Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Saving the Dorrigo Park

Roy Vincent's efforts protected the Dorrigo National Park at critical stages in its history.This is the second in a short series on the early days of the Dorrigo National Park.
Administrative history can be very boring, a list of dates and changes. Yet when you dig in, you find that those changes tell us much about our history.

You can also find yourself taken in unexpected directions, highlighting aspects of our history that extend far beyond the original question. Both are true of the early history of the Dorrigo National Park.

The 1901 gazettal of the two small reserves intended to protect waterfalls was followed by the 1917 reservation of a larger mountain area that now forms the core of the National Park. Separate trustees were appointed covering the two small reserves and the larger reserve.

The trustees appointed to the larger reserve included brothers Roy Stanley and Reginald Henry Vincent, members of that remarkable Vincent newspaper dynasty that played such a role in the history of the New England press and community life more generally.

In 1910, the brothers had established the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate. Both were active in community life, including the campaigns for Northern development and the creation of a new state in Northern New South Wales. Both were committed to the preservation of the Dorrigo mountain reserve.

While Reginald Henry would remain as editor of the Don Dorrigo Gazette, in 1922 Roy was elected to the NSW Parliament as Member for Oxley. There he joined Michael Bruxner’s “True Blues”, the precursor of the NSW Country Party. 

Roy would remain an MP until 1953. From June 1932 to May 1941 he was Secretary for Mines and Minister for Forests, providing a degree of top cover that was important to the preservation of the Dorrigo reserves.

The new trustees faced problems. They had to deal with the spread of blackberries and other noxious weeds, as well as local pressures to log and develop the land. They also wanted to develop facilities. However, they had no money to do any of this.

These problems came to a head in 1923.

On 18 May 1923, Roy Vincent wrote to the Department of Lands as local member and a trustee seeking approval for the Trust to lease a small portion at the top of the Mountain Reserve for grazing purposes. This would provide the trustees with a small income and also help in blackberry control.

The following month, 8 June, the Secretary of the Trust (W H Jarrett) wrote to the Minister for Lands. Given problems with blackberries and fallen trees, he stated that a meeting of the trustees had decided to ask the Department to send an inspector to visit the reserve with a view to alienating the whole reserve for development.

This move blind-sided Roy Vincent. On 2 July he wrote to the Minister in protest. Had all the trustees been consulted? As a trustee, he was totally opposed to the alienation of a single acre of this magnificent reserve, apart from the previous request to lease a portion for grazing.

Roy Vincent prevailed. Dorrigo was saved, but problems still lay ahead.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 4 December 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019  

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