History of Georgetown

Includes the towns of Georgetown, Gulnare, Yacka, Narridy and Huddleston

After the founding of South Australia in 1836, surveys were made in 1840 and 1841 to 240 kilometres north of Adelaide, following the tracks of Edward John Eyre. The explorer, John Horrocks passed through the Gulnare area in 1841: a memorial cairn erected by the Geographic Society in 1946 marks the place where his party camped at the intersection of Main North Road and Narridy Road. Horrocks's dog, Gulnare, caught seven emus in five days, thus saving the party from hunger. Horrocks named the Gulnare Plains after his enterprising canine companion.

With the leasing of land through Occupation Licenses for grazing, people began to move into these northern areas. The original leases were Koolunga Station run, Bundaleer run, and Bungaree run.

By the end of the 1860s the pastoral era was drawing to a close. The Victorian gold rushes had led to a great demand for wheat, and this caused a boom in wheat-farming in South Australia. Because of this demand, the South Australian Government in 1869 passed the Strangways Wasteland Amendment Act, which made pastoral lands available for closer settlement. In that year, not less than nine Hundreds were proclaimed in the north of South Australia, among them Bundaleer, Yackamoorundie, and Narridy.

The Georgetown township survey made in 1869 was on a grand scale. The town, located in open grassy country, extended over 2235 hectares and was planned as a miniature Adelaide, with north, south, east and west terraces. At first Georgetown flourished with settlement and businesses; but its prosperity declined when, as a result of political pressures, the railway line at first proposed to pass through Georgetown and Narridy was diverted to run through Jamestown and Caltowie to Port Pirie.

Gulnare township developed from a small land subdivision for a private township called Gulnare South, and served the area known as Gulnare Plains. Yacka, on the other hand, was surveyed in 1876 and laid out as a Government town adjacent to the Broughton River, named by Eyre after Doctor William Grant Broughton, Bishop of Australia.

Narridy, in the Hundred of Narridy, was surveyed in 1871 and proclaimed in 1876. In the same year, it was granted Local Government, with the proclamation on 1 March of the District Council of Narridy. Huddleston, in the Hundred of Narridy, was also a Government surveyed town.

Georgetown, Gulnare and Yacka still function as townships with their own basic services and facilities; but Huddleston and Narridy, each with its own little clutch of buildings, have now receded into history. There is nostalgia in the peaceful stillness of Narridy, where once, before the development of Port Pirie, the blacksmiths' anvils and the steam engines of chaff and flour mills added their sounds to those of the bustling community.

The real pioneering settlers came in 1873, when the Government introduced a deferred credit payment scheme. Buyers paid 1 pound an acre (0.4 hectare) for land. These men toiled under very hard conditions to transfer virgin country into fertile and arable land. Meat was so scarce that the settlers often ate wild goat from the herds that proliferated on the hills of Bungaree run.

The District Council of Georgetown was formed on 2 March 1876 to control the Hundred of Bundaleer. On 5 January 1888, following the passing of Act 419 of 1887, the District Council of Narridy and the Hundred of Yackamoorundie were amalgamated with the District Council of Georgetown and the area was divided into three Wards. In 1921, these Wards were changed into four Wards: Georgetown, Gulnare, Narridy and Yacka.

The first assessment of the amalgamated territory amounted to 23,742 pounds which in a rate of 5d in the pound, produced revenue of 494 pounds 15s.

In 1978 the assessment of capital values was $23,336,500, yielding $177,956.65 in rates. The 1984 Government assessment on capital value was $70,437,820.

A new building replacing the old Council Chambers was erected in 1958 in the site of former Areas Hotel at Georgetown. The Council depot was built in 1959, and extensions were made in 1968.

Since 1936 the Georgetown Council assisted with or has been involved in the provision of new Community Halls at Gulnare and Georgetown, and the building of recreation facilities comprising tennis courts, bowling greens, and ovals at Georgetown, Gulnare and Yacka, and golf courses at Georgetown and Yacka.

As at 1988 approximately 177 kilometres of unmade roads formed only of natural surface materials have been greatly improved by reconstruction in metal. Small areas of road and several town streets have been sealed full width with bitumen, and incorporate a roll-over kerb. Road drainage has also been improved by the installation of a number of pipes, one major culvert, and two major fords.

As at 1988 five fire fighting vehicles protected the area, and V.H.F. radio communications for both the C.F.S. and the Council were in use.

(Source: "South Australia, the civic record 1836 to 1986")

During 1988 discussions were held with the neighbouring Councils of Laura and Gladstone regarding amalgamation and agreement for amalgamation was reached on 4th May 1988 resulting in the formation of the District Council of Rocky River. Further local government consolidation during 1996/7 saw the Rocky River Council amalgamate with the District Councils of Spalding and Jamestown to form the Northern Areas Council, which was effected on 3rd May 1997.