|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Establishment and Functions
Following the achievement of responsible government in late 1855, Charles Pasley, previously the Colonial Engineer was appointed Commissioner of Public Works and became responsible for the co-ordination of all public works and for the administration of the Public Works Department, previously known as the Department of the Commissioner of Public Works.
The Public Works Department was responsible for public works and buildings (1855-1987), including property and accommodation management (to 1985), building and government accommodation services and supply of stores, furniture and equipment (to 1987); preservation of historic buildings (to 1973) and historic government buildings (to 1983); main roads and bridges (1877-1913); rural water supply (1860-1867); and Melbourne water supply and sewerage (1855-1891); local government (1855-1958); tourist resorts and facilities (?1922-1958); tourist roads; ports and harbours (1900-1983); including fisheries (1900-1910), aspects of immigration (1900-1923; 1927-1930); metropolitan foreshores (to 1956; 1974-1983), Alfred Graving Dock (1900-1917), marina permits (to 1987), wire netting advances (to 1928) and licences for the occupation of unused roads and water frontages (to 1928) and cemeteries (to 1873).
In 1987 one of the longest established departments was abolished when the newly appointed Minister for Housing and Construction (VRG 88) assumed responsibility for all major functions then under the administration of the Minister of Public Works and the Ministry of Housing and Construction (VA 2907) was established.
Establishment of the Board of Land and Works VA 744
Some of the administrative difficulties which may have prompted the Government to establish the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) in 1857, were described in the "Report from the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on Public Works" in 1853/4. Papers Presented to Parliament 1853/4 Vol.3. The Select Committee had noted "the want of co-operation between different departments; the loose mode of authorizing expenditure; the unsatisfactory manner of dealing with tenders and the delays in payments, all of which cause unnecessary waste of the Public Funds and enhance the cost of Public Works....".
The former Colonial Architect, Henry Ginn, advocated the establishment of a Board consisting of the Surveyor-General, the Colonial Engineer and the Colonial Architect who would be jointly responsible for all public works. He recommended that the Board should be empowered to decide upon tenders; to consider the plans for proposed public works and buildings and to determine their location; and that once the work had been completed, the Board should inspect it and determine whether the design and specifications had been met.
The Government opted instead for the appointment of a Commissioner of Public Works who was to be responsible for the co-ordination of all Public Works from 1855.
The Board of Land and Works was established by statute in 1857 (An Act to establish a Board of Land and Works, No.31) because it was considered that the administration of public lands and public works would be more effectually and economically managed if they were consolidated and placed under one head. Under the provisions of the "Act to establish a Board of Land and Works", all powers previously vested in the Commissioner of Public Works and the Surveyor General were to be vested in the Board and Letters Patent dated 28 April 1857, formally abolished the two positions of Commissioner of Public Works and Surveyor General or Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey.
The Departments of the Civil Service which were then under the respective control of those two positions together with the Central Roads Board (VA 2803) which was disbanded from 1 January 1858, were to be consolidated in the Board and effectively became sub-departments. While there was clearly an intent to achieve consolidation, the extent to which the sub-departments were administratively integrated following the establishment of the Board in 1857 is uncertain and from late 1858 and the re-appointment of a Commissioner of Public Works and a Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, the sub-departments are clearly administratively separate.
The Board was initially to consist of between three and five members. The only political member of the Board was to be the President and the Act specifically precluded the other members of the Board from being members of either the Legislative Council or the Legislative Assembly. The President and one other member constituted a quorum and the first four non-political members to be appointed to the Board were the Inspector General of Public Works and Railways; the Surveyor-General; the Commissioner of Roads and Bridges and the Engineer in Chief of Railways. (See supplemental Report of Civil Service Commission in Papers Presented Parliament 59/1859-1860 Vol.IV).
In June 1858 this arrangement was altered slightly to allow for a vice-president, who was also a Minister, to sit in the absence of the President. In December 1858 the Governor appointed Charles Gavan Duffy as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and George Samuel Wegg Horne as Commissioner of Public Works apparently reviving the old ministerial offices. Yet although the positions were nominally the same and the incumbents were responsible ministers, the powers and duties of the previous positions had been vested in the Board of Land and Works by the 1857 Act. Statutory responsibility for the functions they administered remained with the Board until its abolition in 1964. By c1859/60 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and the Commissioner of Public Works acted as the President and Vice-President of the Board respectively. The Board was officially incorporated with a common seal in 1860 (Civil Service Commission 1859 Supplemental Report).
Operation and Responsibilities of the Board of Land and Works
Although one of the primary purposes in establishing the Board of Land and Works was to achieve a consolidation of the administration of all matters relating to public land and works under one head, this was quickly undermined by the manner in which the Board operated. A report of the Civil Service Commission of 1859/60 noted that "... although the Board nominally remains, a return has practically been made to the former system of two separate departments, each under the direction of a Responsible Minister and each with its several sub-departments." At those meetings of the Board held to determine Land and Survey or Roads and Bridges matters the President (Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey) presided, whilst the Vice-President (Commissioner of Public Works) sat as head of the Board when public works or railway matters were to be discussed.
In 1865 "An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Laws Relating to Public Works" (No.289) (referred to as the Public Works Statute) was passed. Section 12 listed the duties of the Board as "... consider and determine all matters and questions relating to the adoption of any plans and specifications for public works and shall consider and deal with all requisitions for buildings, furniture, or repairs and shall decide upon the acceptance of all tenders for such works, buildings, furniture or repairs and the terms and conditions on which the same shall be accepted ... and all other matters and questions relating to or concerning the public lands, works and buildings of the colony." Together with its responsibility for public lands and works the Board was also responsible for overseeing the construction and maintenance of railways, sewerage works, domestic water supply works for both Melbourne and Geelong, and the electric telegraph lines. Such responsibility extended to the making of by-laws and the levying of tolls, etc. Although statutory responsibility for these functions was vested in the Board, operational responsibility was effectively exercised by various sub-departments of the Board including the Public Works Department (VA 669) and a number of these sub-departments became Departments of State on the abolition of the Board in 1964.
Under the provisions of the Public Lands and Works Act 1964 (No.7228) the Commissioner of Public Works became the Minister of Public Works in whom were vested the relevant statutory powers of the Board of Land and Works.
PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS
The primary responsibility of the Public Works Department was the construction and maintenance of the colony's and later the State's public works and buildings. Prior to 1855, responsibility for these functions had been exercised by the Colonial Engineer and the Colonial Architect. For further information about the administration of public works in the period 1836-1855, see VRG 28 Public Works.
Although research into the way in which the Department exercised its responsibility for public works and buildings is yet to be undertaken, it is clear that the civil establishment of the Department always included a very significant number of architects, engineers, draftsmen and inspectors who together were responsible for the design and construction of public buildings, the preparation of plans and specifications, the preparation of estimates for furniture and fittings and the supervision and inspection of all public works and buildings under construction.
It is also apparent that most of this work was undertaken by contractors but the role and responsibility of the Department in the letting and supervision of contracts is yet to be researched. Until 1964, statutory responsibility for the design, construction and maintenance of public buildings, the approval of plans and specifications, the consideration of tenders, the supervision of contracts and the approval of requisitions for buildings, furniture and repairs was vested in the Board of Land and Works (VA 744).
Transfer of Public Buildings and Related Functions from the Public Works Department
In 1985 the Property and Services Division was transferred from the Public Works Department to the Department of Property and Services (VA 430). This Division was responsible for the purchase, acquisition, leasing and rental of properties for State government departments in accordance with the policies of the State Accommodation Committee and under the direction of the Victorian Public Offices Corporation. The Division was also responsible for the security of government property, the provision of janitorial services, and management of canteens, cafeterias, a light transport fleet and vehicle parking.
In 1987 a Ministry of Housing and Construction was established and assumed responsibility for the planning, design and construction of public buildings and the restoration and maintenance of existing buildings for the Government and agencies funded from the State budget; the supply of furniture, stores and equipment to government agencies; the fitout of government accommodation and the maintenance of air-conditioning in government buildings.
ROADS AND BRIDGES
Main Roads and Bridges
On 1 September 1877, by Order of the Governor-in-Council, the administration of matters relating to roads and bridges was separated from the administration of railways and responsibility was assumed by the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department (VA 669). Responsibility for main roads and bridges had previously been exercised by the Department of Roads and Bridges (VA 2964) from 1858 to 1871 and the Department of Railways and Roads (VA 2875) from 1871 to 1877.
Research is yet to be undertaken into the role of the Roads and Bridges, later the Roads, Bridges and Harbour Works section of the Public Works Department in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges from the abolition of the Department of Railways and Roads in 1877 until the establishment of the Country Roads Board (VRG 722) in 1913.
By 1884 the civil establishment for this function within the Professional Division of the Department included an engineer "specially engaged in the preparation of designs, plans and specifications of the new Falls and Princes Bridges"; an engineer, two inspectors, an overseer and three foremen of road labourers who together were responsible for the supervision and inspection of roads, bridges and reclamation works executed by the Government; the preparation of plans and specifications and the supervision of plans and specifications furnished by local bodies for subsidized works. Within the Administrative Division there were three clerical officers responsible for the conduct of business relating to roads and bridges, so far as it pertained to the work of the Department and for correspondence relating to municipal work in connection with the administration of the Local Government Act.
In 1894 the establishment for the Administrative Division was unchanged and the Professional Division consisted of two engineers, an inspector and a draughtsman who were located within a section for Roads, Bridges and Harbour Works. By 1904 there was no longer a separate section within the Administrative Division and the Professional establishment consisted of two engineers (one position being vacant) and two draftsmen who continued to be responsible for the supervision and inspection of Government roads and other works, the preparation of plans and specifications and the supervision of local bodies' plans.
Given the very few staff employed, it is presumed that the actual construction work must have been undertaken by contractors but the role of the Department in co-ordinating and managing this work has not yet been researched.
The appropriations for this period include allocations for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges outside the boundaries of the municipalities. By 1889-90 these funds had been reduced to 750 pounds which was allocated for the completion of existing contracts. Allocations for non-municipal roads then ceased for a period during the 1890's when the appropriations for public works generally were drastically reduced. By 1897-8, the appropriations included sums for the making, clearing and draining of roads to Village Settlements and by 1903-4 substantial sums were again being provided for road works and bridges, drainage and other works subject to the approval of the Governor-in-Council.
Throughout the period small sums were also allocated to local municipal authorities to assist in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. Although these allocations were also significantly less during the 1890's, at no time did appropriations for this purpose cease. Although the constitution of municipal authorities has been amended a number of times, the construction and maintenance of local roads and bridges has continued to be a municipal responsibility (see VRG 12 Municipalities).
Establishment of the Country Roads Board 1913
By 1910 it had become increasingly apparent that there was a need for a central roads authority to take over responsibility from the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) for the care and management of the main roads of the state. Up to this time there had been a lack of co-operation between the agencies with operational responsibility for roads, i.e. the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department and local municipalities, in the construction and maintenance of main roads. Expenditure of State funds was without proper supervision and there was no thorough investigation of actual needs. The absence of a systematic policy, as well as a lack of funds, had resulted in Victorian roads being in a deplorable condition. At this time the use of the motor car accentuated the demand for better roads.
As a result of these needs the Country Roads Act 1912 (No.2415) was proclaimed in 1913 providing for the establishment of the Country Roads Board (VA 722) as a central road authority with responsibility for those roads considered to be main roads.
Although the Country Roads Board (VA 722) was established in 1913 to co-ordinate the construction and maintenance of main roads and bridges, the Public Works Department continued to have a role in the construction of roads and bridges. The final report of the Royal Commission on the State Public Service in 1917 indicates that the Public Works Department confined its operations chiefly to by-roads, tourist roads and special roads, although some overlapping with the Board could occur. The report which made no mention of bridge construction by the Public Works Department, proposed the amalgamation of the Roads and Bridges Section with the Country Roads Board. It is not clear exactly when the Public Works Department ceased to exercise responsibility for road construction, although in 1936 responsibility for tourist roads was vested in the Country Roads Board.
PORTS AND HARBOURS
Upon Federation in 1901 the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for key trade and customs matters including the collection of customs duties, distilleries and excise. In 1901 the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) became responsible for mercantile marine matters and explosives. The Department had become responsible for naturalisation and the control of alien immigration in 1900. The Public Works Department had assumed responsibility for ports and harbours, lighthouses and navigation, fisheries and the monitoring of immigrant arrivals in 1900. These functions had previously been administered by the Department of Trade and Customs (VA 606).
Harbour Works and Dredging
Prior to 1900 the Public Works Department exercised some responsibility for harbour and river improvements, including the development of dock accommodation and pier construction, and also for dredging operations not within the jurisdiction of the Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners (VA 2799).
It is evident that dredging operations were undertaken at coastal ports and harbours as well as on inland waterways. By 1910 the section of the Public Works Department responsible for dredging and snagging operations had been incorporated into the Ports and Harbours Division.
Ports and Harbours Branch
In 1900, prior to the abolition of Department of Trade and Customs and the transfer of its key functions of the Commonwealth, the Ports and Harbours Branch of that Department was transferred to the Public Works Department. The key functions associated with the Ports and Harbours Branch at this time were:
regulation of shipping and provision of pilots at Victorian ports other than the Port of Melbourne
maintenance of buoys and beacons and other navigational aids not within the Port of Melbourne
administration of the Alfred Graving Dock, Williamstown
provision of lighthouses and lightships
provision of emergency services along the Victorian coast
inspection of fisheries
administration of immigration.
By 1902 marine surveying was also part of the Ports and Harbours functions.
Responsibility for the inspection of fisheries was transferred to the Department of Agriculture (VA 618) in 1910. See inventory of series below for some 20th century records of this branch.
Port of Melbourne
Responsibility for the Port of Melbourne and its development had been assumed by the Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners (VA 2799) from 1877. In 1978, under the provisions of the Port of Melbourne Authority Act 1978 (No.9178), the Port of Melbourne Authority (VA 1426) became responsible for the functions previously administered by the Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners. For further information see Inventory of Series entries for VA 2799 and VA 1426.
Alfred Graving Dock
Work on the construction of the Alfred Graving Dock commenced in 1864. No expense was spared in its construction and it represented the greatest single work undertaken by the Victorian Government since separation from New South Wales. When completed the dock allowed for effective underwater repairs to damaged ships to be undertaken in Victoria and it was then no longer necessary for ships to go to Sydney for such repairs. The Dock was constructed under the supervision of the Public Works Department.
In 1913 the Alfred Graving Dock was taken over by the State Shipbuilding Yards and in 1917 the yards were acquired by the Commonwealth Government. In 1924 the dock was purchased by the Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners (VA 2799) who remained in control until 1942 when it was acquired by the Royal Australian Navy, and administered as part of the Williamstown Naval Dockyard.
Port of Geelong
In 1905 responsibility for port and marine services at the Port of Geelong was transferred to the newly established Geelong Harbor Trust. The Geelong Harbor Trust was reconstituted as the Port of Geelong Authority under the Port of Geelong Authority Act 1981 (No.9658).
Warrnambool and Portland
Responsibility for management of the Warrnambool harbour, including the control of shipping and port facilities and the general preservation and improvement of the port, was assumed by the Warrnambool Harbor Board (VA 2836) upon its establishment in 1928. When the Board was abolished in 1936 responsibility was formally resumed by the Ports and Harbours Branch.
In 1951 a Portland Harbor Trust was established assuming responsibility from the Ports and Harbours Branch for the management and control, general preservation and improvement of the Port of Portland. The Portland Harbor Trust was reconstituted as the Port of Portland Authority on 13 January 1982 under the Port of Portland Authority Act 1981 (No.9635).
Note: Further research is required into the administration of lighthouse services, port emergency services, the construction and maintenance of government marine vessels and the transfer of responsibility for lighthouses to the Commonwealth. A lighthouse service had been established within the Commonwealth Department of Trade of Customs by 1922 and by 1920 the Public Service list (for Victoria) includes only the lighthouse keepers at Queenscliffe.
From 1927 until 1983, the staff of the Marine Board were employed within the Public Works Department. The Marine Board (VA 1424) was established under the provisions of the Marine Board Act 1887 and commenced operation in 1888. The Board assumed responsibility for functions previously administered by the Pilot Board. The Marine Board was responsible for mercantile marine matters, including standards of marine safety, shipping registration and certification of pilots, ships masters, mates and engineers.
With the proclamation of certain sections of the Commonwealth Navigation Act on 1 October 1923, the Commonwealth became responsible for the control of foreign-going and interstate shipping and the Marine Board staff of engineers, surveyors, shipwrights, inspectors of shipping and clerical staff were transferred to the Federal Navigation Department.
For the period 1923-1926, the Commonwealth acted as an agent for the State and carried out the residual functions of the Board, namely:
control of the Port Phillip Pilot Service
control of intra-state shipping and
licensing of motor boats.
It had been intended that the Pilot Service would also come under Commonwealth control, but the relevant sections of the Navigation Act were never proclaimed. In 1927 the Marine Board was effectively re-established under the control of the Commissioner of Public Works and the Commonwealth ceased to act as an agent for the State.
The Marine Board has the power to institute proceedings in the Court of Marine Inquiry (VA 2584) if the Board's assessors recommend that a formal investigation be undertaken into casualties or charges of incompetence or misconduct on the part of masters, mates, engineers or pilots. The Court may cancel any certificate or licence issued by the Marine Board and may forward a case for argument before a judge of the Supreme Court.
Initially responsible to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs (VRG 22), the Board became responsible in 1901 to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26), on 1 January 1927 to the Commissioner of Public Works and on the 1 July 1983 to the Minister of Transport (VRG 49).
Shortly after Federation in 1901, the Commonwealth (VRG 87) assumed primary responsibility for the control and regulation of non-British immigration (both assisted and unassisted), unassisted British immigration, naturalisation and associated reception, settlement, employment and welfare services. Responsibility for the monitoring of immigrant arrivals, part of a wider role in monitoring passenger arrivals and departures by ship, remained with the State until 1923 when Part V of the Commonwealth Navigation Act 1912 was brought into effect with the passing of the Navigation (Passengers) Regulations and the Commonwealth became responsible for this function. Between 1900 and 1923, the Public Works Department was responsible for these functions.
Under the provisions of the British Empire Settlement Act 1922, a number of agreements were made between the Imperial, Commonwealth and State Governments to encourage British residents to migrate to Australia for the purpose of land settlement and to augment the labour force. Overseas promotion and supervision of selection for these schemes became a Commonwealth responsibility, while in Victoria a Minister for Immigration (VRG 44) was appointed in 1923 to be responsible for the State's obligations under the Act and associated schemes, including administration in Victoria of the nomination scheme, determination of numbers and categories and associated reception, settlement, employment and welfare services. Operational responsibility was exercised by the Public Works Department from 1927 until 1930 when assisted immigration and nomination schemes ceased until their resumption in 1947.
NOTE: For a brief history of the administration of Immigration from 1836 to 1983, see VRG 68 Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
The Public Works Department was responsible for the protection of foreshores and improvements to Melbourne's bayside suburbs until 1956 when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) became responsible. In 1974 under the provisions of the Metropolitan Bridges, Highways and Foreshores Act, responsibility was resumed by the Ports and Harbours Division of the Public Works Department.
Transfer of functions to Ministry of Transport
Just prior to its transfer to the Ministry of Transport (VA 673) in 1983, the Ports and Harbours Division, through its Development, Operations and Works Branches, was responsible for the control of port navigation and port development, the maintenance of shipping channels and foreshore protection in areas other than those controlled by the Port of Melbourne, Port of Geelong and Port of Portland Authorities. A Ports and Harbours Division existed within the Ministry of Transport from 1983 until 1 October 1986, when responsibility for the functions administered by the Division was transferred to the Port of Melbourne Authority (VA 1426), the Port of Geelong Authority (VA 1425) and the Port of Portland Authority (VA 1427).
The Central Roads Board (VA 2803) had included among its duties, the distribution of grants to municipal bodies. This responsibility was assumed by the Board of Land and Works upon its creation in 1857 and administered by the Public Works Department. As local government authorities developed throughout Victoria so did the need to centrally co-ordinate them. Apparently this was undertaken via the roads and bridges function in the first instance, as this provided an existing administrative framework in municipal districts. The emergence of a separate Local Government Branch in the Public Works Department (VA 669) appears to have occurred c.1888 and the Branch continued to exist until 1958 when a separate department (VA 601) was established.
Although research into the development of local government administration is yet to be undertaken, it is evident that the Department would have been responsible for the examination and review of municipal boundaries, the administration and review of local government legislation, the allocation of funds to local government authorities and the consideration of municipal by-laws. Responsibility for these functions was assumed by the Local Government Department (VA 601) in 1958.
Rural Water Supply
Early attempts to provide water supplies for rural Victoria were made as a result of a mixture of local initiatives through the establishment of Water Trusts from the 1850's and Government action on the goldfields where the viability of mining was often dependent on the availability of a water supply. The earliest reticulated supplies were developed in Bendigo (1858-1859), Ballarat (1860-1862) and Geelong (late 1860's).
In 1860, the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) was provided with funds for expenses relating to the preparation of reports as to sites and plans for reservoirs, but by 1861 responsibility for the survey of water supply areas had passed to the Public Works Department and in 1864 to the Department of Mines (VA 2719).
From 1860, the Public Works Department was responsible for the construction of dams and reservoirs and for the construction and maintenance of storm water and sludge channels on the goldfields; some were maintained by the Government and others were leased to Water Trusts. The need for legislative control led to the passage of the Waterworks Act in 1865 and under the provisions of this Act the Board of Land and Works was empowered to complete and construct water works; to purchase land, levy charges, lease or sell works and provide loans to local water trusts (under the Public Loans Act 1865) to enable them to complete and construct water works. The actual administration of these statutory provisions came to be undertaken by the Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787) and by 1867 all Public Works Department responsibilities for water reservoirs and water supplies to the goldfields had been assumed by the Victorian Water Supply Department which was then a sub department of the Department of Mines (VA 2719).
Under the provisions of the Water Works Debenture Act 1855, the Commissioners of Sewers and Water Supply (VA 2802) became responsible for supplying water to the Town of Geelong. In May 1856 a Geelong Water Commission was established and J.H. Mercer was appointed Chairman on 24 May 1856. The Commission reported to the Commissioner of Public Works and subsequently to the Board of Land and Works following its establishment in 1857. (See Report of the Select Committee upon the Supply of Water to Geelong, Papers presented to Parliament 1857/8 Vol.I D.25).
Although a number of schemes were considered and temporary arrangements made, it was not until 1867 that plans were finalised and contracts entered into for the construction of the main reservoir at Stony Creek.
From 1867 the Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787) was responsible for the Geelong Water Supply. For a brief period from 1874/5 to 1879/80 part of the administration of the Geelong Water Supply was undertaken by the Public Works Department but by 1880-81, all responsibility had been resumed by the Victorian Water Supply Department.
Melbourne and Metropolitan Area Water Supply
In 1853 a Board to be known as the Commissioners of Sewers and Water Supply (VA 2802) was established and a body to be known as the Sewerage and Water Commission was incorporated. The Commission became responsible for the construction of sewers and drains and for the provision of a water supply to Melbourne, responsibilities previously undertaken by the City of Melbourne. The work was to be financed by an advance from the Colonial Treasurer to be repaid within a period of twenty five years. The Water Works Debenture Act 1855 authorised the Colonial Treasurer to issue debentures and the money raised was to be used to finance the work of the Commissioners. The work was undertaken by the employees of the Sewerage and Water Commission who were part of the civil establishment of the colony and responsible to the Commissioner of Public Works and effectively part of the Public Works Department at least from 1859.
On 12 December 1859, by Order of the Governor in Council and under the provisions the Melbourne Sewerage and Water Amendment Act 1858, the Board of Land and Works assumed responsibility for the powers and property previously vested in the Board of the Commissioners of Sewerage and Water Supply and the latter Board was dissolved. Operational responsibility was exercised by the Melbourne Sewerage and Water Supply Department, a branch of the Public Works Department.
In 1888 concerns about Melbourne's water supply and sewerage, especially agitation from the municipalities, resulted in a Royal Commission into the sanitary condition of Melbourne which recommended the establishment of a Board of Works to provide a sewerage system, and take over control of the water supply and rivers and water courses in the metropolis. (See Papers Presented to Parliament 1889 Volumes 2 and 3 and 1890 Volume 2). Its recommendations led to the establishment in 1891 of a new authority under the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Act 1890. The Board (VA 1007) took over from the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) ownership of all Melbourne metropolitan water and sewerage-related facilities, land and equipment, as well as its contracts and debts. Actual operational responsibility for water supply and sewerage was assumed from the Melbourne Sewerage and Water Supply Department, and the staff of the branch were transferred to the MMBW.
Under the provisions of the Cemeteries Acts trustees of public cemeteries were to be appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The Trustees were responsible for the establishment and management of public cemeteries, the collection of fees, expenditure of government subsidies including fencing grants and the making of rules and regulations for the administration of cemeteries.
By 1864 and until August 1873, the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28) and the Public Works Department (VA 669) were responsible for the administration of cemeteries including the appointment of trustees and approval of regulations and fees. From 1873 until 1888 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey (VRG 18) and the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) were responsible and in 1888 the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) and the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) assumed responsibility. The Public Works Department (VA 669) however continued to be responsible for the allocation of fencing grants.
In 1890, under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1889 (No.1044), the Minister of Health (VRG 29) and the Department of Public Health (VA 2904) became responsible for the management of cemeteries and responsibility has remained within the health portfolio.
Under the provisions of the Tourists Resorts Act 1922 (No.3238) the Tourist Resorts Committee was established as an advisory committee with responsibility for the protection, preservation and improvement of tourists' resorts and prescribed tourists' roads.
In conjunction with government departments and public authorities the Committee was responsible for improving and creating tourist resorts, facilities and roads. This included work carried out through the Public Works Department (VA 669) such as the construction of access roads to tourist resorts or attractions, walkers tracks, amenities blocks, picnic areas and minor camping grounds.
In 1936 under the provisions of the Country Roads (Tourists' Roads) Act (No.4405) the Committee's responsibility for tourists' roads was transferred to the Country Roads Board (VA 722) who continued to proclaim, construct, maintain, and improve tourist roads until 1983 when the legislation providing for this function was repealed. Responsibility for tourist resorts was transferred to the newly established Tourist Development Authority (VA 2918) in 1958.
For a brief account of tourism administration between 1888 and 1987 see (VRG 91) Tourism III.
ELECTRIC LIGHT AND POWER ACT
Until 1901, responsibility for the administration of the Electric Light and Power Act was exercised by the Postmaster General's Department. Upon Federation the Public Works Department assumed responsibility until the establishment of the State Electricity Commission, (formerly the Electricity Commissioners) (VA 1002) in 1919.
UNUSED ROADS AND WATER FRONTAGES
The Unused Roads and Water Frontages Branch was established in 1903 within the Public Works Department. The Branch was responsible for the issue of licences for the occupation and use of unused roads and water frontages to the owners and occupiers of adjoining land and for ensuring that the annual rents were paid.
Until 1911 both the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) and the Public Works Department collected revenue for water frontages, the former from holders of grazing rights for land abutting the water frontage land, and the latter from freeholders whose property so abutted. In that year the Government decided that the Branch, rather than the Lands Department, should collect all the rents. In 1917 the Royal Commission on the State Public Service commented on this anomaly, but did not recommend that the arrangement be changed. In 1928 however responsibility for this function was assumed by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
In the same year that Department also assumed responsibility for the administration of wire netting advances which assisted land owners to construct vermin proof fences, a function previously administered by the Public Works Department.
Abolition of the Department
In 1987 one of the longest established departments in Victoria's history was effectively abolished and amalgamated with the Ministry of Housing (VA 609) to form the Ministry of Housing and Construction (VA 2907).
Location of Records
Holdings for the period 1855 to 1904 are significant but large portions remain out of custody. Holdings for the period 1904 to 1989 are very weak and patchy.
For records relating to functions administered by the Public Works Department see List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.19.0 (public works), 3.6.11 (fisheries and wildlife), 3.10.2 (immigration), 3.14.1 (local government, roads), 3.21.17 (marine board), 3.23.2 (rural water supply), and 3.23.3 (Melbourne sewerage and water supply).
For some records relating to the Port of Melbourne created by the Ports and Harbours Branch of the department see the list below.