|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Formation of Department of Roads and Bridges 1858
Under the provisions of the Board of Land and Works Act 1857 21 Vic., No.31 the Central Roads Board (VA 2803) was disbanded on 1 January 1858 and the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) took over responsibility for main road construction and bridges. Local authorities continued to be responsible for local roads and bridges (see VRG 12 Municipalities).
Operational responsibility for main roads and bridges was exercised by the newly formed Department of Roads and Bridges which operated as a sub-department of the Board of Land and Works.
Administrative Structure and Functions
This Branch was headed by a non-political Commissioner of Roads and Bridges who was a member of the Board of Land and Works and who had responsibility for the general management and control of the Department. The Commissioner would obtain information from district engineers and the public concerning the expediency of constructing particular roads or bridges and would prepare a scheme and estimates to be submitted to Cabinet.
This Branch was headed by the Inspector-General of Roads who was responsible for determining the character of works to be executed, and for the execution by contract of all such construction and maintenance works. This officer had control over district Road Engineers who in conjunction with surveyors from the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) would prepare plans and designs, take levels and mark out lines of roads.
NOTE: The relationship between local government and the administration of roads and bridges needs to be clarified.
Role of Board of Lands and Works
The Board of Land and Works (VA 744), vested with statutory responsibility for roads and bridges, accepted the contracts, approved and authorized the business and expenditure of the Department, and decided matters of difficulty and all matters of policy. The Board also assumed responsibility for regulating the collection of tolls.
Prior to the establishment of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744), the Commissioner of Public Works was the Minister responsible for roads and bridges functions. Upon establishment, the President of the Board of Land and Works assumed responsibility for all powers previously vested in both the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28) and the Surveyor General (or Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey - see VRG 18). It is apparent however that roads and bridges matters continued to be associated with Public Works functions until the Department of Roads and Bridges emerged in its own right in 1858 (see also VA 669). Between late 1858 and late 1861 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey appears to have been the Minister responsible for roads and bridges. In December 1861 a Commissioner of Railways and Roads was appointed assuming responsibility for roads and bridges functions.
Merging of Roads and Railways Administration 1871
Despite there being a single Minister responsible for both railways and roads from 1861 it is evident that the Department of Railways (VA 2877) and the Department of Roads and Bridges existed quite independently, with separate administration, until 1871. On 26 April 1871 John Steavenson, who was the Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, was also appointed to the position of Secretary to the Railways Department and thereafter the two departments appear to have been jointly administered as the Department of Railways and Roads (VA 2875).
Location of Records
See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.19.0.