Jetty Village and Top Town – a town divided?

Coffs Harbour Progress Association was formed in 18911. From 1905 to 1909 it met alternately at Top Town and Jetty Village2, and was “the acknowledged official representative of the township in Government matters”3. Membership of the Progress Association (presumably) was open to anyone.

With the 1905 “rise of Coffs Harbour”, an elitism of sorts raised its head. A “Coffs Harbour Ratepayers’ Association” was formed, membership of which was confined to ratepayers (in other words, property-owners).4  The Ratepayers’ Association met monthly at Top Town.

On 12 February 1907, the Coffs Harbour Advocate’s editor accused this new organisation of trying to undermine (and ultimately “disintegrate”) the Progress Association.5  In mid 1909 a conference was attempted between the two associations which revealed mutual mistrust.6

About this time, a Coffs Harbour Jetty Progress Association comes on the scene.7 Its meetings over the next year are reported under the banner “The People’s Parliament”, fairly obviously a jibe against the more exclusive Ratepayers’ Association. The issues to be discussed were also ironic, echoing complaints in 2017 about weather reporting: “The Commonwealth Meteorologist [does] not favor Coff’s Harbor Jetty being established [as] a weather reporting station, as if the desired concession were granted it would be necessary to extend it to dozens of other places. He pointed out that for scientific purposes the daily bulletins contained that was required.

In May 1911, Dr Cook was president of the “combined Ratepayers’ and Jetty Progress Associations”.8 In November 1911, a meeting was called to discuss the question of whether to revive the now ‘defunct” Progress and Ratepayers’ Associations, or to establish a Chamber of Commerce instead. The latter option was chosen9, and the Chamber of Commerce was operating by December 191110.

The Chamber of Commerce would have looked very like the Ratepayers’ Association. A win for the Top Town elitists against the Jetty Village egalitarians?

In 1941, NSW Shire elections were opened up to all residents of a district. Before then, you needed to be a ratepayer (property-owner) to vote at Shire elections.11, 12  After 1941 Shire Councillors became the local Progress Association. Between 1912 and 1941 in Coffs Harbour, the People’s Parliament went underground.

Acknowledgements:

With thanks to volunteer Geoff Watts for research.

Image: Aerial View from Top Town to the Jetty, Allen Hogbin, 1951-52. Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-11313

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References:

  1. TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12, 1907. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604450
  2. PROGRESS ASSOCIATION. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604466
  3. ibid.
  4. RATEPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION. (1908, March 17). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189628293
  5. TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12, 1907. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604450
  6. THAT CONFERENCE. (1909, June 18). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189620522
  7. The People’s Parliament. (1909, December 17). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189621900
  8. The Public Dinner. (1911, May 19). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189625289
  9. ibid.
  10. Continuous Telephonic Service. (1911, December 8). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189626503
  11. Hearfield and B. Dollery, “Representative Democracy in Australian Local Government”, Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, Issue 2: January 2009, p.69 and http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/cjlg/article/view/1008/1012.
  12. Advertising (1906, January 15). The Grafton Argus and Clarence River General Advertiser (NSW : 1874 – 1875; 1879 – 1882; 1888; 1892; 1899 – 1922), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234816505 (“Election of Aldermen & Auditors”)
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