The role of local government has changed. In the 19th century, councils were hard pressed to develop a road system. Today, council responsibilities range from building and maintaining public infrastructure, encouraging economic development, caring for the environment to looking after public health, recreation and cultural development.
Council of the City of Gold Coast currently administers an area from the Albert River to the Queensland/New South Wales border. In the early days, a number of small councils managed local government responsibilities in this region.
The origins of local government in the Gold Coast region can be traced back to the 1870s when the Queensland Colonial Government delegated the responsibility of providing local services and raising revenue for their provision to a local government authority. On 11 November 1879, six Divisional Boards (renamed Shires on 31 March 1903) were proclaimed south of Brisbane: Tingalpa, Nerang, Coomera, Beenleigh, Waterford, and Tabragalba (later called Beaudesert).
Early local authorities
These early local authorities struggled to fund the construction of road systems and basic infrastructure improvements for the region. Centres such as Southport (part of the Nerang Divisional Board) were developing as both an administrative centre as well as a holiday destination with hotels and guesthouses to cater for visitors. Town dwellers had different needs to the rural landholders.
The Southport ratepayers and their representatives lobbied the colonial government to create a separate Divisional Board with the view that rates monies raised by Southport landholders could be spent on town improvements.
Their lobbying was successful and resulted in the formation of the Southport Divisional Board on 14 July 1883. This local authority would later form the Southport Town Council.
Further south, the same issues were impacting on the residents of Coolangatta and on 12 June 1914 the Town of Coolangatta Council was proclaimed. The formation of the town councils spelt a clear division for local government in the region with Southport and Coolangatta's development directions leaning towards tourism, leaving the other councils - Nerang, Beenleigh, Coomera and Waterford - focusing on distinctly rural producers' issues.
In 1928, the Royal Commission into Local Authority Boundaries recommended that Southport and Coolangatta and the coastal strip between the two centres be incorporated into a single Town Council. It was also recommended that Nerang Shire, along with Coomera and parts of Beenleigh and Waterford and Tingalpa, be incorporated into a single Shire Council. The remaining parts of the Shires of Waterford and Beenleigh were to be incorporated into the Shire of Beaudesert.
Town of the South Coast and Albert Shire formed
The Great Depression and the Second World War intervened so none of the recommendations were acted upon until December 1948 when the Town of the South Coast, incorporating the coastal region, Burleigh Heads (formerly part of Nerang Shire) and the former Coolangatta Council, was proclaimed. The second local authority, Albert Shire, representing an area stretching from the Brisbane City Council boundary through the rural hinterland districts to the Queensland New South Wales border, was named after the Prince Consort of England, and husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert.
Gold Coast Town Council
Following World War II, the name Gold Coast was first used by the Brisbane newspaper when they referred to the real estate opportunities here. The name appealed to many leading local business and civic leaders. On 23 October 1958 the South Coast Town Council adopted the name Gold Coast Town Council. The State Government approved the local authority name of City of Gold Coast on 16 May 1959. However, the Queensland Place Names Board did not officially gazette this place name until April 1980.
New local authority - Logan City
On 8 June 1978 the Governor of Queensland gave Royal Assent to an Act of Queensland Parliament enabling the excising of the area north of the Logan River from the Albert Shire - thereby creating a new local authority called Logan Shire, later Logan City. In 1979, the elected Logan Council assumed full responsibility for the Logan area. The Albert Shire was reduced in area by about 130 square kilometres and in population by about 60,000 people.
Gold Coast City Council
In the following decade, local authorities in the region were providing an increasing range of services for a diverse resident and visitor population. The councils faced major challenges in providing infrastructure of roads, water, sewerage, community services and environmental protection to meet these community expectations and demands. In 1994, the Queensland Local Government Commissioner, Greg Hoffmann began to review the local government boundaries in the Gold Coast, Albert and Beaudesert areas. Following on from this review and after much public debate, the Local Government (Albert, Beaudesert and Gold Coast) Regulation 1994 provided for the amalgamation of Gold Coast City Council and the Shire of Albert to create a new local authority called the Gold Coast City Council. An election was held on 11 March 1995 with the first council meeting held on 24 March 1995.
Local Government elected representatives 1880-2015
A list of Local Government elected representatives from 1880 to 2015 is readily available for download.
If you have stories to share or would like to learn more about the Gold Coast’s history and heritage please contact the Local Studies Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our history and heritage pages to find out more about how the Gold Coast was founded.
Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Library.