|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Closer Settlement Prior to the Closer Settlement Commission
The acquisition of land for the purpose of closer settlement had first been authorised under the provisions of the Land Act 1898 (No.1602). The object of this and subsequent legislation had been to transform large estates into closely settled communities engaged in agriculture. The repurchased land was then made available as farm allotments, agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments under the terms of conditional purchase leases.
Later legislation authorised the compulsory acquisition of land, the disposal of any unalienated and unoccupied Crown land including any swamp or reclaimed Crown land, the acquisition of land held under lease from the Crown, the setting aside of land for townships and reserves and the sale of sites for churches, schools, cemeteries, public halls, recreation reserves and other purposes.
Lessees were eligible to apply for advances to assist them to meet the improvement requirements of their leases including the erection of dwellings and outbuildings, fencing and the control of vermin and noxious weeds.
Closer settlement was initially the responsibility of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) a sub department of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744). In 1905 responsibility was transferred to the Lands Purchase and Management Board which was succeeded by the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266) in 1918. Under the provisions of the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act (No.2916) the Board also became responsible for the administration of soldier settlement from 1917 and from 1922, under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act 1922 and the subsequent Commonwealth and State Agreement, the Board was responsible for the settlement of British immigrants on the land. For further information about the administration of these functions see VA 2266, Closer Settlement Board (previously known as the Lands Purchase and Management Board).
Establishment of the Closer Settlement Commission
The Closer Settlement Commission was established in 1933 under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1932 (No.4091). Its establishment represented a consolidation of the administration of closer settlement and soldier settlement. The Act transferred to the Commission powers and obligations previously vested in the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266) and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) which had become responsible for the administration of closer settlement on irrigable lands from 1913 under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1912 (No.2438).
The Closer Settlement Commission was appointed by the Governor-in-Council and consisted of five members who were to include a chairperson, one person previously a member of the Closer Settlement Board, one person previously a member of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission or an officer of that Commission who had been responsible for closer settlement and two persons having a knowledge of finance and primary production.
Powers of the Closer Settlement Commission
The Commission, with the approval of the Minister, could make use of the services of any of the officers and employees of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538); staff previously employed under the Closer Settlement Acts were deemed to have been appointed to temporary office in the Department and officers of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) who had previously been engaged in the administration of closer settlement were transferred to the Public Service as officers of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
In addition to powers concerning the acquisition and disposal of land the Act conferred on the Commission certain powers that had previously been the prerogative of the Minister or the Governor-in-Council. The Commission was also made responsible for the administration of the Land Act in so far as it related to lessees or licensees who had received advances under the Closer Settlement Acts and for the administration of the Seed Advances Acts, the Fallowing Advances Acts, the Cultivation Advances Act and part 1 of the Wire Netting Act 1928, these powers having been previously exercised by the Minister, the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) or the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266).
The Act removed restrictions on the transfer of leases and provided for the consolidation of debts arising from the issue of leases and the authorization of advances. The Commission was authorised to reassess the value of the land, to make annual adjustments of liabilities and in doing so to take into account the prices of farm products, seasonal conditions and the personal circumstances of the licensee or lessee.
Abolition of the Closer Settlement Commission.
In 1938, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act (No.4596), the Closer Settlement Commission was abolished. The Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was deemed its successor in law and statutory responsibility for the administration of the Closer Settlement Acts, Fallowing Advances Acts, Cultivation Advances Acts, part 1 of the Wire Netting Act 1928 and the Farmers Advances Acts was vested in the Board.
The Closer Settlement Act 1938 was to be administered by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538). No provision was made for the further acquisition of land; the Closer Settlement, Discharged Soldiers' Settlement and Discharged Soldiers' Concession Funds were abolished and the funds were transferred to consolidated revenue. The Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was authorised to dispose of land under closer settlement leases, subject to the payment of a deposit of not less than ten percent of the lease or by auction or public tender. If the land could not be sold by auction or tender, the Board was authorised to dispose of it by sale.
The Act also provided for the issue of new leases to existing settlers and made provision for the adjustment and repayment of existing liabilities. The new closer settlement leases were to be registered with the Registrar of Titles (VA 862) and all encumbrances including registered mortgages in respect of advances made or charges arising from the Advances to Settlers Act 1923, Wire Netting Act 1928, Vermin and Noxious Weeds Act 1928, Land Tax Acts and the Unemployment Relief Loan and Application Acts were to be endorsed on the leases. The Act also established conditions for the transfer, surrender and forfeiture of leases and for the issue of Crown Grants.
The Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) continued to be responsible for the administration of Closer Settlement until the repeal of all legislation relating to closer settlement and authorisation of advances to farmers in 1982 under the provisions of the Closer Settlement (Winding-up) Act (No.9798).
Location of Records
There are significant holdings of records concerning the administration of closer settlement in the custody of the PRO.
See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.6.2. (Department of Crown Lands and Survey), 3.6.21 (Closer Settlement Authorities) and 3.23.2 (State Rivers and Water Supply Commission)