The first attempt to introduce a general system of local government in New South Wales was inspired by the British Government. The system empowered the Governor to proclaim District Council areas charged with a variety of functions ranging from road construction and maintenance to the establishment of schools.
The first District Council for the Penrith area was appointed by Governor Gipps in 1843. Experience with these District Councils soon revealed flaws and almost immediately attempts were made to remedy them. The New South Wales Legislative Council, realising the futility of patching up a system incapable of fulfilling its functions, declared that District Councils were “totally unsuited to the circumstances of the country, the districts being unable to meet the additional taxation which would necessarily be required in carrying out the various objects contemplated by their constitution and the cost of machinery requisited for bringing them into operation being in itself an obstacle fatal to their success”. No legislative action was taken to reform the system and the District Councils quietly disappeared.
The failure was due mainly to the legislation, which was based mainly an English experience and totally unsuited to conditions in the sparsely populated colonies. There was no Central Government aid and Councils had insufficient revenue to cover their operations. There was also an absence of experienced administrators and engineers.The failures of District Councils led to further neglect of many local services, particularly the maintenance of streets in country towns
Because of mounting concern over the neglect of these areas, Henry Parkes introduced legislation which became law in 1858.
The Municipalities Act of 1858, provided for a voluntary system of incorporation. On receipt of a petition containing the signatures of at least fifty persons liable for rating assessment, the Governor was empowered to proclaim the area a Municipality. The Councils consisted of either six or nine councillors elected by ratepayers for a term of three years, one third retiring annually. The Chairman was elected annually from and by the councillors. Revenue was derived from rates levied upon annual values, while provision was made for Government aid on a sliding scale for a period of fifteen years.
Functions were mainly routine, including the care and management of streets, roads, bridges, ferries and wharves and the provision of water and sewerage schemes.
Thirty five areas were incorporated under this Act and there is no doubt that incorporation as municipalities had brought surprising benefits to many of the areas. However, there was a serious omission in the Act -the absence of provision for the enforcement of rate payments. Advantage was taken by various unscrupulous individuals to avoid payment of rates in addition many larger landholders were antagonistic towards the paying of rates an their valuable properties.
1n 1867, Sir Henry Parkes secured the passage of the Municipalities Act. The 1858 Act was repealed and two types of units were set up: Boroughs and Municipal Districts. Boroughs were to contain at least 1,000 people and be no more that 9 square miles in area and all existing Municipalities were classed as Boroughs. For a Municipal District the qualifications were a population of at least 500 and an area of 50 square miles, no one point to be more then 20 miles from any other. A system of plurality voting, up to four votes, was introduced. Two additional functions were included, namely municipal libraries and the establishment of infants schools for certain classes of children. Over sixty councils established libraries aided by a Government subsidy, but there is no evidence that any municipality established an infants school!
One hundred and sixty seven citizens of Penrith area presented a petition asking for incorporation as a Municipality in 1860.
A counter petition was also presented signed mainly by large landholders in the Greendale area.
The Government, led by Premier John Robertson, considered the matter and eventually agreed to the incorporation and a proclamation of 12th May 1871 was published in the Government Gazette on Saturday, 13th May 1871 to form Penrith Municipal Council .
|The First Council|
James John Riley (Mayor)
Austen Forrest Wilshire
Edwin James Wilshire
Town Clerk: John Price
Valuers: J. T Ryan & T. R Smith
In 1890, 138 citizens of St Marys petitioned the government asking for incorporation as a municipality. The government, with Sir Henry Parkes as Premier, agreed to this request and on March 3, 1890, proclaimed the Municipality of St Marys. In 1894, there was a further proclamation with new boundaries to the south and in 1906 there was a further addition in the southern section.
Following a further petition, the Municipality of Mulgoa was proclaimed on 26 July 1893. The new area of the Municipality of Penrith was divided into 3 Wards North, South and Castlereagh (see the Proclamation for details). Another petition resulted in the Municipality of Castlereagh on 9 September 1895. With the passing of the Local Government Act in 1906, the Nepean Shire, south of Mulgoa Municipality, was created and it absorbed Mulgoa Municipality in 1913.
Blue Mountains Shire was created to cover the area to the west of the Nepean River, including Emu Plains.
On January 1, 1949 the former municipalities of Penrith, St Marys and Castlereagh and a portion of Nepean Shire joined to form a new and larger municipality. The Municipality of Penrith was proclaimed a city on 21 October 1959. On 25 October 1963 the Emu Plains area was transferred from the Blue Mountains City Council to Penrith City Council.