The Argus at KellyGang 26/2/1873 (2)

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The railway extension scheme propounded at Benalla seemed to meet with approbation; as did also a suggestion to reconstruct the present shire boundaries. Another very good thing would be the appointment of a Government inspector, to overlook the auditors; and it would be very advantageous to provide some means of appealing from the decision of an auditor. Again, it was ridiculous that the whole electoral machinery of the shire should be put in motion every time an auditor was wanted. Many good men objected to saddling the local fund with the expense, and so refused to come forward. With regard to shire engineers, it was thought that the necessity for a certificate might be dispensed with where there had been several years' say 10 years'-satisfactory service.

Mr Bent asked whether, when rates were in arrear, they were written off. It appeared that they were allowed to remain on the books, although there might be no means of recovering them. The president thought that non-payment of rates should disfranchise persons in municipal matters, but ought not to interfere with their right of voting at Parliamentary elections. Beechworth, it was mentioned, would be greatly benefited if the country were divided into licensing districts, and the fees received distributed in a just proportion among the different local bodies.

In answer to Mr A T Clark, Mr Thomas Dalziel, engineer to the united shire, said that the average cost of constructing main roads in the shire, where there was not much rock-cutting, was about £1,000 or £1,200 a mile. The road across the ranges would be more expensive; say from £3,000 to £4,000 a mile; in fact, it would be almost as cheap to construct a railway. Broad tires for heavy traffic would be a very good rule. Mr Richard Thomson, who has been eight years a councillor; Mr William Davidson, the valuator; and Mr John Scarlett, secretary to the united shire, were then examined. The latter expounded at some length several questions of great public interest; but unfortunately some of these were considered to have little bearing upon the particular subject which the commissioners had come as far as Beechworth to inquire into, and so they cannot be set down here.

After the sitting was concluded, the president and Councillor Turner took the commissioners for a drive round the town, and in the course of it a visit of inspection was paid to the lunatic asylum, with the condition of which the members of the party expressed themselves greatly pleased. They were especially struck by the beauty of the gardens, which are cultivated by the inmates. The president then entertained the members of the commission and the lending inhabitants at luncheon. Between 30 and 40 gentlemen were present, and after the usual loyal toasts, the president proposed the health of the Royal Commission, coupling with it the name of Major Smith, the chairman. After congratulating the commissioners upon the result, so far, of their labours, he alluded to the advantages, apart from the special object of the journey, which members of Parliament were likely to derive from a visit to the less accessible parts of the country.

It was highly desirable that public men should become personally acquainted with as many districts as possible. Major Smith, in replying to the toast, complimented the president upon the able manner in which the latter had given his evidence before the commission, and said that the commissioners had had no reason to regret the step they had thought it necessary to take of hearing witnesses for themselves instead of making inquiries by letter into the different matters with which they had to deal. A mass of information had been collected by this means which it would have been impossible to procure in any other way. Mr Patterson, who proposed the health of the president and shire council, alluded to the policy of decentralisation which it would probably be the aim of the commission to introduce. The company then drank the health of Mr Pitcairn, secretary to the commission, and Mr Bent afterwards proposed the shire officers, to which Mr Dalziel and Mr Scarlett replied in suitable terms. After luncheon, the commissioners set out on the return journey, and reached Wangaratta the same evening. The next day the whole party, accompanied by the mayor of the borough, paid a visit to Mr Docker, president of the North Ovens Shire Council, at Bontherambo, and went through his extensive olive yard and vineyards. In the afternoon they went on to Benalla, and the next day started early in the morning for Violet Town, where they were to meet the engine which Messrs Styles and Murray had obligingly offered as a means of transit to Longwood, and having made a halt during the afternoon at Seymour, the travellers reached town in the evening, tolerably well tired with their day's journey of 120 miles.


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