Les Shore - Part 2


Interviewee: Councillor Les Shore, born 1931

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 20th Dec 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, June 2006

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

Now Les you were on the Council you just got elected. What was the size and makeup of the council when you joined it back in 1969?

The size was exactly the same as it is today, there were twelve of us. But the population was somewhat considerably different there were only thirty four thousand residents on the roll and now its up to one hundred and sixty thousand so its grown and grown and I’ve been able to see most of the development that’s taken place in the Baulkham Hills Shire. The development of Winston Hills, the development of Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill, Kellyville, the development of Norwest. It’s been great to have been part of making those decisions.

Your area what was it then?

My area was a rural area which was eighty per cent of the whole shire with twenty five percent of the population. It was much different as far as the requirements and the needs. What they needed to become equivalent if one might say as a town therefore the development of ovals and the supply of those sort of things became very important as well as tarring the roads. Of course it was dirt roads and we’ve done a great job I think.

Can you describe the state of the place at that time then?

The place was starting to develop. We were looking at ways and means of doing that by the Baulkham Heights Estate which was the old Masonic Schools. We bought that and by making our own development and making money for the Shire so we could do more things that were recreational. The buying of land the supporting of Scouts the development of Scout Halls and community things. We actually started the first library in the Shire and now we probably have the most modern in the Southern Hemisphere. All those improvements of amenities for the residents we believe are important. Perhaps the thing that I’m not so proud of is having to reduce the size of building blocks because of government requirements. I think kids need a backyard to play in not a street. They say that children don’t use playing field now or their backyard they sit in front of a computer. Now that’s also a concern that they don’t have the activities therefore I’m still pressing forward wanting more playing fields. It’s been tremendous that this year we opened The Hills Centenary Park for the centenary of the Shire which has a number of ovals on it and they’re the sort of things that give me satisfaction.

Thinning peaches for a better crop

Now your area North Ward... you said it was eighty percent of the Shire and over the thirty six or so years that you’ve been a councillor has the activity of the people changed from being totally rural to more semi rural. Tell me what’s been going on?

As the economics of farming has failed because of the development of irrigation and the development of land and cheaper land at Tumut and Swan Hill, Renmark and places like that. As well as that they don’t need to be close to the city there’s refrigerated trucks and they can move fruit from South Australia to Sydney in twenty four or fourteen hours. The cost of the land has gone up around here. The size of them is no longer viable so there’s many reasons that have seen people move out here. A lot of people love the lifestyle and therefore they come out here and just buy five acres and build a nice home on it and have a rural residential as they call it and they can have their horse, they can have their own tennis court. While it might be uneconomical for the land it’s become a lifestyle that people want. The sad thing about it to me is that village areas haven’t been able to grow and therefore they haven’t had the economic advantage as some of the more settled areas. So you still have the little village of Glenorie dependant on the locals to support it and as it requires more money for them to live we’re going to lose... There’s not a garage now from Wisemans Ferry to Dural whereas at Glenorie twenty years ago there were five petrol outlets. Quite changed because the farming isn’t there to require the petrol for the use on the farm therefore the business closes down. Those people that live out there are rather concerned that they have no petrol station they have to make sure that they have enough petrol in their tanks so you’ve got to almost keep it half full.

What’s the average size of a block of land when you came and is it still the same?

Still the same the only difference is a lot of the five acres have been released as residential but the twenty five acres haven’t been reduced to five acres. I think that’s something that I have been trying to achieve for a number of years and we’ve even undertaken rural land studies but they haven’t been persuasive enough for the government to increase the number of smaller lots. I’m of the belief that the more you could release would have an effect on the price. So if you keep the amount of land available for residential you can keep the price up and therefore the sales tax and all those are higher. It makes it more difficult for the youth that grow up in a country area to buy a block of land to resettle there. Like my father and grandfather had been able to live in the same district. It’s not happening any more unless you’re very affluent.

Spraying peaches

Are the rates and taxes becoming onerous for the people that have those five acres?

I don’t think so the people who have been able to afford the lifestyle on the five acres and the huge homes I think are financially sound. What I am saying is that it is disappointing that the youth that grow up in Glenorie and go to school in Glenorie have to go to Quaker’s Hill and those places to get a residential block of land. I believe that they should provide in each village area a certain amount of residential land so that the youth can buy there and it’s not over expensive.

You mean smaller blocks?

Yes residential blocks.

So is that something that you’ve been fighting for on Council?

Oh my word, it really is sad but in another way delightful to see that the girls and boys that have lived in Glenorie and played in the junior cricket team still come back even though they live miles away they come back and meet at the weekend with the kids that they’ve grown up with. The thing that really is different now is that when I was at Wentworth and we’ll talk about Wentworth, we could make our village areas like Wentworth where the communities kept on growing. I’m able to go back there and meet children that I taught fifty odd years ago. I can’t find that here because there’s no land for them to develop.

So what really was the rural land study that you just mentioned?

Well it was called the rural land study it was to see what viability and what was necessary. It’s strange what stopped it twenty years ago when I was fighting it. They said there was no reticulated water now they’re begging people to put tanks in and that’s what I’ve been saying. There’s some heating, electricity in the country don’t need power lines they can generate their own. You can have you own water tanks you can put electricity on as a future pressure through the town. Sorry you’re on a real hobbyhorse of mine.

Yes I can see that, so you’ve had a few battles with other councillors over this?

Oh I’ve had battles not so much with Council but with the Planning Department of NSW.

Well maybe one day it might happen?

It may happen. I’m still hopeful.

Aerial view of Norwest Business Park 2001

Yes that’s a present one. Before that was the industrial development of Norwest light industrial with a mix of residential flat and that type of development that goes with an industrial type of development. We have some very big organisations that have moved in for example Cathay Pacific has it’s whole South Pacific organisation run from there. Woolworth’s huge business management of Australia is all located there and their training centre for senior management. So our industrial area has really provided employment for so many people and therefore they’re growing out here and companies are moving out here.

Did you have a big role to play in the development of the Norwest Business Park?

I was part of the planning committee the Shire President lead the way but he had the support of the others we all had our tuppence worth.

Has it turned out the way you had hoped?

Oh it’s better the only thing that has changed that may or may not be better, it depends on your thinking was that there was to be more landscaping by using a golf course through it. That golf course has been swallowed up because of the financial needs by providing more accommodation. It’s a mixture now of accommodation and light industrial. If you go through there you’ll appreciate what a lovely place it is.

Now the rather rapid population increase in the whole Shire and particularly in the North Ward did that create problems or delays for the supply of infrastructure and services?

We have suffered with delays of infrastructure as long as we’ve been a council. It always runs behind time. The Castlereagh Expressway that became the M2 was on the books for thirty years. We’re now getting a train service listed for 2017. We’re getting a busway to Castle Hill to help Rouse Hill people get to their work because they don’t all work this way. That’s almost like a parking station. The government is now doing that work to provide some infrastructure but the damage is done. But I think people out there will get it sooner than the people at Baulkham Hills and Winston Hills got it.

There’s been some criticism about the fact that there wasn’t enough transport infrastructure for Rouse Hill before they built that would you agree with that?

Oh yes, oh yes, but they're now putting it in. Of course Rouse Hill isn’t completed Rouse Hill is only part completed they expect about ten thousand residents a year coming in for the next six or eight years. They’re building a huge regional centre out there it’ll have Woolies, Coles, Kmart and something else I can’t remember.

Mungerie property in 1989 - the site of the New Rouse Hill

Now you mentioned the state of the roads when you first joined the council that they weren’t even tarred most of them in your North Ward but now they’re tarred but you’re having other problems with traffic density on them?

Oh we’re having various problems, the tarredness we’re still getting along with that but the size of the trucks that are moving and the sand mining of course are creating problems. Even though we do get a levy, is it fifty cents a ton to help maintain the road but I’ve already said what the cost of a kilometre is. But it is helpful but more damage is done than what we use that money for.

What’s been your most interesting period as a councillor do you think?

Being the Shire President together with running the school.

Tell me a bit about that period as Shire President?

It was a time of development I took over from Bernie Mullane who was the father figure of the place and I had a focus on the North Ward as well as providing things for kids. I think looking back on it if I had an hour to make a decision I’d spend the hour if I had five minutes I spend five minutes and if I had a month I’d spend a month. There was always a crunch time and if you knew about it you’d slowly move to the position. If it was an urgent one you made the decision right or wrong. Some proved to be correct others well you know you want to forget about it.

What do you think was the most important decision you had to make as Shire President?

It was to take the state government to the High Court in relation to the Windsor Road. They wanted residential roads only four point five metres and unfortunately we lost the High Court battle two to one. So therefore don’t blame the Council for the narrow roads and people having to park on the footpaths and all of that it’s a result of a court action. We believed that the roads for a rural area and what we were doing were too narrow. They’re not that narrow now I think we’ve got them to five point five - an extra metre on the roads. People are still saying that they’re too small but we have tried and to lose that it was extremely disappointing.

Les packing peaches

You’ve been on many committees of course having been a councillor were there any notable committees that you’ve served on?

These are the ones that I’m pleased about. My long term that I had when we had a Planning Committee the other one that I’m pleased to have been on is the Child Support and the Library Committee. We don’t work in that way now it’s more briefings sessions and task force teams. I’m very pleased that I was able to initiate the sister city with Wexford and be involved with that. But otherwise it’s almost like running any business you never know what’s round the corner.

So looking at your area North Ward which you represent what do think have been the biggest changes in North Ward over those thirty six years?

The reduction of rural farming when I first joined Council my area had fifty peach farms or more you wouldn’t find more than three or four now if any. I think I can name the ones, the Nicholsons, the Christies and the Stringers very little farming actually done.

So it’s been the change in activity?

Activities yes.

What about the changes in population?

There’s been the growth because of the Rouse Hill development that’s all been part of an area that didn’t have water. One of my first battles was trying to get reticulated water to Rouse Hill, Nelson and eventually it was found to be too expensive for the residents when I did get it achieved and they decided to stay with their tanks and how wise were they?

I hope there’s enough water coming from the sky though to fill them up?

Sand mining at Maroota 1980s



Talking about the future what do you think the future of North Ward’s going to be?

The future of North Ward I think will be providing the residential of the future cities of Castle Hill and Rouse Hill. I think it will gradually grow out from there. The one thing that I didn’t mention was my other fight in court which we won was in relation to sand mining. It was agreed that it was necessary for building Darling Harbour but we got money to help repair the roads. That was a decision in court in about October 1984 or 1985 round about that time.

Was it a decision to permit sand mining?

Yes it was a decision to permit sand mining but it was restricted. They’ve got to rehabilitate previously they were just leaving it. Now we’ve got the problem of dumping of asbestos and now with the new style of building cut and fill there’s dirt to be put somewhere and they’re dumping it out in the rural area. Therefore that’s going to be one of the future problems of regulating that and seeing where you can put it.

Are you talking about illegal dumping?

Illegal dumping.

So what sort of state environmentally is the North Ward in do you think?

There are two views you can have on that. Firstly you’ve got to look at the view that it had been cleared, been farmland so therefore it’s important that the cleared land is maintained otherwise you won’t have animals on it. My particular view is that we’ve got to maintain and keep the gullies and the water courses - that type of gully that has vegetation has got to be kept. But the farming land can be cleared, should be cleared but there should be an escarpment and all that sort of thing protected. When you’ve got to make decision between the life of a person and the life of a tree another tree can always be replanted but I don’t see you replacing an adult. What I mean by that is on the sides of road there are trees now I think if they’re very dangerous for cars they should be removed because there’s thousands of others. But if they're not and not doing any harm they should be saved. To my mind it’s as simple as that but other people don’t see it that way.

Igloos under construction

Well there’s an environmental movement that is very strong and you’ve got to work with it these days?

That’s what I’m saying you’ve got to work together. There’s attitudes both ways towards it now that’s being preserved out my window here that’ll never be built on and should never be built on.

How can you be sure that in forty or fifty years what’s going to happen to that?

Well one has to have faith that it’s reserved and it’s not to be built on. If zonings are kept… people are regulated I think you can. It’s like saying how can you be sure they’re going to drive on the right hand or the left hand side of the road, you don’t know and you couldn’t have told in 1950 that we wouldn’t have pounds, shillings and pence. So all those sort of things you have to live for the present and try to adapt.