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Moree becomes a town

Moree was gazetted as a town in 1862 with the town boundaries set at 530 acres and suburban boundaries at 1500 acres – the population 43 persons. On 4 June 1889, a meeting held at Mr A Thompson’s office advocated for the incorporation of the town which eventuated on 3 December 1890.

By the start of the first World War, the population had exceeded 3300. The population continued to increase to 5124 by 1937, however prior to the second World War calls to do something about the declining population of 5106 heralded ideas for a flying school and other initiatives. By 1954 the population was 5509 and had grown by 1971 with 9139 people. The highest population Moree achieved was in 1991 with 10,062 and the Shire population being 17,018.

At the last census in 2011, Moree’s population was 9346 with the Shire population being 13,429.

Moree Municipal Council

Moree Municipal Council was incorporated on 5 December 1890. The first elections held 28 February 1897 saw John Cameron elected Shire President (Mayor), AH Grace as Council Clerk. Initially there were six elected representatives, known as Alderman with another three added to the local government ranks.

The principal activities were to appoint staff, alignment of streets, construction of gravel footpaths, establishment of recreation reserves, control of the Moree common, establishment of a rubbish tip, installation of a sanitary service and improvements to bridges. Over the next decade, works began on the reticulated water supply, electricity supply, concrete kerb and guttering, loans for public works and the construction of the baths.

In 1902, construction of the first Council Chambers began on the north east corner of Frome and Heber Streets, and opened in 1903.

In the fire of 1917, the Mechanic’s School of Arts (an institute for working men to pursue further education through public lectures and classes) and the library burnt down (1879-1917). On the site, the foundation stone for the Moree Memorial Hall was laid in 1921 and the Hall opened in 1923 fully equipped with electric lighting. A new School of Arts and library was built on the north side of the Hall and formed part of what is now the Banquet Hall. The Hall, School of Arts and library were built by funds raised by the towns-folk and administered by the School of Arts.

A referendum was held in 1935 to allow Council to purchase the Memorial Hall, School of Arts and library buildings. In 1938, Moree Municipal Council borrowed £7000 to acquire the buildings and by 1939, the Council had moved to its new Chambers, alongside the Hall (to the north).

The Quota Club of Moree presented the Mayoral Memorial Chain in 1969 to the then Shire President (Mayor) WA Lloyd and he was the first to wear the Ceremonial Robes (purchased by Council) made of regal red wool, trimmed with black velvet and fur pelt. In 1981, a new chain was purchased in celebration of amalgamation.

In 1971, the open area adjacent the Memorial Hall to the south underwent major renovations to incorporate a new Council Chamber (36 Balo Street) and the former Chamber returned as the Banquet Hall. This new complex comprising of the Banquet Hall, Moree Memorial Hall and Council Chambers became known as the Moree Civic Centre.

Library

The original Council Chambers (1903) on the north east corner of Frome and Heber Street has been used as the School of Arts and Library (1939), Moree RSL Club (1947) and Moree TAFE college (1969).

During the 1940s, the Moree and District Library emerged and moved to the rear of the Supper Room behind the Council Chambers (on the north side of the Moree Memorial Hall).

By 1963, the War Memorial Education Centre (south east corner of Albert and Balo Streets) was built and the Library – known as the Moree Regional Public Library - occupied the northern side of the building, while the Moree High School used the southern end as an Assembly Hall. Once the school’s multipurpose hall was built, the library occupied the whole of the space and was renamed as the Northern Regional Library and then the North West Slopes and Plains Cooperative Library. The library serviced all residents of the Brewarrina, Moree Plains and Walgett local government areas.

The 2003 Council Chambers and the consolidation of staff at the 21 Auburn Street location left the building south of the Moree Memorial Hall (previously the Council Chamber from 1971-2003) vacant.

Renovations began for its transformation into the Moree Community Library, which was opened in 2011. The new facility boosts public internet and computers, genealogy and local history sections, a large adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction books, and online access to eLibrary products including eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobooks.

The Moree Community Library is a branch of the Big Sky Libraries which covers the libraries of Moree, Mungindi, Walgett, Lighting Ridge and Brewarrina.

Water Supply

The Moree Water Supply marble foundation stone was laid on 15 October 1900 by the Shire President’s (Mayor) wife Alice Cohen (Mayoress Mrs SL Cohen). A well, which was lined with concrete blocks (the stone halfway down the well), was sunk to a depth of 70 foot (21 metres) from which a permanent supply of water was obtained. It had a steel ladder that zig-zagged around the concrete lining. The water was raised by pump worked by an old steam engine. By 1966, the well was filled in. It was located on the north east corner of Frome and Heber Streets behind the Council Chamber (1903-1938).

In 1908 a reticulated water supply was introduced. It was an elevated iron tank standing 54 feet (16.4 metres) with a capacity of 34,000 gallon (128704 litres). It was relocated to Collarenebri in 1958.

During the first World War, Council sunk a well at the north west corner of the Moree Showground, then later a bore. Bores were also drilled in 1938 in Boston Street and Oak Street.

By 1950, Council had five bores equipped with a ‘pomona’ turbine pumps capable of raising one million gallons (3785411 litres) per day. Water restrictions each summer were imposed as there were only two reservoirs at Jellicoe Park and Moree common to service the town.

By 1980, the Moree water augmentation was completed, the town now supplied with 15 bores and a capacity of 15 megalitres per day.

Electricity

The town electricity supply was switched on in 1911 and controlled by Moree Electric Light Company. The company serviced the equipment for pumping the town’s water supply and conducted an Iceworks on Bank Street.

At a gala event in November 1933 the Shire President’s wife (Mayoress Mrs AP Mellor) officially switched on Moree’s “White Way” - 60 electric lights placed under awnings of buildings, flooding Balo Street (between Heber and Albert Streets) with light and allowing business houses to display their wares – an innovation of the time!

In 1941, electric charges were eight pence per unit of lighting and three pence for power. In 1944, Moree Municipal Council took over the Moree Power House and leased out the Iceworks – equipment was in poor condition and aged. By 1949, power generation was handed over to North West County Council at its new facility in Balo Street (opposite Kirkby Park).

Roads and Footpaths

Prior to the establishment of Moree Municipal Council (1890), the streets were set out by the Surveyor General’s Department and the Government at Warialda was responsible for maintaining the streets.

Mr Kirkby, owner of Kirkby’s Criterion Hotel (1878 – 1934), Balo Street found when it rained, footpath and road was soft boggy mud damaged by wagon wheels, drays and sulkies, and patrons brought so much of the black soil mud into his Hotel that it had to be shovelled out.

Mr Kirkby requested Balo Street be gravelled (around 1879) but this was denied by the Government. He organised a competition amongst the itinerate workers of the town – the group who could cart and lay the most gravel in the least amount of time would get an 18 gallon (81 litres) keg of beer, the loser’s getting 9 gallon (40 litres) keg. They sourced gravel from the dry river bed of the Mehi River (which only flowed when there was a good amount of water in the Gwydir River) near Mary Brand Park. Mr Kirkby organised a similar competition to improve the cutting road between the railway and Balo Street.

In early 1902, Moree Municipal Council called for tenders to supply gravel for the purpose of laying town streets and footpaths. By 1914, there were 16 miles and 72 chains of streets over 66 feet in width and 2 miles 20 chains under 66 feet in width. There were 7 miles of gravelled footpaths, kerb and guttering and 1 mile 10 chains yet to be completed.