(Saturday, 9 April 2005) by Doug Lithgow
· Blackbutt had its beginnings in the economic recession of the early thirties.
· Unsuccessful auction of Kotara subdivision land. Area known as Blackbutt relatively untouched.
· It was owned by the London based English and Scottish Mining Coy. 4 blocks sold in Reserve. 2 to Returned Sailors & Soldiers, 1 each to Tom Farrell and Thomas Marshall. Tom R.E. Farrell originated the Blackbutt Reserve concept. Tom Farrell’s block Lot 51, 17acres 3 Roods became the first official part of the Reserve Gov. Gaz.March 4 1938. There was slow progress through the thirties efforts made by the Parks and Playgrounds Movement of NSW (Charles EW Bean Sec. David Stead, Dorothea Mackellar Vice Pres.)
· All local Councils were urged by Cardiff Heights Progress Ass.1937 to help buy a further 144 acres total cost 3,500 pounds. Lands Dep. paid 2,500 pounds.
· Final payment 730 pound paid 1940 by the City of Greater Newcastle (Greater Ncle formed 1938)
· The war intervened. Our Tom RE Farrell was a P&PM NSW member and started a branch here the Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement. NP&PM started the Barrington Tops National Parks 1952 project split in 1956 to form the National Parks Ass. with Rod Earp as Pres.
· 1949 Blackbutt Res. Special Committee -new plans then shelved. Plans for a Trust, Aviaries a Zoo, Gardens etc. Council continued to block extensions to the 131 acres. Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement formed 1952 Matters came to a head in 1956-7 with proposed subdivision of adjacent 266 acres of bushland purchased by Newcastle Council from the E&S Mining Coy.. P& PM called public meeting July 56 to have the 266 acres added to the Reserve. Widespread support. National Parks Ass formed Rod Earp P&PM President and Newcastle Alderman Joe Richley & Tom Farrell President. spoke strongly -Three of competing plans.
· A new Council 16 Nov 1959 adopted in principle the Special Committee’s proposal that the 270 acres be added 9 votes to 8. Full Council adopted the park plan 11 vote to 9. New plan prepared by G. Baddley, Engineer, E. Wilmot County Planner R. Earp NPA, J. Richley P&PM.
· Permanent workforce appointed to Reserve 1962 - one man and a youth. Picnic area and roads built.
· 1963 High School proposed for Reserve Alienation of 22 acres– Protest meeting and huge public Meeting in Town Hall. Conflict resolved when Minister for Education withdrew proposal. Lots of activity and development.. By 1966 Blackbutt described as a “Little Eden” ‘enchanting bushland’ a great blessing to City.
· August 1966 the Highway 23 proposal to cut through 3 of the valleys of the Reserve. The Blackbutt Action Committee set up under the leadership of Dick Woodgate as secretary. ‘Save Blackbutt” fight starts in earnest July 1967 when City Council reaffirms its support for the expressway through the Reserve. The fight raged on 800 people at a City Hall Public Meeting declared no expressway in the Reserve and the Expressway should be routed to the West of Lake Macquarie.
· Further meetings 1972 and 1973. By Dec 74 there was overwhelming support for the Reserve. Federal Parliamentary Committee found that in no circumstances should Highway 23 violate Blackbutt. Peter Morris as Federal Transport Minister initiated the west of Lake as part of the National Highway Scheme.
· Blackbutt Landscape Study prepared 1976 proposed restoration Mine site implemented Nov. 1983 by Lord Mayor Joy Cummings. Comprehensive Plan of Management 1989.
· Improved Wildlife and aviary exhibits proposed 1992 and constructed.
· Continuing improvements to Blackbutt. Blackbutt is now ingrained as part of the folk law of Newcastle. ‘Dick became the Chairman of the National Trust Hunter Region
· 79 Newcastle organizations supported in writing the Reserve Proposal in 1957 and support is continuing. 180ha or 449ac still not dedicated until the 80’s.