold Coast. You know you can't have them too long, you've got to be careful where you put them. In the Gold Coast, they've got problems with tremendous erosion on the edges of canals, and along the curves of canals, because of the water rushing out. And it's really logical. If you make a long canal, as the tide goes down, the water has further to come out, and the water comes in quicker, and we've got to think about those things. But I think the canals that we've put in to date aren't too bad, and I think it is the only logical way of development in low swampy areas where, you know, fill just isn't available. So I've got no great objection to canals. As long as they're built "according to Hoyle", they're okay.
CF: What were the other main issues before you became Chairman, when you were on Council as a councillor in the late '70s, early '80s? What were the other big issues?
CF: It's always roads, isn't it?
MURRAY: Always roads. Yes. Roads and water supply. The first big issues I came across were the roads of Maroochydore. When I became the councillor down there, only about half of Maroochydore had bitumen roads.
CF: This is in '74?
MURRAY: Yes. And we, I think, built about three or four bitumen roads. Oh, we built more every year over that period. But roads were the, they were the main bones of discontent in those days. It's a case of, you know, you used to get petitions of the whole street, of little veiled threats, "if these aren't built before the next election, look out" sort of thing.
CF: How did you get the money or how did you get priority to have roads say in Maroochydore built rather than Buderim?
MURRAY: Well it was just, I think we did it fairly sensibly because we allocated more money for the Maroochydore area than other areas. Much the same as we are now. We've got, what do we call it, disadvantaged areas now and we allocated about five hundred thousand, four hundred and fifty thousand this year, and that was to Pacific Paradise and Coolum. And in those days the disadvantaged area, we considered, was Maroochydore, and we scampered through with the Maroochydore roads.
Next thing of course once you've got your roads built is your drainage. Probably should be your drainage first but the roads come first and you do the drainage second. But Maroochydore faces tremendous problems. We could spend three or four million down there still for drainage and strangely enough another place that has tremendous drainage problems is Buderim, right up on the mountain.
CF: Seems very unusual.
MURRAY: Yes, but I'd put it down mainly to developers there, and perhaps lax supervision on behalf of Council. But a lot of the estates on Buderim, which has only been developed since about 1958, the drainage systems aren't adequate, and they probably only dealt with the area in question, the area they'd developed. And when the next area to that was developed the drainage systems just weren't big enough. So there's a heck of a lot of new systems to be put, and there are people, believe it or not, just on the edge of Buderim being washed out by tremendous washes and tremendous run-off during, you know, during heavy rain. I was, only last week I inspected an area in Ryhope Street in Buderim where these people are. They're suffering a lot of damage every heavy rain, and it really shouldn't be happening.
CF: For that term then, or your continuous terms as councillor, obviously you had to put a lot of time in for your own area. Is this difficult when you're trying to run a business as well?
MURRAY: Well, I think it is, and it depends how big your business is, and mine is a big business. I've got offices in Emerald and Kingaroy and Caboolture and Gympie and here. I had other offices at Rockhampton and a few other places at one stage. But I did find early that I really didn't have the time to give either the attention they deserved. So I must admit that my business has suffered over the last, well I'd say over the last two terms that I've been in Council. At this time of course I'm being pretty well compensated for being in Council, so my business is looking after itself, and I'm a full time councillor.
CF: Tell me what made you decide to take the big step, to go for the Chairmanship?
MURRAY: Well, to be quite candid, I didn't think there was anybody else capable.
Time as Chairman and Outlook for the Future
CF: You were a little disillusioned were you?
MURRAY: After Eddie De Vere went, I probably had more experience than anyone else. And I had a look around and I thought to myself, well if I don't take it on I don't know who can. And after the disastrous previous three years, I think I might have been right.
CF: Perhaps going back a bit, you might just give me some comments on how you would sum up Mr De Vere's period of Chairmanship.
MURRAY: I think Eddie De Vere contributed as much to the development of the Maroochy Shire in his day as Dave Low did before. He was a very good Chairman. I think towards the end of his - I hope you don't think this is criticism - but I think towards the end of his Chairmanship, he became a little bit difficult to put it - but I think he endeavoured to please both sides. And if he'd been more definite one way or the other, he would still be Chairman.
CF: Right. This obviously is a dilemma I guess that any Chairman can get into.
MURRAY: That's right. Well I've made up my mind. I know what I'm doing, and every three years people can judge what I've done.
CF: Perhaps following that line, what was your summary of the Don Culley period that preceded yours?
MURRAY: Well I wouldn't like to criticize Don Culley, but I think he was... I don't think his advisers helped him much.
CF: In what way do you mean?
MURRAY: Well I don't think his policies were what the Shire wanted.
CF: You see that as the major problem?
MURRAY: That's right.
CF: So you felt then that there really wasn't a suitable person to run, and that's why you entered?
MURRAY: Well yes. In a nut shell. Oh, mind you, I think Local Government is about 80 per cent common sense, and about 20 per cent adherence to the By-laws. If you try and stick rigidly with By-laws all the time, you're not going to do anything.
CF: So again you see a need for flexibility?
MURRAY: I think you need flexibility, I think you need a hell of a lot of common sense. And if you've got both of those things, well you'll go along pretty well. You know, I'm probably - I wouldn't be the pin-up boy amongst the conservationists - but I'm just as good a conservationist as most people, better than many of them I think. But I also know that there is a limit to it. If you try to be a 100 per cent tree lover, don't knock a tree down, you know, don't touch this because it's as nature left it, sort of thing, you just can't survive.
At the same time, I want to preserve the good things and let's fix up the ones that don't look so good. But I think also that we've got to be moving forward all the time and we've got to improve our image, and we've got to do a tremendous lot of upgrading of what we've got here. And I think we've got to do a tremendous lot of forward planning. For example, my impression is that - I think I'm right too - that the whole of the Maroochy Shire will be urbanised within twenty years. I think so. So we've got to plan for that. I think we've got to plan for new roads, where we're going to put them and these sort of things. I think we've got to plan for our parks.
CF: Can I perhaps ask something there? It is one thing that seems to be missing around Nambour is a park. Is that something you see a need for round here?
MURRAY: I think so. I think so. I think my impression of Nambour is, that all on either side of Petrie Park from, I'd say from where Tuckers Creek meets it way down Bli Bli way, right through to the other end, up as far as Menary Road, should be retained as parkland right through. That way we wouldn't be taking anything that we could use, but there are some beautiful flats, and there's some wonderful areas that could be retained.
MURRAY: And we've got Petrie Park, and I think we could continue it, something like Petrie Park right through the whole of Nambour, without, resuming country that's useful for other purposes. We are going ahead, mind you, with this Botanical Park - I think it should be called horticultural park - outside Buderim. There's some beautiful country in there.
CF: That does seem a beautiful site.
Have you found it difficult as Chairman? Do you find you're having to arbitrate a lot. Is this a big part of your job?
MURRAY: No, it's not a problem, but I think one of the things that a Chairman's got to do is endeavour to keep an even keel with all councillors. I think that if you get councillors working as a team, rather than ruffle each other's feathers, you get a much better working relationship. I've been a little guilty myself in the last couple of weeks of doing, you know, saying things perhaps I shouldn't have said, but I've also gone out of my way to heal the rifts that look like it could have appeared. But we've got a good Council this time, and although we don't all agree, for example, it's quite logical that, say Hermann Schwabe and I, don't agree on everything. Personally I get on very well with him, and I hope that I get on very well with all the rest of them, and I endeavour to make sure they get on very well with each other, which isn't always easy.
CF: The method we have of election here, of electing the chairman, the Presidential style. How do you feel about that?
MURRAY: I think that's the way to do it, because I think the alternative is of course for the aldermen and the councillors to elect their own Chairman, but a Chairman's a fairly responsible job, and I think the people should have the right to elect him. I think it's quite good.
CF: Yes. What do you see as your biggest challenges coming up now?
MURRAY: Get the Shire working again I think, and there's so many things we need. We do need a community hall for down the beach, and we do need a library for Nambour, and I think we do need an additional run-way out at the airport that we can land overseas jets in. Of course that's a controversial one too. I think we need better roads in the rural areas. I think we need more sporting fields. We need, as you said, we definitely need more parks. We are endeavouring to put land aside for that. We need more money, to do all these things.
CF: How do you actually...?
MURRAY: Well you've got two alternatives. You either borrow it or you rate higher. And I think there's got to be a little bit of both. Yeah.
CF: That presumably is a very difficult thing to do.
MURRAY: Well the other thing, of course, is when you have raised the money, is to spend it wisely. See we raise about thirty-one million, or over thirty million anyway. And spending thirty million wisely is... I see things that sometimes make my blood boil over there where, you know, things haven't been done wisely, and next time round, we'll do it a different way.
CF: Looking back on your time in Nambour. You've been here a long time. I've heard there've been a lot of characters around the area in the time. Do you recall any of them?
MURRAY: Yes I do. Bill Darwin is one. He was the jolliest man I knew. He had a voice that would reach from one end of Currie Street to the other. He was the local newspaper scribe when I came here. He was with the "Chronicle". And he attended every Council Meeting from Caboolture to Cooroy or Pomona - the Noosa Council met at Pomona in those days. He had a, as I said, he was a great big man, he was about, I'd say he would have weighed about eighteen stone. And he travelled everywhere - never had a motor car - travelled everywhere by train. But he was a character, you'd have to see him to believe him, but he had this huge booming voice. He was a very keen cricketer in his day, never made many runs they told me, but he could stonewall all day. But he was a character.
Another character I can remember is Billy Parsons. He was a big land holder Bill Parsons. He owned several farms, and he was the councillor for Nambour in those days. He lived up on the hill, just near where Mrs Dave Low lives now, on ths corner of Mapleton Road and Image Flat Road and he owned most of the land in that area too. But he had a little moustache that come over his lips, droopy moustache, and he always rode an old horse. He had a car, but he very rarely ever rode in it. He used to ride into town on this horse, and when I first came here I told you I lived at Frogs Hollow - Bill Parsons was my first visitor. He came down and he spent a morning telling me tales. I lived with my chainman and his wife in those days - they had a caravan and I had a little tent alongside - and we had cups of tea in there and Bill Parsons came and sat in the caravan and told us all these various trials and problems, and his experiences here.
And the funniest one of all that he told me was the time the - those days the sale yards used to be about, just behind where the Civic Hall is, on the railway line. And to bring his cattle in, he had to bring them down Blackall Terrace, down through Blackall Terrace, yes, under the railway bridge and up Currie Street. And these darn cattle - he was bringing some up one day - and somehow a young steer got away and he got into Whalley's Store. So the steer went through Whalley 's Store front doorway, which was quite wide, then he got himself into a display window. (Laughs) Old Bill said it was like a bull in a china shop. Here was this darn steer in the front of Whalley's Store. But apparently they got him out without even breaking the window.
CF: That was very deft.
MURRAY: Another story. This is a true story I remember of Billy Parsons. He met this young Dave Low up outside Alec Thynne's solicitor's office about where the Nambour Library used to be. Alec Thynne used to...that was his legal office before the library started and they were discussing another gentleman of Nambour - very well known- who had apparently beaten Billy Parsons on some business deal and Billy Parsons wasn't very happy about it and he told Dave Low about this and Dave Low said "Yes Bill", he said, "I've always said the guy, the fellow, you've got to watch closest is that joker who sits nearest the pulpit on Sunday mornings".
CF: Naming no names.
MURRAY: He didn't name any names. I think we knew who he meant.