THE PORT PHILLIP DISTRICT OF NEW SOUTH WALES
AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF VICTORIA

* * * ( Part 2 ) * * *

THE BORDER BETWEEN VICTORIA AND NEW SOUTH WALES

Some of us might remember that, during the Bolte years, there was an article in the Melbourne "Herald" newspaper asserting that it was intended that the northern border of Victoria be based on the Murrumbidgee River. It was alleged that the change occurred due to a 'mistake' in the Colonial Secretary's office.

"Survey Practice Handbook Victoria Part 3 - Land Surveying Law and Administration" [1] gives us the lead as to what was the basis of the claim: -

* In 1840 Lord John Russell of the Colonial Office decided that for land management purposes the Colony of New South Wales should be divided into 3 districts, the southern of which was the Port Phillip District

* The Port Phillip District was described as bounded on the north and west by the southern boundary of the county of St. Vincent and the south western boundary of the county of Murray "as far as the River Murrumbidgee" and "from thence by the said River Murrumbidgee, the River Murray until the same reaches the South Australian Border."

The author of the "Survey Practice Handbook" then explains that the foregoing definition includes in the Port Phillip District the Riverina and also the east coast and its hinterland as far north as Bateman's Bay.

The boundaries of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales were defined in the Imperial Act 5 & 6 Vic., c76 of 30 July 1842 ("An Act for the Government of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land") as follows: " . . . . . . the boundary of the District of Port Phillip on the North and North-East shall be a straight line drawn from Cape Howe to the nearest source on the River Murray, and thence by the Course of that River to the Eastern Boundary of the Province of South Australia."

This 'mistake' occurred a mere 2 years later. The Melbourne "Herald" article blamed a clerk in the Colonial Secretary's office for the 'mistake' in documenting the enabling legislation. A dispassionate analysis would reveal that events since 1850 certainly show the wisdom behind the original 1840 decision.

As we know that: -

* The Murrumbidgee River would more equitably split the total area of the then colony of New South Wales,
* The centre of official business of many residents in the Riverina has always been Melbourne
* Railway services across the Murray River to places such as Deniliquin and Balranald were provided by Victoria
* The regular bus service along the Murray River to Mildura services Balranald to this day and
* Telstra has not been strictly bound by the border in providing its services.

The adopted but mainly 'mistaken' border is composed of 3 parts: -

* The Black - Allen Line
* The Murray River between its headwaters at the Indi Springs and the border of New South Wales and
* The part of the northern boundary of Victoria to the west of the New South Wales - South Australian border.

THE BLACK - ALLEN LINE

That line is the part of the north-eastern boundary of Victoria described in the early enabling legislation to the effect that: - "The boundary of the district of Port Phillip on the north and north-east shall be a straight line from Cape How(e) to the nearest source of the River Murray."

The nearest source is accepted as Indi Springs.

The name has been rightly givin in honour of the 'two Alexanders,' Black and Allen who surveyed the line through the mountains and bush to establish the border in the 1870s.

In recent years survey teams have retraced at least part of the boundary, finding remains of original stone cairns and culminating in the establishment of a monument at Point Hicks. This monument was officially unveiled with great ceremony in 1993 by the Surveyors General of the 2 States.

An attempt to obtain heritage listing for this line is ongoing.

THE MURRAY RIVER BETWEEN ITS HEADWATERS AT THE INDI SPRINGS AND THE BORDER OF NEW SOUTH WALES

With over simplification it can be stated that the border is the southern boundary of the Murray River - the river is wholly situated within New South Wales.

The establishment of this border however has had its share of controversy with court cases intervening such that the respective Surveyors General produced a definitive statement as late as 1991.

Two court cases that clarified the situation are discussed in the said part 3 of "Survey Practice Handbook Victoria." The following information is derived from such publication.

In May 1980 the Supreme Court unanimously determined that the northern boundary of Victoria is the top of the southern bank of the Murray River.

The case arose from an appeal against a murder conviction in New South Wales of a man whose body was found with one foot and a toe of the other in the water "the rest of his body being on land."

The unsuccessful appeal was made on the basis that the trial should have taken place in Victoria.

If such a claim had convinced the court, the boundary might have been described as 'vibrant;' in drought conditions the boundary of Victoria would move north.

Two appeals were made but the High Court of Australia dismissed the case.

The other case, in October 1982, related to a farmer's appeal as to the right of the State River and Water Supply Commission of Victoria to charge him for water usage from the Murray River.

The High Court of Australia dismissed his appeal that Beveridge Island, about 20 km south of Swan Hill, formed part of New South Wales.

Any visitor to the border region will notice that in New South Wales the private lands run to the water's edge whereas in Victoria a 3 chain Crown Land reserve exists between the bank and the alienated lands to the south thereof.

With the law of accretion arising the border can shift into the Victorian reserve and theoretically, but extremely unlikely, into the private lands to the south.

On the other hand although the Murray River may move to the north Victoria cannot receive the benefit of accretion - the top of the southern bank as it was in 1855 unless there is evidence to the contrary.

THE PART OF THE NORTHERN BOUNDARY OF VICTORIA TO THE WEST OF THE NEW SOUTH WALES - SOUTH AUSTRALIAN BORDER

The production of the New South Wales - South Australian border across the Murray River falls to the east of the western boundary of Victoria. This will be discussed in a further article in this series.

For the section of the Murray River between Victoria and South Australia we are indebted to the same part of "Survey Practice Handbook."

"The Solicitor-General in 1974 commented that common law would probably apply and on that basis the State boundary would be the centre thread of the River Murray as at 1842 and would not follow the southern bank."

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

There is a small town in Victoria that lies north of part of the Murray River yet its location is in accord with the foregoing notes. Study a good atlas.

[Port Phillip District 1840]

"Map of the Port Phillip District in 1840, after its Borders were Expanded"
Source
: Wikipedia Map by Stephen Bain

Sources:

[1] "Survey Practice Handbook Victoria Part 3 - Land Surveying Law and Administration" - Published by Surveyors Board, Victoria 1989.

( Contributed by Kevin Bourne - PPPG Member No. 1351 )

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4


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