Wal Buckley - Part 2


Interviewee: Wal Buckley, born 1933

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 18 Jan 2012

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Feb 2012

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

Do you think that the term the Shire gave itself -The Garden Shire - helped in this particular aspect of creating more playing fields and more open spaces for people?

I think it probably did. The Garden Shire came about from the garden competition that was held in conjunction with The Orange Blossom Festival. One of the main drivers to that was Councillor Eric Mobbs. The Council is very mindful of streetscapes and encouraging individual house owners to landscape their garden. In fact they used to give free street plantings of trees and shrubs that they could put… top dressing for the front Council lawn in front of their place. That’s all been cut out now. These were the sort of things that helped stimulate it. The Garden Competition in conjunction with the Orange Blossom Festival was a very well attended function. In fact at the new Council Chambers I’ve seen the main auditorium hall full of people at the prize presentations when The President and Councillor Mobbs were giving the Garden Awards.

How would you rate the quality of life of the residents of this Shire say with some others? Are they happier here?

From my experience of talking with people they seem to be much happier here than in some other areas. There seems to be a greater community involvement cognisant of The Council looking after their rate payers.

Now looking at transport in The Shire, of course there’s no rail line, not yet anyhow, there’s only buses. Has this had an impact on mobility and what people want to do in The Shire?

I think the failure of governments to even lay out an area where the track was going to go should have been done years ago. I think it might have been the Greiner Government that did the M2 originally. When that Balcombe Heights area was established as a Council subdivision, it was the William Thompson Masonic Homes, Council bought the land. There were dedicated road corridors all through there that was to be the M2. It wasn’t called the M2 then we just said “oh that’s going to be the expressway”. It was always a bit of a joke. I always joked about it anyway I thought “oh yeah I’ll never see that. It was like the bridge across Silverwater across Parramatta River. I used to fly model aeroplanes in Wilson Park over there before all the petrochemicals and before all that establishment was over there. Sutherland Street was the name of Silverwater Road then. We used to say “oh yes one day they’re going to build a bridge over the river”. Eventually it did come.

How has housing in the Shire changed over the last forty five years?

Well housing has changed mainly by the introduction of sustainable housing. This new sustainable housing criteria thermal efficiency all these type of arrangements. Whether it’s going to bring about all the benefits that they claim I don’t know. All these innovations are costly very costly to the home owner. Whether there’s going to be any environmental gain from it, in my own personal opinion there is a big question mark over it.

When you say thermal, what do you mean?

The amount of glazed area you’re allowed to have and insulation. It’s advisable to have insulation in a home but there are a lot of constraints on building in so far as sustainable and thermal qualities. You have to get certain points… whether it’s going to work out efficiently I don’t know. I know one thing all these issues cost money to the home builder.

When they pulled down a lot of the brick veneer houses of the fifties, the fibro homes and so on, they replaced them with rather huge sort of McMansions didn’t they in some areas? Tell me what impact that’s having on The Shire?

There is a lot of knock down of the older houses built in the sixties and seventies and people are going for the new… everyone wants a home theatre now. Everyone wants four or five bedrooms plus ensuites. They also want study rooms etc. They’ve go to have al fresco dining room family room. This house is one in point. Whether it’s beneficial or not I don’t think it really is. I just think it is something that has been probably pushed on people and people have seen it in exhibition homes. Of course they’re all fanciful decorated, interior decorations and people say “oh I want this”. It’s the gimme, gimme, gimme attitude of people today.

The average size of the home has probably increased from something like 150 square metres in the sixties. What is it today?

Well this home here is 283 (square metres) this is four bedrooms and study and huge family room, dining room, lounge.

Plus all your ensuites and everything it would have been a luxury in the fifties?

That’s right it would be and even in the sixties and seventies too.

Have the materials that have been used to build these new houses changed from what they used to use?

Basically I don’t think they have. There’s still timber and timber is stress graded now anyway. When I built my last house which was 1971 (at Carlingford) it was an imported Oregon frame. You never see that today. It’s all Radiata Pine or something like that, F5 and even the short pieces now are mitred and forced compact glued together. Even the small off cuts to make a longer piece of timber.

That didn’t happen before?

No never happened before, no.

Is that better for the environment because you’re using…?

I guess its all stress graded now. It’s all engineer stress graded and tested and marked. It’s in conformity with the Australian Standards. The Australian Standards have allowed for all this to happen. It’s good in one thing because it certainly does away with a lot of waste, material waste.

They used to have a lot of tank water in the olden days and now its town water isn’t it?

That’s right yes.

Has that had an impact on the environment or the way that water is used?

Probably it has. Water usage, people use more town supply rather than old tank supply. You’ve got to be careful with tank water anyway. Unless you’re going to get good quality rainfalls.

Water Board in President Road Kellyville 1994

As a former Health Inspector what ways have health standards in food preparation and hygiene changed over the past forty or so years in The Hills Shire?

Health standard are probably better today than what they were simply because there’s been a tremendous amount of new construction work. Therefore new food preparation areas have had to meet the new health standard regulations. That means better fitting out of kitchens and preparation areas where the emphasis is on hygiene, cleanliness and ease of doing things. Coming out of time consuming labour intensive cleaning.

How have standards in building inspection changed over those years?

That has changed with the advent of private certifiers private builders can now have their own private certifiers. The certifier is responsible to the builder. There’s divided opinion about that. I think that the private certifier idea is perhaps OK provided that the certifier is acting as an independent in all fairness and honesty. Because it’s like the old thing “how can Caesar answer to Caesar”?

So do you think it’s an improvement having the private certifiers or not?

Well I don’t think it is really. They’ve done away with the Building Services Corporation which I think was a retrograde step. Admittedly once you’ve got an authority rather than do away with it there should be analysis made of it. Once you’ve got something to make it better and better. It’s the old Rolls Royce technique. Rolls Royce never designed anything new themselves. Basically they’ll improve on other people’s ideas. Make them better and pay royalties. That’s typical of Rolls Royce with their motor vehicle gear boxes. That’s a General Motor’s box in the Rolls Royce but its been adapted to their requirements. They pay the royalties on it. They’ve made certain modifications to it but they pay the royalties on it. Because they said “they couldn’t design a better box themselves”. So why go ahead and do it.

Now you had a very long career with The Hills Shire? It’s about forty five years isn’t it?

From 1974 to 2011.

That’s forty seven years?

To be honest Frank I don’t count. I don’t like to count it makes me feel old.

What have been some of the highlights of those forty five or forty seven odd years that you spent with The Council?

Being involved with Council on a number of particular issues that Council went through. One was the Tidy Towns exhibition and the other one was the Bluett Award. Unfortunately they didn’t win that. That was won by I think it was Armidale Council. They did say that the presentation that Council made to the committee was the best they’d seen in twenty five years. That was relayed to me by Ted Simpson the Shire Clerk at the time. I was involved with Ray Fabris who was the Chief Clerk at the time, Steve Dunesky who was the Gardens and Parks Manager and I carried out all the photographic work that was required. Both colour and black and white of all the various functions and there was quite a lot involved in that. Also involved the photographic record of the construction of the new building and the opening of the new building. Strangely there were three thousand people at the opening of the building when the Premier Neville Wran opened it in 1982 and it was very successful.

Shire President Bernie Mullane with Premier Neville Wran at opening of Council Chambers 12 July 1982

When you say the new building you mean the Council Chambers?

The Council Chambers yes.

It’s rather a big building isn’t it? There must have been quite a bit involved in planning it?

There was a lot involved in that building yes.

Were you the building inspector on that building?

No, I had nothing to do with that. That was under structural engineers a building manager and an architect.

So what do you consider to have been some of your major contributions at The Hills Council to the people of The Shire?

Honesty and fairness that’s about it. Always prepared to listen to argument and if it’s a good one I’ll go along with it.

Now you retired twice. I believe you retired in 1997 also from The Council. What made you come back?

There was a little bit of administration problems in the customer service. The customer service counter was something new that was implemented by the former General Manager David Mead. He was very forthright in being to the forefront of a customer service section. I know one of the former Mayors Councillor John Griffith he wasn’t in agreement with it at the time. He thought that it would have to work. The Council overrode the Mayor on that occasion. I was on the verge of retiring in early 1997. The customer service opened I think it was in December in 1996. They asked me if I’d go down there as the duty building surveyor of a morning between say between eight thirty and twelve o’clock. Then in the afternoon go out and do my own particular area that was allocated to me for inspections. It was getting a bit wearing because basically I was doing two jobs. I couldn’t make appointments in the morning to go out and do inspections with people. That caused a few problems. This of course was all a trial and error set up. No one knew exactly how things were going to work out. But they knew I was going to retire anyway and that was what they wanted me to do.

I did retire in the April (1997) and I’d been retired for about four months and the manager rang me up and he said”would you like to come back and work part time”? That was on the Friday and he said “what you were doing down there on customer service in the afternoon from twelve o’clock till half past four” I said “what’s the fare like”? He said “the same that you were on” I said “alright when do you want me to start”? He said “what about Monday”? So I said “alright I’ll see you Monday half past eleven” and that started it then for six months. They renewed the contract after three months for another three months and then they decided they’d make it full time. They advertised in the local papers, Sydney Morning Herald. My application was the only application.

So that was the second term?

That was the second time, full time.

Fifteen years, now you’ve been retired since 2011, last year? How are you enjoying your retirement?

Immensely I can lay in bed. Have the sun come through the bedroom in the winter time, feel its warmth and then decide to get up.

Castle Grand opened 7 Sep 2004

So what attracts you to living in The Shire? What do you think are the big pluses for you?

Basically I think its convenience. If I move again I think I’d move closer into Castle Hill. Be closer to the Tower’s shops and probably transport too.

How do you see the future of this Shire?

I see The Shire expanding, expanding, and expanding. I think in that north west sector if they get that railway line going its just going to really balloon and mushroom right up. The only thing that might do The Shire harm in its present form is if they start amalgamating local government areas. Of course that’s always been mooted. People always want to cut down the cost. I don’t think there’s any one cost been saved in any area where they’ve amalgamated. Costs seem to go up.

If it were amalgamated would it be Blacktown Council?

Well it might be that but I think that you’d find that the people here would object most vehemently to that. Whether it goes to Hawkesbury or not, out that way. It could go that way or it might go to Hornsby. Either Hornsby or Hawkesbury. I think there’d be a reaction to Blacktown.