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History of Woocoo
Prior to 1879 only sizeable townships had Municipal or Borough Councils, and as a general rule, country areas were lacking in Local Government. Any important roadwork and bridge building was undertaken by the Colonial Government, which allocated funds to be spent in various districts, of which Wide Bay and Burnett was but one. An Engineer for Roads had his headquarters in Maryborough.
Under the terms of the Divisional Board Act of 1879, which created some 84 Divisions for country areas, the Division of Tiaro was formed. It comprised 3 sub-divisions of which Sub-Division 1 was most of Woocoo.
With such a vast area, it was inevitable the eventually there would be friction within the Board about allocation of funds for road works, etc, and over rate levies. The first of a series of unsuccessful petitions for the separation from Tiaro was presented in 1893.
It was not until 1914, when there was a major boundary change to several local authorities, that the Shire of Woocoo came into being. An Order-in-Council proclaiming the new Shire of Woocoo was published in the Government Gazette on 4 December 1914. The area of the Shire was approximately 600 sq. miles and included the abolished Shires of Antigua and Howard, as well as portion of Division 1 of Tiaro. There were to be seven members and the population was given as 600.
The name of the Shire was pre-dated by the Woocoo parish and the naming of Mount Woocoo; the word is believed to have been derived from an Aboriginal word describing the echidna.
The first election was gazetted for 6 February 1915 and those elected were G.S. Mant, G. Brown, J. Bourke, J. Ellis, D.O.S. Jones, W.J. Payne and L.S. Smith. In accordance with the law at the time, G.S. Mant was elected Chairman by the other members of Council. The first meeting was held at the residence of Councillor W.J. Payne.
In 1915, Council applied for a loan of 350 pounds “for the purpose of erecting Shire Hall premises and providing office furniture, etc., at Brooweena”. Erect it they did for the princely sum of 135 pounds, by courtesy of builders A.T. Miller and Son of Maryborough. Designed for later extensions embracing a Shire Hall - which did not eventuate - that quaint Shire Office built in 1915, is now part of the Brooweena Historical Village. The first Council meeting was held in the new Shire Office on 23 December, 1915.
A very small population, limited finances, the severe economic depression of the 1930’s, and World War II (1939-1945) somewhat restricted development of the Shire until the late 1940’s. A programme of bridge building and bitumen surfacing of Shire and Main Roads, vigorously pursued for the ensuing thirty years, gave Woocoo Shire a road network the envy of neighbouring Local Authorities.
A new Shire Office and Council Chambers, on land which was a former Camping and Water Reserve at Brooweena, was officially opened by the Hon. J.C.A. Pizzey, M.L.A. Minister for Education and Immigration, on 14 April 1962.
In 1976, following a State Government Commission set up to examine demands for a separate Local Authority for Hervey Bay, major changes were made to the boundary of Woocoo, which also affected the Maryborough City. The new Shire had three Divisions, with divisional accounting, and incorporated areas formerly part of the old Burrum Shire, comprising Mungar, Yerra, Tinana, Bidwill, Howard, Torbanlea, Toogoom and Burrum Heads.
It was inevitable that the dominant rural sectors of the new Shire would have difficulty in coming to terms with the requirements of a growing coastal area. Financial divisions, sub-divisional applications on a scale not previously encountered in Woocoo, continued clamour for relocation of the Shire Office, and bitter feuding between Councillors, led to a further representations for a change in boundaries.
Accordingly, in 1982, Division 1, comprising the areas of Torbanlea, Howard, Toogoom and Burrum Heads was transferred to the Shire of Hervey Bay, later named the City of Hervey Bay. Woocoo Shire returned to its former status as residential and rural, with two Divisions – the original Shire of Woocoo (1915-1976) and the Mungar, Yerra, Tinana and Bidwill areas as Division 2.
When, in 1989, the developer of Oakhurst Gardens Estate offered to contribute $100,000 to the building of a new office at Oakhurst Gardens, Council decided to accept the offer and the new building opened on 22 July 1990.
Arising from a Boundary Review in March 94, a shire boundary change occurred where a large part of Tinana (with a loss of rates income, as well as their largest dump) affected the Shire. Woocoo was also required to pay Maryborough City Council $20,000 per year in Joint Financial Arrangements for their residents’ use of Maryborough’s facilities.
The Shire became 3 Divisions, with 6 Sectors and represented by 2 Councillors per Division. Division 1 (Sector 1 and 2) being most of the western part of the Shire; Division 2 (Sector 3) land on the western side of the river and running parallel with it; Division 2 (Sector 4) between the eastern bank of the river and the Bruce Highway; Division 3 (Sector 5) Bruce Highway to Tinana Creek and Division 3 (Sector 6) Tinana Creek to the eastern Shire boundary.
Construction of the Woocoo Shire Community Centre, adjacent to the Council Offices, began in April 1995. Comprising a Council Board Room, storage rooms, toilets, showers, catering kitchen with server, and public hall with stage, the project was funded partially by a State Government ($150,000) and partially by Kurts Developments through advanced park contributions of $143,000. It was officially opened in October 1995 by the Minister for Local Government.
The CEO stated in the 95/96 Annual Report “A strained relationship continues to exist between Maryborough City Council and Woocoo Shire Council at the political level, although a high level of co-operation exists between the respective staff of the Councils. The scars from the Review of External Boundaries of the two Local Governments from 1991 to 1994 will take a little more time to heal completely.”
The financial year of 97/98 finally saw the Minister for Local Government directing that no annual financial payments should be made by Woocoo Shire to Maryborough City.
Woocoo’s population grew steadily (2006 Census showed 3442 residents) with a number of rural residential areas having been developed including Little Tinana Estate and Oakhust Gardens Estate.
When Mayors and CEO’s were summoned to Brisbane by the Minister for Local Government in mid 2007, it was announced that Woocoo Shire Council would become part of the new Fraser Coast Regional Council. Hervey Bay and Maryborough City Councils would merge with Woocoo and the northern part of Tiaro Shire to form the new Regional Council.
Woocoo Shire ceased to exist on 15 March 2008 with the election of a new Mayor and Councillors for the Fraser Coast Regional Council
At the time of amalgamation, Woocoo Shire covered an area of 2005 square kilometres, stretching from within twelve kilometres of Biggenden in the west to partially encircle the city of Maryborough in the east. Brooweena, Mungar and Parke State Schools were within its boundaries as well as the villages of Brooweena, Mungar and Aramara. Woocoo Lakes Industrial Park, an initiative of Council, had provided for engineering and manufacturing businesses.
The last Woocoo Shire Council comprised Mayor Gloria Banting, Deputy Mayor Iain Lewis and Councillors David Proctor, Theo Van Doorn, James Hansen, Debbie Hawes and Ted Gilchrist.
Compiled by G Banting using the following references: