|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Prior to the establishment of the Crown Lands Department, the Land Branch of the Colonial Secretary's Office (VA 856) had been responsible for the administration of matters relating to the occupation and sale of crown lands.
In 1853, F.A. Powlett was appointed Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands and head of the Crown Lands Department. The Department assumed responsibility for the management and sale of crown land and the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands was responsible for co-ordinating and supervising the work of the Commissioners of Crown Lands who had previously been responsible to the Colonial Secretary.
The Crown Lands Department was responsible for the administration of all matters relating to the alienation and occupation of crown land including the sale of crown lands by auction; the granting of sites as reserves for public purposes such as schools, churches and cemeteries; the issue of Deeds of Grant for lands sold and for reserves; consideration of applications for occupation licences, tenders for pastoral runs, applications for permission to exercise a pre-emptive right to purchase part of a pastoral run; the payment of licence fees and the prevention of unauthorized occupation of crown lands.
For further information about the responsibilities of Commissioners of Crown Lands see VRG 27, District Land Offices.
The administrative unit under the control of the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands was known by a number of other titles including Crown Lands Office, Department of Crown Lands and Department of the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands. Until the achievement of responsible government in 1855, the entire business of the colony was conducted either directly or indirectly through the Colonial Secretary's Office (VA 856) and the head of the Crown Lands Department was thus responsible to the Colonial Secretary. Although the Crown Lands Department did not become directly responsible to the Surveyor General until his appointment to the Ministry in 1855, the Department has been placed in the Lands record group (VRG 18) from its establishment in 1853 because the administration of the lands functions for which it was responsible can be clearly differentiated from this time.
Amalgamation under Board of Land and Works
In 1857 the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was established because it was considered that the administration of public lands and public works could be more effectually and economically managed if responsibility for these matters was consolidated. The Crown Lands Department was effectively amalgamated with the Surveyor General's Department (VA 2921) to form the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) which was a sub department of the Board of Land and Works.
Location of Records
Although the PRO has substantial holdings of lands records for the period 1851-1904 many records remain out of custody.
For records of the Crown Lands Department, see also the List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.6.2 (Land Branch to Department of Crown Lands and Survey) and section 4.0.0 (District Land offices).