Agency VA 744
Board of Land and Works
About this Agency Records Related Functions Related Agencies
Date Range: 1857 - 1964
 
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency
Introduction

The Board of Land and Works was established in 1857 and abolished in 1964. Throughout its existence, the Board was responsible for matters relating to public works and public lands. It was also responsible for railways from 1857 to 1884 and again from 1892 to 1964; for main roads and bridges from 1858 until 1913; for Melbourne sewerage and water supply from 1859 to 1890; for rural water supply from c1860 until 1910; for aboriginal welfare from 1857 until 1860 and for local government from 1857 to 1958. Although statutory responsibility for these functions was vested in the Board, operational responsibility was effectively exercised by the various sub-departments of the Board, a number of which became Departments of State on the abolition of the Board in 1964.

Historical Context

In Britain a common feature of eighteenth and nineteenth government had been the vesting of responsibility for administrative functions in boards and commissions which were largely independent of Parliament.

Governors of Australian Colonies used administrative forms with which they and the Colonial Office were familiar and hence when the growth of colonial administration made it impossible for Governors to maintain direct control of all facets of administration, Boards were established. This pattern continued long after the achievement of responsible government in each of the colonies.

From the mid nineteenth century, members of Parliament were often appointed as unpaid board members, and boards so constituted were sometimes seen as being an administrative form part way between the non responsible Board and the fully responsible ministerial department. Where, as in the case of the Board of Land and Works, the parliamentarians on the Board qualified for appointment by virtue of their being members of Cabinet, the result was much closer government control.

Another explanation advanced for the establishment of boards was that they provided a convenient form for the separate legal incorporation of certain government activities. The conferring of separate legal identity enabled them to sue and be sued without the usual complications associated with litigation involving the Crown.

The Board of Land and Works, created in 1857 was incorporated two years later.

Some of the administrative difficulties which may have prompted the Government to establish the Board of Land and Works in 1857, were described in the Report from the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on Public Works in 1853/4. 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....".

When giving evidence on these matters, Henry Ginn, the former Colonial Architect, in response to a question seeking his views on the best mode of carrying on public works, replied "... I am most clear that it should be by a Board composed of those professional men who would afterwards have the carrying out of the works fixed upon. The Board should consist of the Surveyor General, the Colonial Engineer and the Colonial Architect. Thus when the Surveyor General was about to lay out a new township, he would have the advantage of consulting the Colonial Engineer on the subject of roads, bridges etc. and with the Colonial Architect as to the necessary buildings and the most convenient site for them". Henry Ginn also 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.

BOARD OF LAND AND WORKS - ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Establishment

The Board of Land and Works was established by statute in 1857 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 1857 (No.31), 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 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 (3) and five (5) 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.

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. It therefore appears that the ministerial positions were revived, but as officers under the jurisdiction of the Board rather than as independent positions. 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, Papers Presented to Parliament, 59/1859-60 Vol IV).

Operation

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. The Board was thus effectively divided into two parts and managed by two Ministers of equal rank. The Civil Service Commission was of the view that in reality the Board had become simply a Board of Advice to the two Ministers that presided over it. However the Commission was also of the opinion that though the intention of the Act was not being fulfilled, the operation of the Board should be endorsed because it gave rise to a system of consultation between officers within each of the departments and between the departments and they considered that important public interests often depended on such co-operation.

In the 1860's there were a number of sub-departments of the Board of Land and Works which were responsible for implementing the decisions of the Board. The sub-departments were responsible for the operational management of all functions for which the Board had statutory responsibility, including crown lands and survey, roads and bridges, public works and railways. The sub-departments all had separate staffs and some had Responsible Ministers but all were subject to the statutory control of the Board. Each sub-department had a secretary for the Board of Land and Works who maintained separately the correspondence and decisions of the Board in relation to the functions for which they were responsible.

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 lists 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. The sub-departments under the statutory umbrella of the Board were the bodies actually engaged in the performance of the duties. This Act also increased the number of vice-presidents to two.

The Board appears to have continued in much the same fashion throughout its more than one hundred years of operation. Various functions were assumed and others transferred to other agencies but the actual role of the Board in relation to the departments under its statutory authority remained stable.

Abolition

In the latter half of the 1950's two events occurred which eventually caused the disbanding of the Board of Land and Works. They were the Mudge Case involving compensation claims for North-West Mallee settlers who were forced to leave their blocks under government policies to enlarge the size of holdings; and the contract between the Board of Land and Works and W.C. Burne & Sons for a construction job. The Burne case was the subject of an investigation by the Committee of Public Accounts which attacked the administration of the Board and cast doubt upon the legality of constituting the Board departmentally as had been the tradition since the 1860's. It also questioned the anomalous and inconsistent situation of the Commissioners or Ministers being either President or Vice-President of the Board.

In 1963 a Bill to dissolve the Board of Land and Works and substitute Ministerial control for the statutory authority of the Board was introduced to the Legislative Assembly. It was referred to the Statute Law Revision Committee. The Committee recommended certain changes to the Bill including provisions to give to the Minister for Education and the Minister for Transport powers identical to those awarded to the Commissioners (Ministers) for Public Works and Crown Lands and Survey in relation to acquisition and tenure of land and property. Further discussions were held in Parliament and again the Bill was referred to the Statute Law Revision Committee. This time the issues centred on the effects of a court case involving councillors of the City of Brighton and their rights to a defence under the old Act. The Committee's report concluded that:

"The operations of the Board of Land and Works do not conform to the statutory requirements and urgent action should be taken by the Government to ensure that amendments are made in the Public Works Act to place the Board's action beyond legal doubt."

The Public Lands and Works Act (No.7228) was passed in 1964. It officially altered the positions of Commissioner of Public Works and Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey to those of Ministers and formally vested the powers of the Board for the relevant major functions in the hands of the Ministers of Lands, Public Works and Education and in the Railway Construction Board.

The Public Lands and Works Act 1964 also transferred the responsibilities and powers of the Board of Land and Works under a series of 1958 Acts including those for Aborigines, Agricultural Colleges, Cemeteries, Closer Settlement, Drainage Areas, Education, Electric Light and Power, Ferries, Fisheries, Forests, Gas and Fuel Corporation, Geelong Harbour Trust, Geelong Water Works and Sewerage, Grain Elevators, Harbour Boards, Hospitals and Charities, Land, Lands Compensation, Land Tax, La Trobe Valley, Local Government, Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways, Melbourne Harbour Trust, Mines, Monash University, Petroleum, Railway Lands Acquisition, Railways, River Improvements, Sewerage Districts, Soldier Settlement, Vermin and Noxious Weeds, Water, Wire Netting, Workers Compensation and the City of Melbourne Underground Railway Construction. These powers, the exact nature of some of which is still to be researched, were also attributed variously to the Minister of Lands, Minister of Public Works and Railways Construction Board.

MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BOARD OF LAND AND WORKS

ABORIGINES

In 1856, responsibility for the Guardian of Aborigines (VA 513) had been transferred from the Chief Secretary to the Surveyor General. This responsibility was assumed by the Board of Land and Works on its establishment in 1857. A Guardian of Aborigines had been appointed in 1849. The Guardian was solely responsible for providing "protection" to Aborigines and Commissioners of Crown Lands had been appointed as honorary protectors, their duties being to visit reserves, report on the condition of Aborigines and supply Aborigines with food and clothing in cases of extreme emergency.

Following a report by a Select Committee established to inquire into Aboriginal welfare, the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (VA 514) was established in 1860. This Board was responsible to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) from its formation.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Central Roads Board (VA 2803) included among its duties distribution of grants to municipal bodies. This responsibility was assumed by the Board of Land and Works upon its creation in 1857. As local governments 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 to administer and co-ordinate this function. Responsibility for this function passed to the Minister for Local Government on 16 December 1958. (Government Gazette 1958, p.4004).

PUBLIC BUILDINGS

The Board was responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of all public buildings. The Board approved plans and specifications, considered tenders, supervised contracts and dealt with all requisitions for buildings, furniture and repairs.

In 1964 statutory responsibility for this function was transferred to the Minister for Public Works.

For information about the construction and maintenance of public buildings see the agency registration for VA 669 Public Works Department. 1855-1987.

PUBLIC LANDS

In 1857 the Board had assumed statutory responsibilities previously vested in the Surveyor General who was also responsible for the Commissioners of Public Lands and thus the Board became responsible for all aspects of the survey, sale and management of public lands including:

survey and subdivision of agricultural land
regulation of the alienation of crown land by auction and selection
settlement of disputes regarding alienation and occupation of crown land
issue of occupation licences and leases
issue of Deeds of Grant for church and school sites and the granting of sites as reserves for other public purposes
control and management of public parks, reserves and commons
issue of licences for pastoral occupation, the determination of rents and consideration of tenders for pastoral runs
prevention of unauthorised use of crown lands
consideration of applications for the sale of land; the withdrawal from sale of lands already advertised and the survey and proclamation of roads
consideration of applications for allowances on valuation of improvements; for money for fencing cemeteries; for permission to exercise a pre-emptive right; and for the refund of overpaid licences.

In 1865 statutory responsibility for the issue of mining leases for metals and minerals other than gold and for the issue of licences to construct or use any race, dam or reservoir for mining purposes was assumed by the Minister of Mines.

In 1964 the Minister of Education assumed statutory responsibility for the acquisition of land for educational purposes and the Minister of Public Works for the acquisition of land for other public purposes. The Minister of Lands assumed all responsibility for the survey, sale and management of crown lands and for closer settlement.

For information about the implementation of the Board's responsibility under the Victorian Land Acts, see the agency registration for the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).

Closer Settlement

The Land Act 1898 (No.1602) of had made provision for the acquisition of land for the purpose of closer settlement. The Board of Land and Works was authorised to repurchase land and the object of this and subsequent legislation was to transform large estates into closely settled communities engaged in agriculture. The repurchased land was made available as farm allotments, agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments to suitable applicants under the terms of conditional purchase leases. Certain residence and improvement conditions applied, initially for the first six years, after which time lessees were at liberty to mortgage, transfer or sublet with consent and, on payment of the balance of the purchase money, to obtain a Crown grant. Subsequently lessees were eligible to apply for advances to assist them to erect dwellings and outbuildings and for other approved purposes.

Operational responsibility for this function was exercised by the Closer Settlement Branch of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).

In 1905, statutory responsibility for closer settlement was transferred to the Land Purchase and Management Board subsequently known as the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266) but in 1938, this responsibility was returned to the Board from the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268), under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1938 (No.4596).

The Board of Land and Works was deemed to be the successor in law to the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268) and statutory responsibility for the administration of the Closer Settlement Acts, Fallowing Advances Acts, Cultivation Advances Acts, part I of the Wire Netting Act 1928 and the Farmers Advances Acts was vested in the Board.

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 was authorised to dispose of land under closer settlement leases or by auction, public tender or sale. Operational responsibility was again exercised by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).

After World War II a Soldier Settlement Commission (VA 2270) was established under the provisions of the Soldier Settlement Act 1943 (No.5107) and the Board's responsibilities in relation to soldier settlement were transferred to the Commission. (See also Soldier Settlement Act 1946 (No.5179)).

On the abolition of the Board in 1964, the Minister of Lands assumed statutory responsibility for closer settlement.

Railways

Prior to the 1850's neither the population nor the extent of internal trade in the colony had warranted the construction of railways. In 1853, following the dramatic increase in population which accompanied the discovery of gold, several Acts providing for the incorporation of railway companies were passed. Each company was to be responsible for the construction and maintenance of particular lines of railway. Within twelve months of its establishment, one of the companies which had difficulty in meeting the requirements of the incorporating Act, offered to dispose of its rights and property to the Government.

It is evident that the difficulties experienced by the joint stock company led the Government to question whether it was appropriate for the responsibility for establishing the network of railway communication required by the Colony to be vested in companies. A Commission appointed in June 1854 to inquire into the mode and kind of internal communication best suited to the Colony, reported on 26 September 1854, that the construction of railways on a grand scale should be adopted and that such undertakings should be carried out by the Government.

Subsequently a Select Committee authorised the Surveyor General to undertake surveys to determine the most suitable path for proposed main trunk lines of railway. Surveying of the proposed lines appears to have begun in 1855. On 23 May 1856, two years after the initial offer the Government made its first purchase of a railway company. By Act of Parliament 19 Vic., No.15 provision was made for the rights and property of the Melbourne, Mt. Alexander and Murray River Railway Company to be vested in the Surveyor General and the Commissioner of Public Works as joint trustees.

Following its establishment in 1857, the Board of Land and Works assumed responsibility for all railways matters including the survey of proposed lines of railway and the trusteeship of the rights and property of the Melbourne, Mt Alexander and Murray River Railway Company. In August 1857 a report of the Select Committee on Railways concluded that the government must be responsible for the formation of main lines of railway and recommended which lines should be constructed first.

Two Acts of 1857, the Railway Act (No.38) and the Railway Supervision Act (No.40), extended the powers of the Board to include the supervision, inspection and possible purchase of all railways in Victoria. In 1860 a further Act (No.96) was passed and vested in the Board the necessary powers to undertake the management of the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company and associated property. When the railways function was first assumed by the Board of Land and Works, the President was responsible for its administration, however responsibility soon reverted to the Commissioner of Public Works. In 1860 a Commissioner of Railways was appointed and in 1861 a Commissioner of Railways and Roads was appointed. In 1865 An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Laws relating to Public Works (No.289), required the Board to provide Parliament with an annual statement of proposed expenditure for the construction of railways. The Act also gave the Board all necessary powers to achieve the construction of railways, including provision for the payment of compensation and the sale of surplus railway land.

The Act also vested responsibility for the management of all existing and future State railways in the Board and gave it power to lease railway property and lines at rents determined by the Governor-in-Council. The Board was empowered to make regulations and by-laws regarding such matters as fares, tolls, conduct of officers and those using railway property, the use of piers and jetties and the powers of a pier master. Under the Electric Light and Power Acts from 1896 to 1958, the Board also had responsibility for the construction and maintenance of electric lines for government purposes - chiefly railways, and for the construction of electric telegraph lines.

In 1884 responsibility for the construction and management of railways was transferred to the Victorian Railways Commissioners until 1892. In 1891 the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Railways presented its first report to the Legislative Assembly and recommended that the construction of railways be separated from the management of railway traffic and maintenance. The Railways Act 1891 (No.1250) which became operational from 1 January 1892, assigned responsibility for the administration and maintenance of railways to the Victorian Railways Commissioners and responsibility for construction to the Railway Construction Branch of the Board of Land and Works (VA 690). This arrangement continued until 1964 when the Board of Land and Works was abolished and all responsibility was transferred to the Railway Construction Board.

For information about the operations of the sub-department of Railways and its successors, see the agency registrations for
Department of Railways I VA 2877 1858-1871
Department of Railways and Roads VA 2875 1871-1877
Department of Railways II VA 2965 1877-1884
Railway Construction Branch, Board of Land and Works VA 690 1892-1964

ROADS AND BRIDGES

The Board inherited responsibility for various aspects of the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges from the Commissioner of Public Works and the Central Roads Board. The 1865 Public Works Act (No.289) gave the Board responsibility for the construction and maintenance of main roads and bridges. Responsibility for local roads remained with the various road districts, shires and boroughs. The Board was empowered to levy tolls and to make regulations and by-laws concerning the use of roads, bridges and punts under the control of the Board.

Responsibility for the construction and maintenance of main roads and bridges was transferred to the newly created Country Roads Board (VA 722) in 1913 (Country Roads Board Act 1912).

For information about the operation of those agencies responsible for carrying out the construction of main roads and bridges see the agency registrations for
Roads and Bridges Branch, Board of Land and Works VA 2964 1858-1871
Department of Railways and Roads VA 2875 1871-1877
Public Works Department VA 669 1877-1913

SEWERAGE AND WATER SUPPLY

Melbourne

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.

On December 12 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 Sewers and Water Supply and the latter Board was dissolved.

The Board of Land and Works thus became responsible for the provision of a domestic water supply for Melbourne including construction of water works, the purchase or lease of lands for this purpose, the levying of water rates and the making of by-laws regarding the construction, inspection and use of water pipes and penalties for the misuse of water supplied. The Board was also responsible for sewerage and drainage and the Public Works Act 1865 required the Board to survey and map the city and suburbs of Melbourne for sewerage and drainage purposes and empowered the Board to construct whatever sewers and drains it felt were necessary and to purchase or lease lands required for this purpose.

Whilst legal authority was vested in the Board, operational responsibility was exercised by Public Works Department (VA 669) which was the successor to the Sewerage and Water Commission.

In December 1890, under the provisions of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Act, all lands, works, buildings, plant, machinery, pipes, sewers and drains vested in the Board were vested in the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) together with the bed, soil and banks of the River Yarra and of all other public rivers, creeks and watercourses within the metropolis. The powers, duties, authorities and liabilities of the Board of Land and Works in relation to water supply works, contracts and actions and in respect of all officers of the Board were conferred upon the M.M.B.W. which assumed responsibility for all contracts, agreements and debts relating to metropolitan water supply and sewerage. The staff of the Melbourne Sewerage and Water Supply Department, a sub-department of Public Works Department (VA 669) were transferred to the employment of the M.M.B.W..

Geelong

Under the provisions of the Water Works Debenture Act 1855, the Commissioners of Sewers and Water Supply 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. Under the provisions of the Waterworks Act 1865, the Board of Land and Works had been authorised to purchase land, take any water races, drains, dams or reservoirs required, divert water and construct any works necessary for the supply of water to the inhabitants of Geelong and this work was undertaken by Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787). These arrangements continued until 1905 except for a brief period from 1874/5 to 1879/80 when part of the administration of the Geelong Water Supply was undertaken by Public Works Department (VA 669). By 1880-81 all aspects of administration had been returned to the Victorian Water Supply Department.

Under the provisions of the Water Act 1905, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) assumed responsibility and the powers of the Board of Land and Works were transferred to the Commission.

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. The Gold Fields Royal Commission of Enquiry reported in 1862 that the development of mining in certain areas had been considerably hindered by the failure of the Government to provide the water required to make mining viable. During the early 1860's two sub-departments of the Board of Land and Works were responsible for aspects of the provision of water supply to the goldfields. 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 (VA 669) and in 1864 to the Department of Mines (VA 2719) which from 1863 was also responsible for the Keepers of Public Reservoirs on the goldfields.

From 1860, the Public Works Department (VA 669) was responsible for the construction of dams and reservoirs and for the construction and maintenance of storm water and sludge channels on the goldfields. Under the provisions of the Waterworks Act 1865, the Board of Land and Works was empowered to complete and construct water works; to purchase land, levy charges and lease or sell works and to 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. These arrangements continued until 1906, when under the provisions of the Water Act 1905, the Board of Land and Works responsibility for the conservation and distribution of Victoria's rural water supplies for irrigation, industrial and urban purposes was transferred to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) as were its powers in relation to water and irrigation trusts.

The Board of Land and Works continued to have statutory responsibility for construction of "national works" until this was transferred to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in 1910 (Water Act 1909).

Location of Records

Although both legal authority and operational responsibility for each of the above functions was theoretically vested in the Board of Land and Works, operational responsibility was invariably effectively exercised by the various sub-departments of the Board, a number of which became Departments of State on the abolition of the Board in 1964.

For convenience then, transfers of operational responsibility for functions have been shown at sub-department level eg. Department of Railways, (VA 2877) Public Works Department (VA 669), Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) and the Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787).

Similarly, the only records series attributed to the Board of Land and Works would be the Minutes of the Board. All records series concerning the operational management of functions for which the Board was responsible have been attributed to the sub-department or other agency which undertook the work.

 
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Record series created by this AgencyRecord series created by this Agency
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1854 - ? 1920 Correspondence and Administration Records (Engineer in Chief and Existing Lines Branches) VPRS 418 North Melbourne Open
? 1856 - 1874 Minutes of the Board VPRS 974 North Melbourne Open
1839 - ? 1864 Applications for Remission VPRS 98 North Melbourne Open
1853 - 1954 Register of Railway Employees VPRS 18040 North Melbourne Open
1857 - 1975 Schedules of Land Grants, Leases, Licences and Sales Submitted for Approval VPRS 11870 North Melbourne Open
1858 - 1871 Schedule of Authorities and Other Correspondence for the Consideration of the Board VPRS 1112 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1863 Schedules of Applications for Surrender of Lease, Section 37, Land Act 1862 VPRS 833 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1863 Applications for Appointment as Arbitrator for Assessing the Capabilties of Runs, Section 88 Land Act 1862 VPRS 15737 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1869 Bonds Issued by the Board of Land and Works for Managers of Commons VPRS 821 North Melbourne Open
1878 - 1997 Victoria Railways and Tramways, Rules And Regulations VPRS 5753 North Melbourne Open
1898 - 1910 Schedules of Leases, Licences, Tenders and Contracts, Mines and Water Supply VPRS 15636 North Melbourne Open
1899 - 1977 Register of Leases, Land Acts, Closer and Soldier Settlement Acts and Mallee Lands Acts VPRS 11875 North Melbourne Open
1905 - Railway Construction Branch Tenders For St Kilda - Brighton Electric Street Railway VPRS 10072 Other Open
1935 - ? 1940 Schedules of Tenders, Requisitions and General Business, Public Works Department, Board Item Order VPRS 15638 North Melbourne Open
By 1858 - ? 1861 Reference Book, General VPRS 14260 North Melbourne Open
By 1866 - ? 1874 Reference Book, Lands and Survey VPRS 14259 North Melbourne Open
By 1890 - ? 1903 Schedules of Leases, Papers and Contracts, Mines VPRS 15635 North Melbourne Open
By 1898 - ? 1935 Schedules of Tenders, Requisitions and General Business, Public Works Department, Schedule Order VPRS 15637 North Melbourne Open
By 1946 - 1974 Schedules of Land Grants, Leases, Licences and Sales Submitted for Approval, Closer Settlement VPRS 15735 North Melbourne Open
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Functions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibility
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Superior AgenciesSuperior Agencies
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Date of Relationship Agency Title Agency Number
Subordinate AgenciesSubordinate Agencies
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Date of Relationship Agency Title Agency Number
1857 - 1964 Department of Crown Lands and Survey VA 538
1858 - 1859 Guardian of Aborigines VA 513
1858 - 1871 Department of Railways I VA 2877
1858 - 1871 Department of Roads and Bridges VA 2964
1858 - 1964 Public Works Department (previously the Department of the Commissioner of Public Works) VA 669
1862 - 1877 Department of Railways and Roads VA 2875
1865 - 1909 Victorian Water Supply Department VA 2787
1877 - 1884 Department of Railways 2 VA 2965
1880 - 1884 Victorian Railways (also Victorian Railways Commissioners 1883-1973, Victorian Railways Board 1973-1983) VA 2876
1892 - 1964 Railway Construction Branch, Board of Land and Works VA 690
Related AgenciesRelated Agencies
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Date of Relationship Group Title Group Number
1857 - 1964 Lands VRG 18
1857 - 1964 Public Works VRG 28
1860 - 1884 Railways VRG 32
1865 - 1880 Mines VRG 30
1880 - 1910 Water Supply VRG 36
1934 - 1964 Transport VRG 49