History & Heritage


Council's Community Strategic Plan identifies the following action in regards to Heritage: Nambucca Shire Council aims to support and promote an understanding of the Nambucca Valley’s heritage.

In support of this action in 2013 Council sought resource assistance from the Office of Environment and Heritage to commence a heritage program. Council was successful in gaining funds to support the funding of services for a heritage advisor and also the commencement of a Heritage Assistance Fund.

Our Heritage program is now in its second year and Council has endorsed a Heritage Strategy for the period 2014-2017. This strategy can be downloaded from the following link and provides a number of aims and objectives for the program to achieve. The heritage strategy is available on the Nambucca Shire Council Website

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Local Heritage Assistance Fund

Each year, Nambucca Shire Council, with assistance from the Heritage Branch of the Office of Environment and Heritage, offers small grants to property owners for maintenance works on older, heritage listed buildings in the local government area.

There is a total of $15,000 in the fund made up of a Government Grant of $7,500 and $7,500 from the Council.

This grant funding is used as an incentive to assist property owners of heritage listed items that are identified in the Nambucca Shire Council Local Environmental Plan and encourage as much positive work on heritage items in the area as possible.

Projects funded through this program may include (and not be limited to): conservation works and maintenance works projects; adaptive reuse projects; urban design projects that support heritage; interpretation projects; and conservation management plans.

Projects that are normally funded include:

  • repairing walls, verandahs, windows or roof plumbing on older buildings
  • repairing or reconstructing traditional front fences or other boundary work to protect older houses or sites
  • repairing and conserving older buildings, historic remnants or grave sites

Funding will not be provided for:

  • new buildings, extensions or unsympathetic work
  • routine maintenance (eg lawn mowing, gutter cleaning or carpet cleaning)
  • projects where adequate funding is available from the applicant or other sources
  • projects where substantial government assistance has been previously provided
  • projects where the applicant has yet to complete other assisted projects
  • new commemorative monuments or works
  • purchase of heritage buildings
  • relocation of buildings or work to relocated buildings
  • private headstones, unless there is no possibility of descendent support for the project.

The maximum level of funding per project will be generally limited to $5,000.00 and not exceed 50% of the value of the project. Greater funding may be made if the circumstances warrant it.

The property owner will be required to provide at least matching finance for the project and there will be cases where they may wish to contribute more to the project.

Below is an example of a successful project Bowraville Bank Building


Before After

Further information about this fund can be obtained by contacting Grant Nelson from Council’s Development and Environment Section on (02) 6568 0248 or email grant.nelson@nambucca.nsw.gov.au or Colleen Henry from Council’s Corporate Services Section on (02) 6568 0267 or email colleen.henry@nambucca.nsw.gov.au

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Heritage listing

New South Wales has two main types of heritage listings known as heritage items and conservation areas. Heritage listings flag that a place or object has heritage significance.

Four main statutory lists contain heritage listings for places that are significant locally, state-wide, Australia-wide and/or world- wide.

The two statutory lists that are applicable to the Nambucca Shire are:

  • Nambucca Shire Council’s Local Environmental Plan - listing locally significant heritage places
  • State Heritage Register - lists our State’s most significant heritage places and objects known as items of state heritage significance

As physical links to Australia’s past, heritage places trace the transition of Australia from its ancient indigenous origins to a penal outpost of Great Britain to the advanced culture of today’s developed nation.

Why list?

Listing is the way our heritage places are identified and managed. This safeguards the environmental, economic and social benefits of this limited resource for present and future generations.

As with zoning, certainty is the driving reason for listing. By flagging our heritage places, listing gives owners and the community certainty about what is a heritage place. It provides advance knowledge about the approvals process, and confidence that future changes to listed places and surrounds will be sympathetic ahead of important decisions such as purchasing.

Early listing avoids the uncertainty, delays, unforeseen costs and unnecessary conflict that can result when heritage is identified late in the development process. For example, temporary heritage listing known as Interim Heritage Orders, cannot apply to locally significant places already listed as local heritage items or state significant places already listed on the State Heritage Register.

Listing is the established world-wide method for managing heritage. Before listing existed in NSW, community protests about widespread heritage destruction resulted in the building union ‘green bans’ of the 1970s. This saved the Rocks and other heritage places from demolition at the time and ultimately led to our State’s first contemporary laws for heritage listing in 1977, the Heritage Act.

What does listing mean?

By providing a balanced framework for managing change, listing keeps heritage places authentic, alive and useful. Australian heritage places are not inflexibly bound or ‘mothballed’ by listing. Listing will not stop all change or freeze a place in time. Listing is a beginning - the first step in protecting our significant places - not the end result. Statutory listing protects our State’s heritage places in three basic ways: recognition, approvals and support. Further information about heritage listing and what it means for you can be viewed in the NSW Government Heritage Listing Explained PDF document.

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Conservation Areas

A Conservation Area is an area where the historical origins and relationships between elements such as the buildings and the street layout create an overall sense that is worth maintaining.

The purpose of a Conservation Area is to protect heritage and make sure that new development does not detract from the streetscape, landscape and character of the area.

There are two (2) Conservation Areas in the Nambucca Shire. These are:

Nambucca North Headland Bowraville Conservation Area
These Conservation Areas also contain individually listed heritage items.

Also located on NSW Legislation website - Nambucca Local Environment Plan 2010.

The following publication "Design In Context: Guidelines for infill development in the historic context" should be used when designing within the Conservation Areas of the Commercial and Village Precincts.

The publication sets out guidelines that aim to provide parameters by which Architects and building designers can contribute to the future in a creative and inspiring way, while ensuring the special qualities of a heritage place are retained.

The guidelines do not seek to exclude the extraordinary but to improve the ordinary and encourage quality while demanding respect for the existing context.

A copy of this publication can be viewed on the NSW Government Environment and Heritage - Design In Context PDF document.

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War Memorials

In the aftermath of the Great War, communities across Australia built war memorials to perpetuate the memory of those who served their country and who lie buried in foreign soil or beneath the seas.

War memorials are made of a variety of materials such as sandstone, trachyte, marble, granite, brick, terracotta, concrete, bronze, copper, timber and cast iron, either separately or in combination.

The common types include the First World War “statue” (typically a Digger on a plinth, and more rarely other types of figurative sculpture, in stone or bronze), the “obelisk”, the “cenotaph” and the column. We find memorial arches, gateways, fountains, halls and other utilitarian structures.

Post 1945 memorials come in an unlimited variety of designs and materials, from simple walls of remembrance to complex sculptural compositions. Many towns have both war memorials and an honour roll listing the names of those who served. Together they constitute a material record specific to our individual towns and localities.

There are more than 3,000 war memorials in NSW, and the NSW Government and the RSL (NSW Branch) are committed to documenting each of these memorials with care and respect.

The Register of War Memorials in New South Wales provides information and a search engine to help you find war memorials for veterans throughout NSW.

The Register can be viewed on the Register of War Memorials in NSW.

Three of the more prominent war memorials in the Nambucca Shire are:

  • Bowraville War Memorial on High Street
  • Nambucca Heads War Memorial on Riverside Drive
  • Macksville War Memorial on the River Street foreshore

Heritage Publications and Photographs


Over the years there have been many books and articles written and/or published about the heritage of the Nambucca District.

One book that tells the history of the Nambucca Shire very well is "Precious Memories – A photographic history of the Nambucca Shire" which was researched and compiled by historian David Dunne, 2001.

Others worth a look at are:

  • Valley of the Crooked River – European settlement on the Nambucca, by Norma Townsend, 1993
  • Valla Memories, by Brenda Gadsby, 1997
  • Tewinga – The first 100 Years, by Karl T. Hogg, 2008
  • Scotts Head – As good as it gets, by Buz Brazel, undated

These and many other publications about the Nambucca District, can be viewed at the Nambucca Shire Public Library.


The Nambucca District retains an impressive collection of early photographs. While some photographs are in private collections the Nambucca Shire Public Library, the Nambucca Headland Museum – Headland Drive, Nambucca Heads, the Bowraville Folk Museum – 86 High Street, Bowraville and Mary Boulton’s Pioneer Cottage – 38 Gumma Road, Macksville also have photographic collections.

The Frank Partridge VC Military Museum at 29 High Street, Bowraville is also a wonderful resource.

Another source that is available to the public who are seeking early photographs of the Nambucca District is Picture Australia which is part of the National Library of Australia - Trove.

The Picture Australia service has been provided for use by all Australians, to discover our heritage as documented in pictures. Through a single access point, it is possible to search the image collections of many significant cultural institutions, without having to know where the images are held.

Heritage Services

Building and design professionals who have experience in heritage conservation work are invaluable to any heritage project. Heritage consultants, heritage builders and heritage architects are trained to offer a high degree of expertise in historic buildings and traditional construction. This is an especially important consideration if the building you are altering is a heritage item.

The NSW Heritage Branch maintains a database of conservation architects, builders, and suppliers of heritage services for you to find the right heritage expert for your situation. You can use it to search for a heritage practitioner relevant to your particular job.

NSW Government Environment and Heritage - Heritage consultants directory

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Conservation Services

It is also advisable that the appropriate tradespeople and products be used in any heritage project.

To assist people in finding heritage tradespeople and products the NSW Heritage Branch maintains a database for you to find the right product or service for your situation. You can use it to search for a heritage product or service relevant to your particular job.

NSW government Environment and Heritage - Conservation products and services directory

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A short history of some of our towns and villages


The first official town site for what we now know as Bowraville was located on the north side of the Bowra river at the furthest navigable point on the North Arm of the Nambucca River. Originally called Bowra the name was changed when the first postmaster reported confusion with Bowral. The site was on the main route from Bellingen to the Nambucca Heads but it was too far from the jetty. The government appears to have bowed to the inevitable. The first official plan for the village, in 1871, established it on its present site, which included land owned by Joseph Conen.

By 1883 most of the larger suburban lots north of Conen’s land had been acquired by William Sullivan and the Gaddes. These two also owned smaller suburban allotments in or near George Street.

Growth in the 1880s was slow. New settlers were moving further up the river and the rural population was gradually increasing and by the 1890s when the rest of the country was experiencing a recession, the local population appears to have grown.

The new prosperity was largely due to the introduction of paspalum grasses in the district. This improved pasture led to the establishment of dairying and new rural wealth.

While George Street had been the focus for much of the town's early development a new bridge built in 1888 at the bottom of Cook Street had a dramatic impact on the town. Firstly it gave easy access to the town to those farmers living on the north side of the river. Secondly, being the first bridge across the Nambucca, it drew new traffic to the town. Coupled with improvements to the road to Bellingen more traffic to Bellingen would now have passed through Bowraville.

Most importantly High Street was best placed to take advantage of this passing trade. While there was still considerable traffic on George Street, to and from the wharf, this traffic also proceeded along High Street.

The town saw the building of churches, stores, a bank and a school and the government consolidated its presence with the opening of a new Court House in 1899 and an official Post Office was erected next door in 1900.

Bowraville was described in an 1890 Illustrated Sydney News article as ‘a small silver mining community’. Early parish maps show silver mining leases in the hills north west of the township. But by 1909 “more than 30,000 bags of maize are shipped annually from Bowra wharf and about 2 million super feet of timber.”

The early twentieth century was the town’s most prosperous period. Dairying became the dominant industry in the district and in 1905 a co-operative was established.

Bowraville grew to become a service town for the farmers and timber getters, but it was also a coach stop on the coach road between Kempsey and Fernmount.

Bowra’s central location also saw it become the base for the Nambucca Shire Council which held its first meeting in 1915. Previously the district had been part of the Bellingen Shire.

Growth in the 1920s probably led to new residential subdivisions in the town and despite the recession of the 1930s and the town being overtaken by Macksville, Bowra still held its own.

The post-war years saw the final decline of George Street. The local wharf had long since fallen into disuse. The silting up of the river mouth in the 1930s, and improved road and rail transport saw the end of the river trade and High Street emerged as the commercial centre of the town.

While many changes have taken place over the years including the closure of businesses and fires that have destroyed many buildings Bowraville’s preserved and consistent 1920s streetscape has turned out to be one of its major assets. To be continued.

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