A Royal Commission regarding Local Government Boundaries was established by Letters Patent on 20 June 1945. Three Commissioners were appointed: Mr Justice John Sydney James Clancy, Chairman of the Crown Employees Appeal Board, as Chairman; Stanley Haviland, Assistant Under Secretary to the Department of Local Government: and Ronald Thomas Clyde Storey, Mayor of the Municipality of Drummoyne. (1)
The terms of reference of the Commission were to investigate whether the present local government boundaries (in the County of Cumberland) particularly for the City of Sydney were suitable for the efficient operation of the local government functions, and if not what alterations where necessary to “ secure, promote or facilitate proper, economical and efficient local government throughout the said county”. (2) The Commission was to pay particular to:
(1) Whether the boundaries of the City of Sydney should be extended, and which areas should be amalgamated with the City of Sydney, but when practicable the boundaries should following the existing boundaries
(2) To determine whether any other areas in the County of Cumberland be united, divided or otherwise altered and re – constituted as a municipality or shire, but when practicable the boundaries should following the existing boundaries .
(3) To determine whether the City of Sydney (or any other re-constituted area) be divided into wards; and the numbers, and boundaries of those ridings or wards.
(4) To determine the number of alderman or councillors to be elected for a reconstituted City of Sydney (or any other re-constituted area in the County of Cumberland), not divided into wards or ridings, or alternatively the numbers of alderman to be elected to a re -constituted City of Sydney (or any other re--constituted area in the County of Cumberland), that was to be divided into wards or ridings. However, the numbers of alderman/councillors elected to each riding/wards was preferably to be equal to other wards or ridings in that re-constituted area. (3)
Prior to the commencement of the Commission all councils in the County of Cumberland were advised of the start date, and terms of reference of the Commission. An advertisement was also placed in several newspapers for general information. A notice of each day of sitting was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald. (4)
The Commission held its first sitting on 28 June 1945. (5) The period of the Commission was extended initially on the request of the commissioners until 20 December 1945, then to February 1946, and finally to 20 April 1946. In addition, members of the Commission also held conferences when necessary. The Commission held 66 sittings, and heard evidence from 134 witnesses. 352 exhibits were tendered to the Commission. The Commission heard representations from the councils in the County of Cumberland, as well as from Local Government Associations, and from specific staff from councils such as Engineers. (6)
The Commission prefaced its main findings by stating that councils varied in their efficiency in administration of essential services, taking into account the fact that some areas in Sydney were quite commercial whereas others were quite rural. In coming to a solution the Commissioners were also mindful of the current definitions of democracy, and providing a solution that was acceptable to voters. The Commission also recommended the establishment of County Councils, which would assist councils if works and services required co-operation beyond individual municipal boundaries. (7)
The Commission concluded that certain municipal areas should be grouped together under the City of Sydney. The mechanism for this should be the Local Government Act 1919 (No.41, 1919) rather than the Sydney Corporation Act 1842 (6 Victoria, Act No.3). The Commission also found that the rearrangement of the boundaries of other local government areas in the County of Cumberland was essential. However, the commissioners were divided in the extent to which areas should be re – constituted. The scheme of re - constitution proposed by each Commissioner was set out in the final report of the Royal Commission. A map of each proposal was also included in the final report. (8)
The Commission found it impracticable to delineate wards boundaries in any other area than the City of Sydney, and suggested that another body perform this task. The Commission appears not to have made any findings in regards to the numbers of alderman or councillors required for any re – constituted area. (9)
The Commission ended with the publishing of the final report on 11 April 1946.
(1) Report of the Commission into local government boundaries pp. 3 - 4 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1945 – 1946 Vol. 1 pp. 483-484.
(3) Loc.cit .
(4) Ibid. p.4.
(5) Royal Commission into Local Government Boundaries: Minutes of Evidence, Minutes of Evidence for 28 June 1945, SRNSW Ref 3/3172, CGS 1570.
(6) Report of the Commission into local government boundaries Op.cit p.4.
(7) Ibid p.9.
(8) Ibid p.9, and Appendices C-E, pp.23-28.
(9) Ibid p.9.