Historical Pictures Online
Under the Divisional Boards Act of 1879 the Thuringowa Division was formed. It covered an area
that extended 170 kms along the coast from the mouth of the Burdekin River to Crystal Creek and
inland to the coastal ranges. The Burdekin River formed the eastern boundary while the Leichhardt
Range and Hervey and Paluma Ranges formed the inland boundary. In the north the boundary extended
from the Paluma Range down Crystal Creek past Mutarnee to the coast. The municipality of
Townsville was located within this area and consisted of the small area around the foot of Castle
Over the past 125 years the Thuringowa area has changed considerably, not the least of which has
been the shifting boundary through which Thuringowa has gained and lost land to adjoining local
authorities. Today the Thuringowa City area covers roughly the western third of the division's
After the formation of the Division in 1879 the next two decades were ones of progress. Suburbs
grew rapidly and by 1902 Thuringowa had 1020 dwellings listed on its ratebooks. Such rapid growth
drove infrastructure development and thus early Chairmen, Arthur Bundock and Joseph Hodel, led the
way with the construction of the Ross River Bridge, the bridge at the Causeway and the Stewart
Creek Bridge. These roads and bridges were constructed to serve not only Thuringowa's rural base
but also its residential subdivisions of Hermit Park, Mundingburra and Rosslea. Water reticulation
and sanitary services were established in these suburbs and street lighting and beautification work
carried out along Charters Towers Road. Also during this period the Council's first administration
building was constructed at the Causeway, near the intersection of Flinders Street West and Ingham
Under the 1902 Local Authorities Act, divisional areas were renamed shires. Consequently, in 1903
the Thuringowa Divisional Board became the Thuringowa Shire Council. The period up to 1918 was one
of consolidation and minor works not major projects.
In 1918 the Queensland Government transferred most of the urban area of Thuringowa to Townsville.
The foreshore north as far as Cape Pallarenda and all the land north of the Ross River as far west
as what is now Bamford Lane were lost. The population of Thuringowa dropped to 2,500, as the Council
lost the suburbs of Belgian Gardens, West End, Pimlico, Hyde Park and Hermit Park, and the riverside
farming areas of Mundingburra and Aitkenvale. As a result of this boundary change the Thuringowa Shire
Office became located within the Townsville City Council area. The Council had objected strenuously to
the excision and negotiated hard for compensation for the loss of land and infrastructure as well as
outstanding loans. The episode placed enormous stress on the Chairman and Councillors and ultimately
impacted upon the health of the Chairman, William Ireland, who died in July 1920.
The loss of this area meant Thuringowa became a poor rural shire serving the five rural areas of Giru,
Woodstock, Mutarnee, Paluma and Rollingstone. Thuringowa's rural character predominated until the
1960s when urban development began in earnest. The Council adopted a conservative approach to policy
during this period that included not only the depression years of the 1930s but also the period of World
Although conservative in policy during this time, Thuringowa managed to take the initiative and implement
three projects of regional significance. These were the Haughton Tramway extension in 1922 and the
region's first commercial airfield in 1930 both during the Chairmanship of James Cummins and, under
Chairman Charles Wordsworth, in 1935, the construction of the Toonpan Dam. While these were not expensive
projects, they revealed the Council's commitment to the region as a whole.
In addition, James Cummins' Council was notable for its nomination to Council of one of the first women
to local government in Queensland. Isabella Fitzpatrick, a businesswoman and community figure from the
Rollingstone area replaced Abraham Ditton on the Council in 1924. While she did not stand for re-election
later that year, her nomination at a time when women had just been allowed to enter local government
signified Thuringowa's recognition of the contribution women could make to Thuringowa's future. However
their initial prudence was short-lived, as women did not serve again on Thuringowa Council until 1970,
when Ilsa Ryan was elected to Council. She was also Thuringowa's first female Deputy Chairman.
While the Council maintained a policy of low rating and low spending during the period until the 1960s,
infrastructure did continue to be established in the area, particularly as a result of Thuringowa's role
during World War II. The Townsville/Thuringowa area was an important staging point for the Pacific war
and was host to seventy thousand military personnel in hospitals, staging camps, air support depots and
supply facilities during the 1942-1945 period. The government developed infrastructure in the area to
connect and support the area's numerous military, air and service establishments.
The period from the 1960s to the present has been an era of progress for Thuringowa. Under John Brabon,
William De Courcey, Dan Gleeson and Les Tyrell the area has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. Its resurgence
began with John Brabon and the construction of a new shire hall in 1963. The new hall replaced the old
shire chambers at the causeway and was considered a symbol of Council's commitment to modernity.
As a priority the Council undertook major works projects to upgrade roads, and provide water and sewerage
services to its fast developing suburbs. William De Courcey implemented water reticulation and sewerage
connections in the new suburbs of Thuringowa. John Brabon widened Council interests to include welfare
services and libraries. The Council developed recreational facilities; parks, gardens, playing fields
and amenities. In 1979, under Dan Gleeson, Thuringowa Shire Council administration centre was moved
back into the Thuringowa local area and in 1986 Thuringowa became a City.
Under the leadership of the present mayor, Les Tyrell, Thuringowa remains an interesting mix of urban,
pastoral and industrial interests. There are still large cattle properties, sugar cane farms and
orchards of mangoes and lychees within the city limits. Nickel is processed at Yabulu and light and
heavy industries supply the needs of rapid growth in the region. Residential development continues at
a fast rate with new subdivisions in the Northern Beaches popular with new home buyers, retirees and
those interested in a 'sea-change'. Les Tyrell's Council is committed to providing its residents with
a quality lifestyle and is about to begin Riverway, a project that will provide world-class
recreational facilities for its expanding community.
Thuringowa is one of the fastest growing local government areas in Australia.
For more information on Thuringowa's heritage including images and fact sheets, please visit