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Selecting the federal capital site

In 1899, in a last bid to save Federation, the draft Constitution was amended to include Section 125, which required the creation of a federal seat of government within New South Wales and at least 100 miles from Sydney. The battle between the federal and NSW governments over a suitable site for a capital continued intermittently for more than a decade.

Royal commissions

In 1900 the NSW Government convened a royal commission to inquire into suitable sites for the federal capital. Commissioner and Land Court Appeal Judge Alexander Oliver concluded in favour of Bombala–Eden, Orange and Yass. In March and May 1902, the first Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sir William Lyne, arranged for members of the Senate and House of Representatives to visit the proposed federal capital sites.

Lyne then established the Capital Sites Enquiry Board, which became a royal commission, to investigate eight sites: Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Bombala, Lake George, Lyndhurst, Orange and Tumut.

The 1903 royal commission ranked each site in respect of its general suitability, climate, soil productiveness, availability of building materials, water supply and cost of resumption. Tumut ranked first most often. The supplementary report on the site of Dalgety was also inconclusive, ranking it below Tumut but above Bombala.

Surveys and tours

The new Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sir John Forrest, appointed NSW District Surveyors Charles Scrivener and Alfred Chesterman to survey the Tumut and southern Monaro districts, respectively. In April 1904, Forrest toured the sites with Scrivener and Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. Forrest's report came out clearly in favour of Dalgety.

The Watson-led government passed the Seat of Government Act 1904, which selected a federal capital territory within 17 miles of Dalgety. For another four years, three successive prime ministers battled the NSW Government, which staunchly opposed any attempt to implement the Act. Premier Joseph Carruthers proposed the Yass–Canberra site after carrying out investigations into alternative sites closer to Sydney.

In February 1909 NSW District Surveyor Charles Scrivener completed a preliminary survey of the Yass–Canberra district for the federal government.

A federal advisory board confirmed the Yass–Canberra site for the territory and appointed Scrivener to complete a more detailed survey. This led to final agreement with the NSW Government over territory boundaries and the selection of the Canberra city site.

The capital is proclaimed

The Federal Capital Territory was proclaimed on 1 January 1911.

For those already living in the district it was not all good news. They had lost the right to vote and were unrepresented in federal parliament. In addition the federal government needed to acquire their land to create its new capital city. Land valuations from 1908 were applied, and delays and uncertainty in the process were a disincentive for landowners to improve their properties.

Topographical map

Topographical map

Map of contour survey

Map of contour survey

Map of New South Wales

Map of New South Wales