Interview with: Alex (Lex) Smith
Date of Interview: 3 September 1985
Interviewed by: Caroline Foxon
Transcribed by: Heidi Scott
Place of Interview: Nambour
Alex (Lex) Smith commenced work with the Maroochy Shire Council as Assistant Shire Clerk on 8 September 1952. He was appointed Shire Clerk in January 1953 and served a total of thirty one years under three Shire Chairman. Prior to moving to Nambour in 1951 Lex was Assistant Town Clerk in Warwick and Toowoomba between 1945 and 1950. He had originally worked as a Clerk with the Esk Shire until 1942, when joined the Australian Armed Forces (25th Battalion) and served in Papua New Guinea until May 1944.
Image: Alex Vincent Smith, Shire Clerk, Maroochy Shire Council (1953-1983).
CF: Lex, you came to Nambour from Warwick as Assistant Shire Clerk in 1952. Perhaps you could tell me something of your first impression of the town, and of Maroochy Shire in general.
SMITH: First impression was that the area’s a very pretty area, and that the town was an attractive looking little town in those days, nestled down in between the hills as though it’s a saucer, it makes it a bit hot in the summer time too. I think that was the first impression.
CF: Was it very different to Warwick, facilities and so on?
SMITH: Yes, the services were not as one would of expected in a town of this size at a that time. In Warwick, most places were connected with sewerage, water, gas, electricity, none of those existed when I first came here.
CF: What was the housing situation like, did you have difficulty getting accommodation?
SMITH: Housing was very, very difficult from a rental point of view in those days. It was about seven months before I was able to rent a flat to get my family down here from Warwick.
CF: And tell me, I understand you hadn't been here very long before you were appointed to Shire Clerk. How did this come about?
SMITH: Well the person who was appointed Shire Clerk in about July of 1952, unfortunately didn't carry on the job any later than December, and at that time, at the end of December the Council asked me to act as Shire Clerk. Ultimately later in January, they appointed me as Shire Clerk.
CF: Can you tell me broadly, what are the responsibilities, what are the duties of a Shire Clerk?
SMITH: Well of course, in accordance with the Local Government Act, the Clerk of a Local Authority is the Chief Administrative Officer. And he is charged with the duty of not only taking care of all records in the office, making sure that they are all kept correctly, looking after their safe custody, but directing the staff and the various duties that have to be carried out.
CF: And what size staff did you have back in 1952,-`53?
SMITH: It was a very small staff in those days, about I think there were two girls and two men on the staff, on the administrative staff. There were two health Inspectors, and in August of that year, that is 1952, an Engineer was appointed. Prior of that there was only a Consulting Engineer serving the Shire.
CF: Was there a lot of outdoor staff as well?
SMITH: Outdoor staff of course was quite small too in those days, perhaps sixty to seventy personnel.
CF: And you were responsible for the as well?
SMITH: Yes, as the Chief Administrative Officer, the duties were split though, of course, the Engineer looked after the outside staff. But that was the way it was in those days.
CF: Obviously you would have been working very closely, or a Shire Clerk in general would work very closely with Shire Chairman. When you arrived, that would have been D.A. Low, who would have just come to the Chairmanship, I guess.
SMITH: That`s correct, yes, not long.
CF: What was your assessment, I mean you were the Shire Clerk during his whole fifteen years of Chairmanship, what`s your assessment of his contribution to Nambour and to the Shire?
SMITH: Well I believe that he actually started off the growth that we saw in the 1950`s and `60s. He was Chairman for fifteen years, and it was during that period that we first saw a reticulated water supply go into the township of Kenilworth, that was the first town in the Shire to receive that service.
SMITH: That was followed later with Nambour being given a service of water in 1958 I think it was. And then it progressively went down to the beach, the beach areas. And then finally, in the very early days Kenilworth was the first to be sewered, followed again by Nambour, and then go to the beach areas. So it`s in the last thirty years a lot of development has taken place.
CF: Was there sort of a ...I mean this was obviously a lot of money and everything involved in setting up the water system, the sewerage system. Was most of this done by loans?
SMITH: Mostly by loan funds yes. Loan and subsidy.
CF: And would you be very involved in the negotiation or the getting of these loans?
SMITH: Yes, application had to be made at a certain time each year, to the Government, for the permission to raise loans, and when that permission is given, generally in about July or August, the Local Authority the has to approach the lending authorities to raise these loans, for an offer of the loans.
CF: Were you always fairly confident that you were going to get the money or did you really have to fight for it?
SMITH: Yes, I think Maroochy did well, we ultimately always were able to borrow the full amount that we were given permission to borrow, so we did fairly well.
CF: Right. And the other thing obviously, or the big thing that D.A. Low was responsible for was the coastal highway. What was the situation before that out on the coast?
SMITH: Well before the coastal highway....
CF: There was just very separate little towns, was there any sort of communication between the separate towns?
SMITH: Before the coastal highway, the communication was, from the Bruce Highway, for arguments sake, to get to Coolum you had to go to Yandina, down the Yandina- Coolum Road. There was no road between there and North Shore, that`s the Maroochy River, similarly there was no road between Mooloolaba and Caloundra, it wasn`t until many, many years, in fact 1958 that the David Low bridge was put across the Mooloolah River at Mooloolaba. Before that the only way to get to these places was from the Bruce Highway.
CF: And this was very much D.A. Low`s baby was it? The connecting up, the creation of the coastal highway?
SMITH: The coastal highway started to be developed when the developers started to come into the area, and develop it. This created a demand for roadworks too, those particular sub-divisions.
CF: And who actually built the roads, was it the developers or was it the Main Roads?
SMITH: Mainly the developers in those days. That was part of the cost they had to bear.
CF: Right. So what, if they were developing an area they were responsible for putting in the road as well.
SMITH: Yeah, putting a road to it.
CF: Oh, I see. And what about the, well the missing links, so to speak?
SMITH: Well the missing links were slowly developed, mostly by the developers. The only road that I remember the Shire building was from the David low bridge out to the airport.
SMITH: That was done with the aid of Commonwealth Aid funds, Commonwealth road funds.
CF: Yeah. Who were the big developers in the area then?
CF: Right. Which area would he have been responsible for?
SMITH: The Peregian area, up towards that, in that area. T.M Burke in the Peregian area. Sole Callow developed Pacific Paradise. Suncoast Development did the Mudjimba, Marcoola, Yaroomba area. And Alpha Grant, of course constructed most of the canals in the Mooloolaba area. And those were the developers that mainly contributed towards building the coastal highway.
CF: You mentioned the connection up to the Maroochy Airport, that obviously was quite a big coo on David Low`s behalf to get that built. Was there a lot of background to that, a lot of struggle to it?
SMITH: No, no , struggle for that at all. It was just built by the Commonwealth Aid Funds, there was a grant from the Government.
CF: Right. Was there much debate about where it would be sited?
SMITHS: See most of that country through which that road runs from the bridge to the airport was wallum country, melon holey country, wasn`t being used for agriculture of anything like that. It was just useless land in those days.
CF: So it wasn`t a case of taking valuable land for it?
SMITH: No, no, no/
CF: You mentioned then, that was the establishment of the coastal highway, you say when you came to Nambour there really weren`t any bitumen roads and so on. How long did it take to get that sort of things moving?
SMITH: Oh well, almost immediate. First of all plant had to be acquired to carry out road construction. In those very early days, there was very little road construction plant in the Shire, I think that at the time, at the beginning of 1952, there was one old gallon grader, it had been an Allied Works Council grader used Northern Territory. The Council did purchase a new grader from over-seas, from Great Britain, but unfortunately it only worked for about five months and it broke it`s differential, and it took about eighteen months to get any of the differential from England.
CF: So road works were a bit slow.
SMITH: So it took a little while. After that things started to progress and we slowly constructed roads and had them bituminized.
CF: What was the areas responsibility between the Council and the Department of Main Roads for road building? Who actually did the work?
SMITH: In the very early days the Main Roads Department had a maintenance gang of its own stationed in the Shire. Later that gang was dispensed with and the Local Authority used to do the construction work for the Main Roads.
CF: Right, so during your time, or from your time onwards it would have been the Shire gang, or gangs.
SMITH: Not really, the maintenance, Main Roads maintenance gang was in existence several years after I came here.
CF: Right. But how was the priority established for the sealing of the roads, did it go first to the township of Nambour?
SMITH: Well, at the beginning of Dave Low`s Chairmanship, the Council decided to apportion any money to each Councillor, in the proportion of rates received from that area. That money then was spent by each Councillor in the place where he felt it should be first spent. Therefore roads were constructed and sealed in accordance with the wishes of the people in that particular area through their Councillor, through their representative.
CF: So it was up to the individual Councillor to decide perhaps with negotiation with his electorate so to speak, that it was a road that they really wanted as opposed to something else. Is that the way it worked.
SMITH: That`s correct, yes. They told their representative what they felt was the greatest priority and that`s the policy he followed.
CF: Right. And did the Council always accept that as such, in other words could they over turn the spending?
SMITH: They could have done, they had the power, and they did have the power to, not vote for it, but it wasn`t done, they worked well together as a team in those days.
CF: Right. And the other achievements by David Low, what do you see as his other achievements during that fifteen year term. We`ve mentioned getting the water on, the sewerage, the coastal highway. Did building become a very big thing during his term?
SMITH: Well of course the Shire was a very popular area, and it started to develop and grow and of course building proceeded. The other big project that was commenced, or came into fruition in his time was the construction of the airport.
SMITH: In those days the initial cost was a hundred and ten thousand pounds, and that money was supplied by the Commonwealth Government. The Council, through its Consulting Engineer, constructed the airport, but of course it`s been extended a lot since then.
CF: At that time in the `50s, there was a lot interest in sand mining up and down the coast then, what was the Council`s policy on this?
SMITH: The Council didn`t want the beaches or the sand dunes to be mined, and as a result, each time a application for sand mining permits was applied for the Council fought the case in the Mining Wardens Court in Gympie. And there were quite a number of cases fought. Could have been anything up to fifteen to twenty cases altogether. The result was that Council was successful and the mining didn`t take place, and therefore the vegetation on them was retained.
CF: And who would represent Council at these hearings?
SMITH: Well the Council in those days had appointed a firm of solicitors as their solicitors, and it was generally a member of that firm and the clerk - that was myself of course - that went to these cases.
CF: Right. So you would have been at all these hearings?
SMITH: That it correct. Yes.
CF: Was it difficult, did you have to put a very strong case to stop these leases?
SMITH: I had to fight, I had to put up a good case, and convince the Magistrate that it wasn`t in the best interest for this part of the coast line.
CF: And what essentially were you saying, what were you saying that it would do?
SMITH: Well it would destroy the vegetation, was one of our strong points, because the root system of the vegetation is the thing that holds the sand dunes together. And even thought the applicants for the mining lease said they would reinstate the foliage and that sort of thing, we maintained that you could not get a root system to grow within a few months, it takes a long time of roots of plants to grow and hold the sand and the soil together. And therefore that was where we won most of the cases.
CF: Right. And that was the Council policy right through that period. Was it the same in the adjoining Councils by the way, in Noosa and Landsborough?
SMITH: I don`t think they fought it as much as we did, I know that there were some mining leases granted in Noosa, but not a great number in Landsborough, I thing there might have been one or two. But we just felt it would destroy the beaches, destroy the sand dunes and so we didn`t want it.
CF: Right. During this period I`ve seen newspaper accounts at the time in The Chronical, and they give a lot of emphasis to opening ceremonies, openings of bridges and roads and parks and so on, V.I.P. visitors to the area. Was this exaggerated in the papers or was this very much the way that David Low did things. Did he do things with a lot of publicity so to speak?
SMITH: Yes, there was quite a lot of publicity in those days, and of course everyone was happy to see progress being made in the Shire and it wasn`t everyday that a bridge the size of the one across the river at Bli Bli was constructed and opened to traffic and so that was an occasion. On the other side entertaining a V.I.P. and the sort of thing, a lot of that was done at the request of the State Government, through the Premiers Department.
CF: In what way, what they just asked the Council to entertain visitors?
SMITH: Well they would have visitors from overseas, and they expressed a desire to see certain parts of Queensland when they came to Queensland and as a result the Department, the Premiers Department would make contact with the local authority, with the Shire, and ask it to entertain one of these V.I.P.`s for a day or sometimes two days, mainly one day. I think they picked this area because it had such a diversity of interests, mainly in the agricultural side. Of course we had the Sugar Mill, and certain industries here and people were quite interested in seeing all these things in this part of Australia.
CF: Right. Would also this have come back to the fact that D.A.Low was not only the Shire Chairman he was also the local member for Cooroora, this wearing of two hats this presumably would have brought a lot more people as well, would it?
SMITH: Oh yes, I think it did really. He being a member of the Parliament at the time, and also as Chairman. He was in the position to be able to speak to people down there about it, and I think he was trying to promote the area he did so and then received some of these requests to entertain people here.
CF: It seems like an enormous task, I mean they both strike me as two full time jobs, you know did you yourself, you know in your observations, did it seem very difficult for him to combine both?
SMITH: Oh no, he seemed to combine them fairly well in those days, I think mainly because the pace wasn`t as quick as it is now. I can`t really say much more than that really, I think it would be a much more difficult job today to try and do the two jobs. The tempos a lot faster.
CF: Because obviously a lot of what he was doing was P.R. work in the Shire with the visitors and so on. Did this fall back on the Council workers and so on, on yourself, was this a lot of work, the visitors?
SMITH: Yes, there were preparations had to be made to ensure that a good itinerary was prepared for them, and so we just had to stand and nut it out and do it.
CF: There was an example I read in the paper that Princess Alexandra came to visit the town, and effectively it seemed like she had about fifteen minutes in the town, and a lot of things were planned. How would you have attacked this, how much warning would you have had that she was actually coming?
SMITH: Oh, you`d get reasonable warning always, there`s plenty of time to make provision, plenty of time.
CF: Yeah. And what sort of things would you look at to show people?
SMITH: In many cases, a lot of the V.I.Ps expressed a wish to see this or that or something else, and so, on those occasions you made sure that you gave them plenty of time to visit these particular areas they wanted to see. And at the same time getting them to those areas you’re taking them through other areas that would be of interest to them.
CF: Right. I see what you mean. And you`d be responsible for arranging transport and so on to get them around.
SMITH: Yes, yes.
CF: And with the things like the openings you know the big bridge openings, the park openings and so on, would this require a lot of people to be at it, you know, what I`ve seen in photos there always seemed to be a big group of people around D.A. Low?
SMITH: Yes, to make it a well worth while event, people were invited, people in the industry, people in positions in the town.
CF: Was there a D.A. Low entourage as such, you know was there a party, presumably yourself, members of Council and so on, would you be at all these openings?
SMITH: Yes, at most of them. Councillors and their wives would go, I would obviously go because most of the arrangements were made it the office for the various functions, so that it was necessary to be there to make sure that there was no hitch.
CF: Yeah. I mean was there the idea that this was a compulsory thing, you know that one had to be seen to be doing ones duty as a councillor and so on, to be at all the openings?
SMITH: I think it was seen more or less as part and parcel of the job.
CF: Right. And was there a lot of expense involved in these sorts of activities? Those, plus the V.I.P.visitors and so on.
SMITH: Not a great deal really, of course obviously the V.I.Ps and anyone travelling with them would be treated to say, a luncheon if they were going to be here for the day and that sort of thing, but not a lot else. Travelling time of course and vehicles and that.
CF: Did Council ever receive any criticism for this sort of thing, or did people see it as good tourism?
SMITH: I believe towards the end of, or getting into the middle `60s, I believe people were thinking it was being overdone a bit.
CF: Do you think they were right in that?
SMITH: Well yes, I`ll put it to you this way, when the Chairmanship changed and Councillor De Vere came into office, he approached the Government about this, subject, so much so that quite frequently the Treasury Department would ring and say, can you take this V.I.P or that V.I.P. and we`ll pay the expenses if you look after them for the day. And so this did happen.
CF: So it showed they really did want them to come to the area.
SMITH: Yes, yes.
CF: So the sort of thing, going back then to David Low, his promoting of the area, the big openings, the functions and the whole bit, did you see that as something he was doing for the Shire or was it a bit of David Low as well, you know, what sort of person was he?
SMITH: David Low was born in this district, and he had it very much at heart. And I believe that he did mainly good for the district.
CF: And all over, just in summing up for David Low, how then do you see his contribution for Nambour, say from the time he took over as Chairman in `52, through his fifteen years, how did Nambour really change in that time?
SMITH: I see it as the beginning of an advancement for the whole of the district.
CF: So what, he took it out of being perhaps just a country town you mean?
SMITH: Yes, it started to become an active area, and commenced to grow and I think that he did a very good job in those days as Chairman.
CF: Yeah. There was, in `64, he only narrowly won the Chairmanship back from Cliff Butt challenging, and then in `67 he actually lost it to Eddie De Vere.
SMITH: That`s correct.
CF: What lead up to this, what actually brought the change about? I mean he was such a popular Chairman.
SMITH: Oh I think people began to think well it might be a good idea to have a change. And fifteen years is a long time to be in a position as a Chairman of a Shire, and I think the people just felt that perhaps it`d be a good idea to have a change.
CF: Was it the campaign, Eddie De Vere/David Low campaign, was it a nasty campaign, I mean were things unpleasant during it?
SMITH: Well of course David Low, prior to that election when he was defeated, for some considerable time had not been well, and I think people felt that it might be a good idea to have a change. Course obviously no one likes being defeated, and I think possibly he is like any one else and didn`t like it. I don`t think it was a very dirty campaign though at all, there wasn`t anything really very nasty about it.
CF: Was it difficult for you in the change over period, going from one Chairman to the other?
SMITH: Not really, you become trained to this sort of thing, you must work well, a Clerk of the Local Authority must work with the Chairman, whoever he be, and whatever his policies are or his Council`s policies are, the clerk must fit in with those and comply with them.
CF: Yeah. Presumably there must be times where that can be difficult, if it`s something you personally very much disagree about, did you have the opportunity to input into that?
SMITH: Well the Local Authority Clerk can`t dictate to a Council. It can suggest, it can recommend, he can tell the Council if they`re doing something contrary to the law. And then it`s up to the Council. A Local Authority can only advise the elected representatives, the Council. He can`t dictate to them, he can advise them whether their doing something contrary to the law or not. It is then up to the Councillors themselves to take that advice and act accordingly.
CF: Yeah, effectively make up their own minds. Were their difficulties of a broader nature after Eddie De Vere became Chairman. D.A. Low of course was still a Member of Parliament for Cooroora, did this create any friction, I mean obviously the Parliamentarians were important to the area?
SMITH: No, no problem really as far as the Shire was concerned, it just carried on as usual.
CF: The co-operation was still there with the State Parliament so to speak?
CF: Well going into Eddie De Vere`s term then, that would have covered the boom period really, or coming into the boom period.
SMITH: Well it led up to the boom period.
CF: What problems did it present for the Council, you know having to sort of grow with this development?
SMITH: Well the boom period caused a lot of troubles. Eddie De Vere continued the policy that the previous Council and Chairman had followed, to keep the Shire moving forward. He set about sewering places that were not previously been sewered, providing more water storage space.
CF: Was this up at Wappa Dam?
SMITH: At Wappa Dam where the wall of the dam was raised. And finally, and much later, the building of Cooloolabin Dam for extra storage. And in many other ways he kept the forward move going in the Shire, until we came to the boom years where because the State Government had relaxed certain taxes, it brought people here from the south here in big numbers.
CF: This was the death taxes effectively wasn`t it?
SMITH: Yes, yes. And the result was that there was a demand for services that couldn`t be supplied because enough finance could not be made available immediately to provide these services and this caused trouble. And the developers were developing land, and in all the Shire was still moving forward, but at a too faster rate.
CF: Right. So in other words facilities weren`t, or services weren`t keeping up with housing, was that the situation?
SMITH: Yes, in the very period of that faster growth rate, yes the sea side areas and the near environs, but later on development reached out then into the rural areas, and we found small farmlets of five acres and this sort of thing being developed, and so development started to take place right throughout the Shire.
CF: This was the sub-division then I suppose of large dairy farms into small holdings.
SMITH: Yes, yes, big rural holdings.
CF: Was it considered a crisis time for the Council, trying to keep up with this sort of development?
SMITH: It was a difficult time, because there was a certain amount of criticism because the services could not be supplied as quickly as people would have liked.
CF: Well was it a problem perhaps that the approvals shouldn`t have been given for the development or for the building? Was it a case of, you know, looking back on it now, was it a case perhaps the development should have waited and you know, come hand in hand with the facilities?
SMITH: Well of course I don`t think that the Local Authority would have the power to stop people from sub-dividing, provided it was in accordance with a town plan.
CF: Right. Were they having to, you know you mentioned earlier, the developers you know, round about the Alpha Grant time, the T.M. Burke time, if they were developing an area they were responsible for having to provide roads and all the services, this sort of practice had been discontinued had it? In other words, you know when you went into the late `60s, early `70s developers were no longer having to build roads were they?
Smith: Oh, yes the developed had to supply the roads and streets within their sub-division. When we talk about developers providing roads such as the coastal highway that sort of thing, those developers, quite a lot of them, were developing Crown Land, and the Crown insisted on certain requirements, in fact some of the developers had to pay a certain percentage of their sales of land to the Government. And the Government also insisted at that time too that these developers should develop some of these major roads.
CF: So it was a very reciprocal arrangement.
SMITH: That`s right.
CF: Oh right, so it was a different situation here, and this is not Crown land we`re taking about now obviously.
SMITH: Yes, well of course developers were asked to contribute towards headworks and costs and that sort of thing in the later years. It was that initial influx of people into the place, the place grew so quickly that no one envisaged this would happen. And so the funds were not there to enlarge the services to cope.
CF: The only, I mean back in the `50s there had been a hint of the idea that there was a bit of a coastal verses the Hinterland or coastal verses Nambour feeling, did this increase during the `60s and during the `70s. As the coastal towns developed, you know I`d read accounts of how you know, along the coast they were looking at perhaps having their own Council that they thought would service their needs better. What was the background to this?
SMITH: Oh, the question did raise itself some many years ago, I wouldn`t know just how long now, and on two or three occasions I did hear it spoken of that there should be a coastal Local Authority. It wasn`t until more recent times that people looked at it a lot harder. The coastal area and population has grown a lot of course, bur there are many things to be taken into consideration when you start developing a new Local Authority or creating a new Local Authority. Well take the case of Maroochy, if the coastal area became a separate Local Authority, there would have to be an apportion of assets and liabilities throughout the whole Shire, and it would take a fairly big Local Authority area to be able to cope with that and carry on and do the work that a Local Authority should do.
CF: Do you think it would be financially viable to have a coastal Local Authority?
SMITH: Personally, I don`t think it is viable at the present time. But the day will come I guess, when it will be. See this happened on the Gold Coast. But their population is a lot larger, well I suppose the population today is a lot larger than the whole of these three Shires put together here. And so you`d want a fairly good population to be able to handle a Local Authority on its own down there I`d say at this stage.
CF: So really what we got was a sort of reversal, presumably of the earlier days when the inland probably would have been the more profitable area.
SMITH: Yes, of course without being parochial of acquitted, criticizing one way or the other, I say when I first came here, the rural area of the Shire carried the coastal area. But that situation has changed round as the population has grown and the development has taken place down there, until today, I would believe today it`s more even now, slightly in favour probably of the coast.
CF: Well during the De Vere term and during this boom period then. Did the Council finally have to sit down and look at some sort of formal town planning for the whole area?
SMITH: There was talk of a town plan in the days of David Low. It never came to fruition, many conferences were held but nothing was finally done. I think the time came, getting into the De Vere era, where it became obvious that the way the place was developing some sort of control had to be obtained and this was why the town plan was brought into existence to try and control the development.
CF: And this was then looking at things like controlling high-rise, controlling building along foreshores and so on?
SMITH: Yes, controlling sub-division too. Ribbon development, too much ribbon development.
CF: What`s ribbon development actually?
SMITH: Oh just going along miles and miles and miles on a thin front.
CF: Oh I see, sort of with one road frontage sort of thing.
SNITH: Yes. See a ribbon development is more costly to service, because it stretches for miles. So you try to compact it so that you can get your services into that area.
CF; And while the Council was getting together, its town plan, what was its philosophy behind it, I mean what was it being guided by, I mean you had this enormous development, what were they using as their guiding lines? I mean preserving the area, or going with the development, a bit of both?
SMITH: Yes, a bit of both yes. That was why to try and keep it fairly well balanced the Council employed the services of a town planner to prepare a town plan for them to consider, and that`s how it first started.
CF: Oh right. Do you recall which town planner was actually used for that?
SMITH: Jim B
CF: Oh right, the present Councillor.
CF: And he was a consultant?
CF: Right. And was there a lot of debate in Council while this town plan was being formulated?
SMITH: Oh yes, quite a lot. There is quite a lot in providing a town plan, preparing one, and finally accepting it and adopting it. Of course provision is made for as you know, for objection to town plan if people feel aggrieved in some area, in any area for that matter. And so they all have to be considered and it took time. And the town plan of course, well it was in the early days allowing for high-rise buildings.
CF: To what height. Or to how many stories?
SMITH: Almost the limit, fourteen, sixteen stories. And of course then we had the era where people at the coast particularly felt that they didn`t want high-rise building to that extent. They maintained it would become like the Gold Coast. And so that caused a lot of trouble, a lot of heart burn.
CF: What presumably different pressure groups pushing one way and another.
SMITH: Until the Council decided, probably as you know, to restrict high-rise along the coastal strip to six stories.
CF: Yes very good. During thus time obviously during the previous Chairmanship, you know D.A.Low would have been very much in control for making these sorts of decisions. How did Eddie De Vere compare as Chairman, was he the sort of showman, the sort of benevolent dictator one might say, that D.A.Low was, or was he a different style of Chairman?
SMITH: Oh, they possibly were different in their approach, but both had the same objective. No there wasn't a great deal of difference really between them. The only thing I can say there is that they were both working, or trying to work in the interest on the Shire as a whole.
CF: Right. And Eddie De Vere continued through to what about 1982, was it, and then Don Culley became Chairman, how did the change come about there? Was it a change of policy a change of direction in the area?
SMITH: I think the era of Eddie De Vere, fifteen years, which was the same as Dave Low as Chairman, the high-rise question, particularly in the coastal area, got to the stage where I think the people felt well we`d better have a change so that we can try and arrest this high-rise along the shore line.
CF: So there really had been a sort of backlash from the public so to speak, going with the development and then starting to assess....
SMITH: I think it was there although it wasn`t realised I don`t think at that stage. But it was there alright.
CF: Would have been realised by the Councillors as such?
SMITH: It was beginning to be realised I would say, because of all the discussion and then the problems we had with the high-rises.
CF: The publicity and so on. You would have been with the Don Culley council for just a short period of time, (would it have been) before you retired then was it?
SMITH: Yes. Don Culley was the Chairman for approximately one year before I retired.
CF: And what was that period like, this was into your third council so to speak?
SMITH: I felt in the later term of Eddie De Vere and that one year with Don Culley, it was rather a difficult period. I felt really that the Councillors were not working as a team for the benefit of the Shire, but more or less as individuals. I felt sometimes they were trying to take a rise out of their fellow Councillors and this sort of thing, and that wasn`t for the good of the area as a whole.
CF: What do you think brought that about, was it because they were different people in it, or was it just that things had changed in the Shire?
SMITH: I think things have changed, I think people were giving their views to their various representatives and it was difficult, it was a difficult period that`s about the way I can sum it up.
CF: You were probably happy to retire at that stage were you?
SMITH: Oh well I`d had enough anyway.
CF: Looking back over the period, I mean thirty years as a Shire Clerk is a long time in any administration. Did the sort of people that became Councillors change over that time, do you think peoples motivations changed?
SMITH: I think actually big changes did take place, from the first time that I was in Local Government. I commenced in Local Government in 1938, and I`ve seen lots of changes in that time. I think one of the biggest changes I saw, was in the last decade or two, where people would go to the Local Authority, want to do something and be told that it was not permissible or it was not lawful or it was the wrong place to do it, or something like that. But people wouldn`t take that, they`d query it and want to know why, whereas when I first went into Local Government, if you said to a person, the Bylaw says you can`t do that, they accepted that, there was no more argument. And I think what did happen was that people, particularly after the last World War, more people became more highly educated, and I think that`s what made them query things and think more. And that`s why I think the Local Authority has been finding it rather difficult. Because we have people querying things more than they ever did before.
CF: So you really either be able to justify or prepared to change it?
SMITH: Well you had to either convince the people that it couldn`t be done or...
CF: Look at changing it.
SMITH: Well it`s hard, I don`t know what you had to do really. But it was difficult. I found that people were becoming more educated, queried things more and more as time went by.
CF: And did you find a difference in Councillors over that time, did they reflect this sort of change to this sort of questioning?
SMITH: Councillors in the early days were paid a very, very meagre amount of money, as time went on that changed to and people in Local Government are being paid quite a lot of allowances that people thirty years ago never even thought about. I think also that a lot of members of council today are using the Local Authorities as a stepping stone in politics, I got the impression for some time that they get into Local Government and learn more about it, learn how things operate and that sort of thing, and some of them tend to go or contest state elections.
CF: Do you see this as a fairly recent trend, this is something of the last decade or so would you say?
SMITH: Yes, it`s been slowly creeping in over the years.
CF: In a way it`s probably not such a bad thing is it? I mean I guess a politician`s got to get grounding somewhere don`t they?
SMITH: Well I believe that politics shouldn`t enter into Local Government, it`s better off without it.
CF: How did you find that over your span of thirty years? Did you ever get into an awkward situation, I mean was politics very prevalent in the Shire Council?
SMITH: Not really, it wasn`t very prevalent in this Local Authority. Way back many years ago, even thirty years ago there were some Local Authorities in those days that were regulated as pretty highly political.
SMITH: Because Eddie was one. (laughs)
CF: Right. I suppose up in this area, the fact that a fairly safe, one party seat I guess.
SMITH: It`s a more rural area too. The politics entering into Local Government were mainly in cities and places like that.
CF: So here the dividing issues were probably more provincial type interests I guess that people wanted.
SMITH: That`s right.
CF: Back in your time with the Council, you mentioned at the start of our interview that you`d commenced with a very small staff, and where were you actually situated when you first came to Nambour, where was the Council administration situated?
SMITH: The office was the existing building in front of the Civic Hall, the two storey building. The upstairs part was occupied by the staff, the Council staff, and the bottom shops as it is now.
CF: This was the building that had been partially destroyed by fire about ten years earlier was it?
SMITH: Yes there was a fire in 1928 that destroyed the building. A building was built, and again in 1948, the back part of it, which was the theatre part of it, was destroyed by fire. In 1961 the back part was built which is now the existing Civic Hall.
CF: This is what we call the old Shire Chambers I guess, down in Railway Square.
CF: And was it a very cramped sort of working accommodation?
SMITH: At the end, extremely so. So much that consideration was given to leasing part of the building on the opposite side of the road, the building known as Whalley`s building. That was just some little time before the new building was built, where it is in Bury Street now.
CF: That was obviously a tremendous project, building new Council Chambers. Did it take a great deal of convincing to get the money and so on for that, to get Shire approval?
SMITH: No not really, The Local Authority decided that something had to be done and had plans prepared by as architect and then raised a loan to build the building. I believe it was a very good... well put it this way, the Local Authority was very lucky that we got the building for the price that we did in that day.
CF: Oh, bit of a bargain was it?
SMITH: I believe it was built very cheaply when you compare it with other Local Authority buildings about that time.
CF: And yet people complained anyway didn`t they?
SMITH: Oh yes.
CF: The same thing presumably happened back in `61 when the Shire Chambers were renovated then, did people complain about that?
SMITH: Well, people thought that the hall that was built, that`s what we`re talking about now, was much to large for that period, but it wasn`t very long before it was found that it wasn`t large enough.
CF: I gather apparently it had a very good reputation amongst theatre groups and so on, the hall.
SMITH: Yes conductors, well known conductors from the south conducting concerts here congratulated the Council on
CF: Did the same thing occur when the new Civic Chambers were finally built, once it was actually up did people change their attitude to it, did they no longer think it was an extravagance?
SMITH: I don`t think so really.
CF: So those who criticized still criticized did them?
SMITH: I think so. They gave it the name the Taj Mahal. I think that speaks for itself.
CF: And what size would the Council staff had grown to by the time you`d moved into the new Chambers?
SMITH: The staff, when we first went into the new chambers was over six hundred, and when I left there, it was over seven hundred.
CF: So that was quite an increase from when you`d first come to Nambour.
SMITH: Oh lord yes. We wouldn`t have had a hundred when I first came here.
CF: Oh right. The six and seven hundred you mentioned, does that include outdoor staff as well?
SMITH: That`s all staff, inside and outside.
CF: So by then would your outside staff have grown to quite a sizeable number as well? I mean how much of that six or seven hundred was outdoor staff?
SMITH: From memory I would say that in 1982 the inside staff, which included engineers, draftsmen, the whole of the administration, would have been a bit over a hundred. And that leaves about six hundred for the outside staff.
CF: What sort of things are they mainly engaged in, the outdoor staff?
SMITH: Oh everything. Road works of course. Looking after the gardens.
CF: So essentially maintenance, outdoor maintenance.
SMITH: Maintenance, all road maintenance, bridge building gangs, all sort of, you name the job and...
CF: Over your thirty years in Council, did working conditions change very much for Council staff? Was it something that had to be fought for, or were they always fairly satisfactory.
SMITH: Generally, fairly satisfactory I`d say, as far as Maroochy was concerned anyway.
CF: Well I mean has staff morale ever been a problem, is there a good morale in the Council staff?
SMITH: Yes, all the years that I was there I believe the morale was very good.
CF: During your time as Shire Clerk presumably one of your duties would have been to attend all the Council meetings. What were they like, were they fairly dreary sort of affairs or what could they be like?
SMITH: Well of course in a busy Local Authority as this one has always been, the meetings were very long meetings always, very tiring as a result. I can remember on one occasion in the very early days, a meeting starting at 9 o`clock in the morning and finishing at 12 o`clock that night. And so a resolution was passed that meetings cease at 6pm. And if necessary all the business that may have been left unattended another meeting was called.
SMITH: Fairly tiring because you`re got to listen throughout the whole of the time to what`s going on. And so it`s rather a long tiring day.
CF: Would you have been there in an advisory capacity as well at these meetings?
CF: So you`d often be called upon to speak on issues?
CF: So you really were having to keep on the ball?
CF: And were there ever moments, I mean were there ever lighter moments at the meetings, could they ever be a bit of fun.
SMITH: Oh yes, sometimes someone would say something, which would cause a laugh and you know, break the tension a little bit. There were some funny times, some funny things said at times.
CF: Do you remember any of them off hand?
SMITH: Some of them, I don`t know whether I`d be game... (laughs)
CF: Oh people would get a bit carried away would they?
SMITH: Well one gentleman who couldn`t speak very well, he got up one day at a meeting and he said to the Chairman, "Mr Chairman," he said, " I wish we wouldn`t be discussing this subject, it`s only a small matter, " he said, " it`s been going on for so long, " he said, "it irrigates me". But what he meant to say was that it irritates him, but he said, he was so stirred up, he said it irrigates him. (laughs)
CF: Would you get people there that you know, were perhaps a bit embarrassed to speak in public or they normally over come that by the time they became councillors?
SMITH: Well I think the type of person who submits himself as a candidate for election, is a person who is a little bit out going, and who`s generally not frightened to get up and express himself.
CF: So really what you had there was a group of people who all pretty well wanted to express themselves. Did this ever become a control problem, did you ever see occasions where you know things could get a bit out of hand?
SMITH: Well not really, particularly if the Chairman is a good Chairman, he controls it and there are certain rules for the conduct of debate at meetings in the Act and well if you comply with those and make the members comply with that, well there`s not too much trouble. But sometimes they do get a bit out of control, and it`s pretty had to sort of control it.
CF: In your life, you know your thirty years with Council and essentially in Nambour, did you find you moved very much in a particular circle, you know was there a certain social strata sort of thing in Nambour, did you notice that?
SMITH: Well in the early days when we first came here socially the thing of the year was the Ball. An annual Ball. Quite several balls were held, and yes I suppose people of various occupations gathered together, so I suppose there was a little bit of...
CF: So I would say the professional groups...
SMITH: Getting together of, say doctors would probably form a party, other people would form a party and go to the Ball as a party, and there was some of that. But that seems to have changed over the years, Balls are not as popular
CF: No they really were something of the `50s and `60s weren`t they.
SMITH: They`re not as popular as they were.
CF: Were there other sorts of cliques in town, were there religious sort of, you know did any particular religious group have a certain influence in the town at all?
SMITH: no, there were the three main religions of course were the, Roman Catholic, the Church of England, Presbyterian, Methodist all seemed to tie in fairly well in the town.
CF: Right, was there any friction between the different religious denominations?
SMITH: Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge.
CF: Was there any friction between any sort of groups in the town at all, between different nationalities, did this ever occur in the town at all?
SMITH: No, no not really.
CF: So it was very much...
SMITH: A bit happy family.
CF: And it really was, was it?
CF: I mean I have noticed in the paper you know, reading the old Chronicles where it`d say there`d be fund raising activities and so on, and it did seem, you know it looked from newspaper reports as if the town would work very much as a group, was this really the case?
SMITH: Yes, yes.
CF: So it really was a very unintegrated sort of community.
CF: And in your time here did you notice other changes say in the development of the town itself? Say in just the shopping facilities like that, did you notice, you know big difference occurring and that?
SMITH: Yes, of course there have been a lot of changes. In the early days just before I came here, for argument sake there was a butcher shop where Lowe Street id today, there was no Lowe Street, and when that shop was burnt down, Lowe Street was produced and since then, and up to today there`s been a big change as the bottom end of Lowe Street and Anne Street where the plaza is today, the whole of that area now had become a real shopping complex down there. Prior to that, and in the early days it was more of individual areas, shops, that sort of thing.
CF: Oh I see, right. Not a sort of totally developed area as such.
CF: And did you notice differences developing say in the sort of recreation and leisure activities in the town? Did more facilities become available?
SMITH: Yes, well in most areas the recreational facilities, now we talk about sports grounds, there weren`t a lot of them in the very early days. The only one that I can remember was the town common at Maroochydore, that`s at Cotton Tree. The Nambour show grounds was the sporting venue for the cricket and football. Petrie creek was developed in the Dave Low era, both sides of the creek.
CF: Is that where, I`d heard about a Sunroy park down there, was that in Petrie park?
SMITH: Yeah. And of course prior to the swimming pool being built over there, there were two ovals over there that they could play vigoro on , and the marching girls used to use this one side of the creek, that`s on the eastern side of the creek. And there have been other areas in the vicinity of Nambour developed such as out on the Bli Bli road there`s a football field out there. There`s big sporting complexes down in the Palmwoods area now that have only been developed in the last fifteen years or so. The same applies to most of the areas, more sporting fields are being provided. Parkland the same, parkland in the De Vere era, I think there was about a thousand acres of land purchased by the Council for park purposes.
CF: So that was some what of a change in Council policy was it? Or let say more emphasis.
SMITH: Well the emphasis was there because I think the demand became greater too.
CF: Right. Tell me over all you know, thinking back on the David Low period and then through the De Vere and Culley periods, do you think that Nambour and the coast really fulfil the expectations that D.A Low obviously had for it? Did it continue on, do you think, to develop in much the way he would have wanted it to?
SMITH: Oh I think generally yes.
CF: So in conclusion perhaps you might just give me you know, just you’re summing up on what you think over your period as Shire Clerk.
SMITH: Well the only thing that I can say is that I was very happy for the whole of the years that I was here. It`s a wonderful area, it was a great interest in being able to be part of the Local Authority that was making it develop.
End of Interview