Citizens' Reclamation Committee

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The Citizens' Reclamation Committee in action.[1]

Inspired by post-World-War-II residential development by the Housing Commission and by reclamation of the Last Chance Mine site in 1951, the Citizens' Reclamation Committee was formed in 1957 by the then Mayor Kenneth Crago Webb to enable and promote the reclamation and development of vacant land in poor condition in Ballarat for residential use.



According to Bate (1993):

During and immediately after World War II Ballarat grew steadily and strongly, within boundaries established in the nineteenth century. Consolidation was the theme, using vacant space already serviced by roads, drains, water, sewerage, gas, electricity and public transport... Great improvement was possible in Ballarat East, where the debris of mining had tied up large areas of easily serviced land.[2]

One area of development, domestic construction:

was strengthened by the decision of the Victorian Housing Commission, in 1945, to build twenty-three homes at Ballarat North. This was old territory, near the railway workshops, Ronaldson and Tippett, the Myer Woollen Mill and Morley's Clothing factory. There was, however, a shortage of home sites and a generally haphazard approach to growth that acted as a challenge to Councillor Alan Pittard [likely to be Alan Crocker Pittard], who returned from the war determined to make Ballarat an even better place and, in the process, to stand no nonsense from any do-little, conservative fellow councillors..[3]

According to the 1945 Mayor's report:

Like all other centres throughout the Commonwealth, Ballarat has been sadly handicapped throughout the war years directly due to building restrictions, and the housing problem has been most acute. Your Council has successfully induced the Victorian Housing Commission to divert some of its interest to our midst and at the present time twenty-three new homes are in an advanced stage of construction in Walsh Avenue at Ballaarat North—in close proximity to one of the most important industrial centres which embraces the Ballaarat North Railway Workshops, Messrs. Ronaldson Bros. & Tippett's, The Myer Pty. Ltd., and Morley's Mills. It is announced that at an early date the Commission will be undertaking the erection of an additional 38 homes in this centre. Owing to the lag in normal building the position will not be rectified until restrictions on building by private enterprise are lifted, when it may be anticipated that the building trade will flourish almost beyond imagination.[4]

Initially "there were plans to lift Ballarat East by a mining revival financed by local and international capital, which a large public meeting endorsed in the hope that the federal treasurer would ease restrictions on the necessary overseas borrowing. He did not..."[3]

An earlier version of the committee, referred to as the Reclamation Sub-Committee was active in 1947, chaired by then-mayor Alan Crocker Pittard.[5] According to Weston Bate, "As chairman of a Citizens' Reclamation Committee [Alan Pittard's] initial assault was on the old mining area at Black Hill Flat, which was cleaned up to provide building sites and open space."[3][Notes 1] However, the 1947 correspondence and committee minutes[5] relate to the Blue Dam site south of the Eureka Stockade.

When the White Swan dam was constructed, suitable material "was identified in mine-dumps that had plagued Ballarat for decades... Even so, when the White Swan was finished in 1952, many dumps were left, among sludge dams, crumbling machinery foundations and treacherous shafts."[3]

The Last Chance Mine site

The Last Chance Mine site c.1959.[6]

In 1951 Ballarat City Council decided to write to the Housing Commission offering 20 acres of land in Main Road for residential development. The land was in the vicinity of the Last Chance Mine on the east side of Main Road, south of Eureka Street, and adjoined Crown Land.[7] According to the 1958-59 Mayor’s Report:

In 1951 the work on the White Swan Reservoir was completed, and with the co-operation of the Ballaarat Water Commissioners, before the heavy equipment owned by the Commissioners was sold, it was used to convert this area into an area suitable for residences. The northern section of this area was completed in this way and provided sites for 34 homes. Across the dividing main channel which bisected the area, the southern half was enlarged in area with the co-operation of the Lands Department, and filled to provide sites for a further 33 homes. The frontage to Main Road was sold by the City Council for unpaid rates and five superior types of homes were built on this land.[6]

Formation of the committee

Following a visit to Ballarat by the Minister for Crown Lands and the Minister for Mines on 26 April 1957, "a local Committee, under the Chairmanship and encouragement of His Worship the Mayor, Cr. K.C. Webb, was set up..." The committee met, visited Bendigo "to learn from experience in that City", and commenced to work.[8] Its initial meeting was on Tuesday, 14 May 1957.[9]

In 1956-57, Kenneth Crago Webb was mayor, and his enthusiasm for the reclamation project is clear from that year’s Mayor’s Report[8], which includes "A Short Story of Positive Action". According to Webb's 'short story':

There are many areas of Crown Lands surrounded by the services of electricity, gas, transport, water and sewerage and yet these lands are not suitable for home building because of heaps of mining tailings and the like.[8]

Mayor Gordon Lincoln Scott waxed lyrical: "Much of this extensive land was the aftermath of the mining boom of the early days of our City... Following the war years a new appreciation of the earthworks that could be undertaken came with the development of gargantuan machines that removed mountains in their path and made the crooked straight."[6]

It is confidently anticipated in Ballaarat by the Local Committee that many eye-sores of Crown Lands of varying descriptions will be eliminated, that the City and the residents will benefit greatly and that the Government will receive into consolidated revenue, over a period of years, anything up to £200,000 or more. The Reclamation Committee is full of confidence and is tackling its task as a real Citizens’ Committee should.[8]

It appears that Webb was chair of the committee for some time. There are references to him as current chairman in the Mayor's Reports for 1959-60[1], 1961-62[10] and 1964-65[11].

The sites

Site no.1 - Talbot Street between Bell Street and Leith Street[Notes 2]

The first two houses - site no.1.[6]

This was land formerly part of the Band of Hope & Albion Consols Gold Mining Co. mine.

By the time Henry Bolte visited Ballarat on 28 June 1957, "the first site [was] practically completed and soiled... The lucky purchasers of these home sites will have the allotments with all services available immediately, and will be within one minute's walk of a regular tram service."[8] By 1958, construction of the first dwelling was underway[12] and by 1959, two homes were completed[6].

Site no.2 - corner of Yarrowee Parade and Leith Street

The first two houses - site no.2.[6]

The 1957-58 Mayor’s Report states that this site:

has been filled and allowed to consolidate. It is expected that the Housing Commission will shortly be commencing the erection of Low Rental Units on a portion of the site and the balance will be sold at an auction. This latter area has involved the revoking of certain reserves and the widening of Yarrowee Parade roadway. These formalities took a certain amount of time.[12]

The 1958-59 Mayor’s Report states that this site:

was on the crest of a steep bank which rose from the Yarrowee. The mullock heaps were levelled, the crest of the rise flattened off and the area increased to allow the blocks to have sufficient depth for building. [A] portion of this land was offered for private sale and the remainder used for the construction of low-rental units by the Housing Commission of Victoria. These units have now been completed and the remaining seven home sites will be used for normal residences.[6]

Site no.3 - Black Hill Flat

Plan of subdivision [13]

The 1956-57 Mayor’s Report confusingly refers to this site as the ‘second area’, possibly because the delays at Yarrowee Parade meant that work was more advanced at this location at that time. It states that the work was ''well underway" at the time of Henry Bolte’s visit on 28 June 1957. The 1957-58 Mayor's Report states that:

the extensive work of levelling what was known as Black Hill Flat is now almost completed. On the Black Hill Flat twenty-seven building allotments will be surveyed and these have been offered to the Victorian Housing Commission as a single proposal.[12]

The reference to twenty-seven building allotments is slightly confusing as there are currently (2013) twenty-nine houses in the area. However, visual inspection of the houses suggests that two of the houses may not be built by the Housing Commission.

The 1958-59 Mayor’s Report rather loosely locates this site "on the Black Hill Flat bounded by Morres, King and Newman Streets between Humffray Street and the slopes of Black Hill." It goes on to explain that:

New streets were necessary and a main drain traversed the area, and this was undergrounded by construction of large culverts. Before bulldozers were put to work, the area contained a large tailings heap and numerous sand heaps and uneven places. This, too, was an area accepted by the Housing Commission for development, and, as soon as the streets and drains were laid, contracts were let for the housing. Work on the erection of 23 new homes is already well in hand, and should be ready for building in the near future.[6]

In 1960 the Mayor was happy to report:

…the Housing Commission of Victoria completed the twenty-three homes under construction a year ago. Four more homes have been tendered for and another two are in course of preparation for tendering. Formerly a tailings heap from early mining activity in the area, we now find a suburban street, fully serviced with homes of pleasing appearance and in a situation ten minutes walk from the centre of the city.[1]

It is possible that the last two were not built by the Housing Commission. At any rate, according to the 1960-61 Mayor's Report, "twenty-nine houses have already been established at what was originally an extremely rough area known as the Black Hill Flat."[14]

Site no.4 - the former Ballarat-Bunninyong railway reserve north of York Street

It appears that by 1958 work on this site was preliminary: "A tentative plan of subdivision for this area will provide approximately twenty-two houses and again this area will be made available to the Housing Commission.". [12]

The 1958-59 Mayor's Report had a lot more to say:

The fourth scheme required a large amount of filling. It was the area formerly used for the Ballaarat-Buninyong Railway Line, in that section between Eureka and York Streets. At Eureka Street where the line terminates at the present time, there was a deep cutting which consumed the huge total of four thousand cubic yards of filling. The subdivision requires the construction of a new roadway, with footpath and channels. The residential area will be a long rectangular strip of land on which 22 houses can be constructed. The work is part completed, and the accompanying photograph shows the area to be used for housing, with the new road being constructed from the York Street end. It is possible that the Housing Commission will again accept this land for housing development on the lines of the other areas taken over by it.[6]

By 1960 the area:

...was filled, graded, drained and street constructed preparatory to surveying for subdivision into 22 residential allotments. The Housing Commission has again agreed to develop this housing project, and has already called tenders for the construction of 10 modern villas, with the remaining 12 to be erected in the coming year.[1]

According to the 1960-61 Mayor's Report, "twenty-two houses are in course of construction at this location."[14]

Site no.5 - the former Ballarat-Bunninyong railway reserve south of York Street

Proposed plan of subdivision - site no.5.[1]

Only one line was devoted to this site in the 1958-59 Mayor's Report, citing it as "a possible one for development in the next year." [6] By 1960 this area "...had preliminary grading preparatory to its final levelling ready for surveying into residential blocks."[1] The 1960-61 Mayor's Report included a plan showing the proposed subdivision and stated that "purchase of adjacent land from the Railways Department makes provision for… thirty-six building allotments with all services provided."[14] However, very little seems to have happened in the following year. The 1961-62 Mayor's Report only refers to this site and site no.7 as "possibilities for the future".[10]

Site no.6 - corner of Yarrowee Parade and Bell Street

The 1958-59 Mayor's Report was bullish about this site:

At present it presents a formidable sight with high mullock heaps covering the whole of the area, but, as in the former cases, the power of mighty earth-moving machines and the skill of trained operators will reduce it to a suitable area and provide filling for yet another tract of land which requires such treatment. [6]

However, the site is not mentioned in subsequent Mayor's Reports.

Site no.7 - east of Sherrard Street between Chisholm Street and Gregory Street

This site is first mentioned in the 1959-60 Mayor's Report:

Yet another extensive area to be developed in another part of the city is that in the vicinity of the Black Hill State School, where the Mines Department is co-operating in the preliminary levelling of broken mining country. In an area of approximately 6 acres east of Sherrard Street and between Chisholm and Gregory Streets, a desirable residential area will be created from what is now gorse, and scrub covered land pockmarked by mining activity and covered in heaps of tailings. It is not known how many homes will be possible here, but it will be at least as extensive as the Black Hill Flat area. [1]

There appears to be little progress in the following years, however. All that the 1960-61 Mayor's Report had to say was the site "holds the deep interest of the committee, and on which possibly thirty-five houses could be beneficially built."[14] Again, the 1961-62 Mayor's Report refers to this site only as a possibility for the future.[10]


In 2003 the Ballarat City of Ballarat Heritage Study (Stage 2) April 2003 listed the Black Hill Flat site for consideration for heritage protection. It was recommended for further investigation during the Community Consultation process by Greg Binns.[15]

See also

Housing Commission

Webb Avenue


  1. Bate's references are the Mayor's Report 1959 and an interview with John Morgan.
  2. The site numbering is my own, based on the Mayor's Reports.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1959-1960
  2. Bate, Weston. Life After Gold: Twentieth-Century Ballarat (1993) p.176
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Bate, Weston. Life After Gold: Twentieth-Century Ballarat (1993) p.178
  4. City of Ballaarat - Mayor's Annual Report, 1945
  5. 5.0 5.1 General Correspondence Files, Reclamation of Land 1947, Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 2500/P0000/210
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1958-1959
  7. 'Council Seeks Development of Eureka Land', The Courier, 4 Sep 1951.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1956-1957
  9. Minutes, City of Ballaarat, Mayor's Report, 20 May 1957
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1961-1962
  11. City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1964-1965
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1957-1958
  13. Plan Of Subdivision LP 51732 - Crown Allotment 2 Section 1 & Crown Allotments 1 & 2 Section 4 - Township Of Ballaarat East - Parish Of Ballaarat - County Of Grant - Vol 3217 Fol 949 (1960)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 City of Ballarat - Mayor’s Report 1960-1961
  15. City of Ballarat Heritage Study (Stage 2) April 2003: Thematic History

Further Reading

External Links

--Neil Huybregts 16:03, 29 August 2013 (EST)

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