History of Canterbury City Council

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Canterbury local government area lies mainly in the valley of Cooks River and its tributary, Wolli Creek, with Salt Pan Creek and its catchment forming part of the western boundary.

After local residents petitioned the State Government, the Municipality of Canterbury was proclaimed on 17th March 1879. Opponents of incorporation had presented counter petitions to the government, and so the boundaries were drawn up to exclude the properties of those most opposed in Punchbowl and Croydon Park. The original western boundary was in a line from Rossmore Avenue Punchbowl to Narwee Railway Station.

The municipality covered 2896 hectares (11.2 square miles), a large area with a very small population of only about 800 residents. This was a very small base to levy rates to pay for the services that residents needed: roads, bridges, controlling pollution from noxious industries and other garbage collection. Roads were very poor, not having been surveyed or aligned, and footpaths were non-existent. The first projects of the new council were tendering for forming the road in Phillips Street, repairing Holden Street, and forming the footpath outside Belmore Public School.

There were no wards initially, and the first election was held for 6 aldermen on 9th June 1879. The main polling booth was at the St Pauls Church of England school room on Canterbury Road, Canterbury. In 1881 the municipality was divided into 2 wards to assist aldermen to service their residents, and then 3 wards from 1887. Later Canterbury was divided into 4 wards, and from 1993 we have had 3 wards with 3 councillors each. The mayor makes a 10th councillor, and is elected directly by the residents rather than being chosen by the other councillors from their ranks. This was introduced in 1976. Councillors were known as aldermen until 1993.

John Sproule was elected the first mayor by the other aldermen. He suffered from ill-health and often missed council meetings, and resigned in 1880, having served less than a year in office. The first staff member to be appointed by the new council was a part-time town clerk, who worked just one hour on two evenings a week. Neil Quigg was appointed but in spite of the short hours he was often late for work and was a poor speller to boot! Council dismissed him the following year. The second staff appointed was James Kerr as overseer and inspector of nuisances (health inspector) in 1881.

There have been a number of minor changes in the boundaries of Canterbury over the years, but the most important was in 1906 when the western boundary was extended to Salt Pan Creek, to include parts of Punchbowl and Riverwood. The current area of Canterbury City is now 3340 hectares (13 square miles). The large area of Canterbury has probably saved it from the threat of amalgamation with other local government areas by the state government over the years.

The council initially met in the home of the first mayor, and then in the St Paul's Church schoolroom. The Municipality's first Town Hall was opened in 1889 by the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes. The Town Hall was on Canterbury Road, corner Howard Street, Canterbury. This was replaced by a new Administration Centre in 1962 at Campsie - recognising that Campsie had long ago become the main commercial centre for the local government area.

The first woman elected to council was Joanna Thompson, who served 1965-68. The first female mayor was Kayee Griffin.

Our elected councillors now reflect the multicultural nature of Canterbury's population, including councillors who come from Greek, Lebanese, Italian and Korean backgrounds.