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Monash's 1914 survey of public works in Victoria

Introductory comments

Monash compiled this paper after writing to the heads of relevant organisations to obtain statistics. Although the paper focusses in places on minute detail (e.g. metropolitan railway fares), in general it presents a useful broad survey of the administration of public works just prior to WW1, and the context within which Monash conducted his business. It also provides insights into Monash's opinions, albeit tempered by diplomacy to suit the occasion. He is somewhat kinder to public service engineers than in his 1913 Presidential Address to the Victorian Institute of Engineers.

In summary, Monash:


Public Works in Victoria

By Colonel J. Monash V.D.
Prepared for the Australian Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1914.

Published in Laughton, A. M. and Hall, T.S. (eds). Handbook to Victoria, Mullett, Govt. Printer, 1914(?), 187-201.


Since the first settlement of the territory of the State of Victoria, its people have, in a corporate capacity, expended in works of public utility, through the several agencies which they have created for the purpose, the enormous sum of upwards of one hundred and twenty million pounds sterling, being at the rate of something over £100 per head of the present population. From these totals are excluded expenditure on national defence and on other non-productive enterprises. Extending over a period of effective activity of only some 60 years, such figures arrest attention, and indicate what is the fact, that in a degree exceptional to Australia the creation and the control of the public utilities have remained or have become the business of the State alone.

The agencies by which these functions have been administered are many and various, but they group themselves under four main heads: the first two comprising the respective construction departments of the Commonwealth (operating within the State), and of the State itself; the third including the numerous public corporations which operate with a measure of independence, but under the close administrative supervision of one or other of the State Departments; while the fourth consists of public corporations independent of all but legislative control.

Commonwealth Works

The Home Affairs Department of the Commonwealth has organised a sub-department of works within each State, which concerns itself with the construction of all buildings for the several Commonwealth services, such as Administration, Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Offices, and all non-electrical construction for the latter; also with Defence buildings, comprising Drill Halls, Clothing, Harness, and Cordite Factories, Stables, Ordnance Stores, and Land Fortifications. A branch of this Works Department is organised for Railway Construction, but no Federal railway works are likely to but undertaken in Victorian territory in the near future. Works of Naval Defence, which are in their inception, in connexion with the large Naval Base of Western Port, are, however, controlled directly by the Navy Construction Branch of the Department of Defence. In course of time, coastal lighting will be administered wholly by Federal authority, but for the time being it falls within the sphere of responsibility of the State Department of Public Works. During the earlier stages of the development of the Federal Departments, many of the works above referred to were carried out, by arrangement, for the Commonwealth, by the State, at the expense of the former.

State Works

The three great construction departments of the State of Victoria are the Departments respectively of Railways, Public Works, and Water Supply, each controlled by a Minister responsible to Parliament. The internal machinery, however, by means of which these several departments operate varies very widely. Railway works fall into two distinct categories - first, the construction of new railways which is undertaken by a Construction Department directly responsible to the Minister for Railways, and, secondly, works of maintenance, equipment, rolling-stock, and general operation, as well as works of reconstruction, regrading, duplication, internal extension of existing lines, &c., which are managed by an engineering staff responsible to the Victorian Railways Commissioners, who are created by statute a corporation largely independent of Ministerial control, except in matters of high policy and finance.

The Department of Public Works, on the other hand, has a much simplified organisation, resulting from the fact that in its main activities, that of Roads and Bridges, functions are chiefly supervisory of the exercise of the construction powers delegated to municipal corporations. Nevertheless, this Department does frequently undertake large bridge works of national importance, developmental road works under special votes, and specially important harbor and marine works on a large scale. The Harbors and Rivers Branch of this Department concerns itself particularly with floating plant, dredging, and coastal lighting, in territories outside the jurisdiction of the specially created Harbor Trusts. The Water Supply Department, again, has a still different organisation. Its engineering activities are controlled by a Commission of State Rivers and Water Supply, with powers analogous to, and almost as independent as, those of the Railways Commissioners. With the exception of the two great Metropolitan systems of Melbourne and Geelong, whose affairs are in the care of independent corporations, this Commission controls the whole of the Water Supply and Irrigation Works of the State, the procedure, stated in general terms, being that the Commission, by its own engineering staff, constructs the works of collection and main conservation, while it supervises the local conservation, distribution, and reticulation works delegated to numerous Water Trusts.

Municipal Works

The third class of construction authorities has already been indicated. It consists of the Municipalities (comprising cities, towns, boroughs, and shires) whose chief concerns are roads and bridges, and of Water Trusts - both urban and rural who, drawing their authority from the Water Supply Commission, undertake works of local distribution, or, in cases where the supply scheme is small in extent, the scheme as a whole. The funds for all works carried out by such local authorities are provided partly by local rating, or from loans secured on the local rating, and partly by Government subsidy. Wherever Government subsidy is involved, the supervision of the State Department concerned is close and searching, extending to a minute scrutiny of the engineering details of all works.

Other Public Works

There remain to be enumerated lastly the independent corporations erected by statute, with quite independent borrowing powers, and subject only to indirect supervision by legislative means. In this class we find the Cities of Melbourne and Geelong, which proudly boast that they stand wholly outside of the operation of the Local Government Act, the Harbor Trusts of the Ports of Melbourne and Geelong, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works - which is concerned with the water supply and sewerage of the Metropolis - and the Geelong Water Supply and Sewerage Trust, which exercises similar functions in the Geelong area. The underlying principle is that these corporations are supreme within prescribed territories and as regards prescribed functions, and the public works carried out by them are paid for from loans raised upon the security of revenues, and administered under delegated legislative powers in the form of by-laws, which require in most cases the concurrence of the Governor in Council.

From this brief and necessarily inadequate enumeration of the many agencies by which different classes of public works are brought into being in the State of Victoria, it must be apparent that the quality of performance and the degree of efficiency achieved must vary considerably, that there results a great diversity of method, that there is little in the nature of a general standardization of engineering practice, and that there is a certain amount of overlapping and misdirected effort. These features must, however, be regarded as inevitable in a social organisation which has committed itself whole-heartedly to the principle of public ownership of all general utilities, and to the devolution of matters of local concern to local authority, which finds itself still in the stage of development in the realisation of these principles.

Just as their organisation and administrative methods differ, so also do the status and efficiency of the engineering staffs vary widely. At one end of the scale we have the State Departments of long standing, which have gathered together highly efficient engineering staffs, and have trained them on the lines of settled and traditional construction policies, with due regard to experiment and research as the science of construction has developed. At the other end of the scale we find the relatively lower professional efficiency incidental to, and inevitable from, a policy which may be described as over-decentralization, as in the case of the several hundred small local governing bodies, whose professional advisers have perforce to operate quite independently and without any very effective central control in the direction of a proper standardisation of method, or the creation of a uniform code of practice.

While great and successful works of engineering construction stand to the credit of the profession as a whole, it cannot be claimed that the level of professional efficiency is uniformly high, largely because of the absence of any definitely accepted standard for admission into its ranks. It is true that certain statutes require that engineers in the service of local bodies must acquire legal qualifications, but the standards for such qualifications cannot be regarded as satisfactory in view of the great modern development of new forms of construction and the rapidly growing need for wider training in kindred sciences.

It is only in comparatively recent years that the influence of the Melbourne University has made itself felt in this connexion; only in rare cases in former years have engineering graduates been fortunate enough to achieve positions of eminence in the engineering staffs of the public departments. But the distrust of academic training is gradually disappearing, and, with the resultant increasing absorption into the public services of men trained in a well-balanced and comprehensive University curriculum, an era of more scientific, and, what is of equal importance, of more uniform, engineering construction may be confidently hoped for.

Change in Policy

An interesting aspect of the development of public works in a young community is the gradual, though slow, transition from a policy of lowest first cost to one of lowest ultimate cost. In territories at first sparsely settled, and with no certainty of permanent occupation, there is much to commend the policy of serving the immediate public need at the lowest original capital expenditure, quite regardless of the quality of the work as to its durability, or of the increase of population as to its extensibility. But, with the growth of population, and the assurance of the permanent settlement of districts, comes the inevitable change of view in favour of reconstruction in durable methods with non-perishable materials, and of the recognition of the fact that the reduction of annual maintenance charges is at least as important as economy in first cost. Thus the present era is witnessing the transition, in all the more densely populated districts of the State, from wooden to steel and concrete bridges and culverts, from indifferently macadamised to modern asphalt paved streets, from primitive wooden to commodious brick, concrete, or stone railway and other public buildings, from pumping to gravitation schemes of water supply, and from heavy to easy gradients in railway and road location.

A factor which has precipitated, in many branches of engineering construction, the adoption of non-perishable building materials, has been the depletion of the once magnificent timber resources of the State. The Victorian hardwoods (eucalypts) vary considerably in value to the engineer, depending upon botanical character, locality of growth, and method of preparation for market. The best timbers and their best manipulation were speedily recognised in the early days, and, without thought of the future, an onslaught was made upon our forests, which were denuded in wholesale fashion without any real attempt to conserve the interests of succeeding generations. The result to-day is that "redgum", so valuable for its well-known quality of endurance when buried underground, has in suitable sizes for construction purposes almost entirely disappeared from the market, and that box and ironbark, tough, dense and regular in grain so suitable for piles and bridge beams, have doubled in cost, so that the engineer is to-day relegated to the use of relatively inferior and less durable timbers with a life of less than twenty years. The realisation of the futility of burdening posterity with the capital cost of public works, which have a life of one generation only, is today acting as a powerful stimulus towards the general adoption of permanent materials and methods with a consequential general improvement of standard.


Growth of System

Railway construction began in Victoria as a private enterprise, but such private construction was limited in extent, and ultimately became absorbed in the State systems. Prior to 1880 a number of attempts to launch private railway undertakings, conceived with a view to decentralization of trade and its distribution to harbors other than Port Phillip; met with legislative extinction, largely owing to strong opposition by metropolitan vested interests. The result of such a policy, accentuated by State ownership, has been a complete concentration of transportation facilities towards the capital - a result aided by discriminating freight rates which have effectually stifled the development of a coastal shipping trade on anything like substantial lines. The lines first constructed by private means were from Flinders-street, Melbourne, to Port Melbourne - a distance of about 2 miles - first opened in September, 1854; from Geelong to Melbourne, and from Melbourne to Essendon. By 1880 all those lines had been taken over by the State, and at the present day the whole Railway system of Victoria is under the control of the Railways commissioners, with the exception of one short 14-mile section of line from Kerang to Koondrook, which is owned and operated by a municipality.


From small beginnings the Railways of the State have grown to the respectable total of 4,700 miles in the equivalent of single track, comprising 5-ft. 3-in. gauge main lines and sidings, with about 130 miles of 2-ft. 6-in. gauge feeders in several mountainous districts. The diversity of Australian railway gauges is a scandal, of which Australia is justly ashamed, and a difficulty which is acute and still awaits a statesmanlike solution. The question has been again raised, and much accentuated by the necessity for arriving at a determination of the gauge to be adopted for the Transcontinental Railway from Port Augusta (S.A.) to Kalgoorlie (W.A.). The decision, as it stands, is to adopt the 4-ft. 8-in., so-called "standard '' gauge, which differs from the gauges at present in use at both its terminals, these being 5 ft. 3 in. at the eastern and 3 ft. 6 at the western end. A body of weighty though not crucial, opinion upholds the view that the 5-ft. 3-in. main line gauge of Victoria and South Australia ought to have been adopted as a first step towards the general conversion of all Australian lines to that gauge. As the question now stands, it is inevitable that the whole of the permanent way and rolling-stock, both of Victoria and South Australia, will have to be converted to the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge to fall into line with the gauges of New South Wales and the Transcontinental Railway.

The early history of this unfortunate diversity of gauges is shrouded in uncertainty, but the oldest of Victorian railway engineers still proclaim that Victoria was blameless in the ancient dispute which led to a divergence of practice between Victoria and New South Wales. In those days few men were far sighted enough to contemplate the possibility that the respective State capitals would ever be linked up by railway facilities, and so the adoption of diverse gauges was entered upon and persisted in until its evil consequences have become one of the engineering and financial questions of first magnitude yet awaiting solution.

Extent of Operations

While the railways of Victoria have operated most beneficially in the rapid development of the territories of the State and in the establishment of a large, varied, and widespread production in the form of agriculture, pasture, dairying, milling, and manufactures, conversely these activities now provide considerable scope for the economic and scientific operation of the railway system. Some idea may be gleaned of the extent of this branch of State activity by contemplating the figures involved, which are given for the year 1913. The gross revenue was £5,222,000, and the working expenses £3,605,000, or about 69.03 per cent. of revenue. The train mileage was 14,648,000. The railways carried during the year about 113,430,000 passengers, and about 5,150,000 tons of goods and live stock.

The total capital expenditure on the railway system approximates to date some £48,000,000 sterling. Thus it will be seen that even if, which is by no means the case, the whole of this sum represented borrowed money, the margin between revenue and operating cost was sufficient last year to yield a return of about 3.37 per cent. Taking the average of the last five years the return was nearly 4 per cent. The policy of the Railway Administration is, of course, to operate so as to just pay its way, and to regulate freights and fares so as to cover working expenses and a fair rate of interest on capital. The freights and fares are generally acknowledged to be fair, moderate, and judicious, despite the fact that wages, at least to all permanent employés, are on a much higher scale than is customary on English and Continental privately-owned railways.

Metropolitan and Suburban Traffic

The special feature of the Victorian Railways is the Metropolitan suburban traffic By reason of a skilful lay out on a radial system, the suburban railways have succeeded, until very recent times, in serving all the needs of the metropolitan population for passenger transportation. The service on most lines is rapid and frequent and it is only in more recent years that street tramway transportation has become a serious competitor, leading to a demand for a complete conversion of the suburban system to electric traction. Such a conversion, the initial steps towards which have already been taken, will doubtless still further increase the popularity of the system, which is already considerable. For example, Flinders-street Station, one of the city terminals, handles daily some 180,000 passengers, exclusive of transfers, while in busy times, such as on the occasion of the visit of the United States battle fleet, the daily traffic dealt with at this station has risen to 365,000 passengers.


The fares on the suburban system are based upon a sliding scale of 1d. per mile from l to 5 miles (with a minimum of 2d.), and thereafter to the 10th mile 3/5d. for first class ; the rates for second class being 3/4d. from 1 to 5 miles (with a minimum of 1d.), thence to the 10th mile 2/5d. These are the charges for single journeys, return fares being calculated upon the basis of one and one-half single fares. The fares for distant country journeys are calculated on analogous lines.

Rolling Stock

To handle this very large traffic, the Railway Department possessed, in commission, the following rolling-stock in 1913, viz.:- 668 locomotives, 2,075 coaches, and 15,868 trucks. A large proportion of this plant has been constructed in Victoria principally in the Department's own workshops. Only occasionally, and at times of pressure, are contracts for locomotives and trucks let to private firms, and even under these circumstances the Department provides the vital parts. Quite recently, owing to the great and sudden increase in requirements due to bountiful seasons and great productivity, has it been found necessary to place orders abroad for locomotives.

The workshops, which cater for the rolling-stock requirements of the Department and which are also responsible for all work of repair and upkeep, are situated at Newport, have cost for their establishment some £475,000, and regularly employ about 4,000 hands. These workshops have a fine equipment of up-to-date machine tools and forges and with the exception of wheels and axles, the whole construction work of every kind is carried out there. Visitors, in their journeyings through Victoria, will be enabled to judge of the excellence of the design and workmanship of both locomotives and coaches turned out by this workshop.

Locomotives and Coaches

From a considerable number of differing types of locomotives, the departmental engineers have been able to evolve a few standard types respectively for fast passenger, heavy freight, suburban, and station-yard services, and both in fuel economy, tractive force, balancing, and durability a high degree of efficiency has been achieved.. Similarly, as regards passenger coaches, there has been a progressive improvement both in comfort and workmanship, and the evolution of types most suitable for local conditions. The principal main line coaches are up-to-date vestibule corridor cars, 71 feet by 9 ft. 6 in. over all, strongly built on steel underframes. The country lines are also served with parlour, observation, sleeping, and dining cars, which, compared with best European and American standards, leave little to be desired. In the suburban system there has recently been introduced a new type, known as the "Tait '' car, specially designed for rapid entry and exit, having sliding doors to each compartment, with a central passage-way. The cars are 60 feet long, and have been a pronounced success, soon becoming very popular.

The train illumination is now carried out throughout Victoria, uniformly, with Pintsch gas and incandescent burners; while the Westinghouse brake is fitted to all trains.

Coal Consumption

The coal consumption of the whole system amounts to 490,000 tons per year, more than half of the quantity being supplied from the Victorian State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi, while the balance is imported from New South Wales.


The speed standards for 5-ft. 3-in. gauge lines are 60 miles per hour maximum on country lines, and 40 miles per hour maximum for the suburban lines; while on the 2-ft. 6-in. gauge the maximum speed is 20 miles per hour.

Engineering Construction

Turning to the engineering construction of the railways, this is characterized by a close adherence to conservative and orthodox railway practice. The permanent way has 100-lb. rails on suburban, and 80-lb. rails on main country lines with 60-lb. rails on the less important branch lines. The ruling gradients are on main lines 1 in 50, and on branch lines 1 in 40, and the minimum curves are respectively 12 and 9 chains radius. There have been comparatively few difficulties, and still fewer blunders in location and construction, the tunnels are few, and not of great importance, and the works of regrading have not been extensive. Several large bridges and viaducts have outlived their usefulness, and are being gradually replaced to meet the considerable increase in axle loads through the adoption of more modern types of engines.


The project of the electrification of the suburban system has been alluded to. This is now in progress, and involves the erection at Newport of a central power station, where electricity will be generated at 20,000 volts, three-phase, 25 cycles, being thence transmitted to twelve sub-stations, where the current will be transformed down to 1,500 volts, direct current, by means of rotary converters, at which pressure it will be supplied to overhead lines along the tracks. The conversion to electricity as the tractive agent is expected to lead to a great improvement of the service of transportation both in speed and frequency of trains, minimising the ugly congestion of traffic which often occurs during the busy hours.

Quadruplication of Lines

The expansion of the Metropolis by concentration on lines defined by the radial arrangement of the suburban system is operating year by year to increase the congestion of traffic on several of the more popular routes, so that it is a matter of only a very little time when the question of quadruplication of some of the lines (at present duplicated), so as to provide separately for express and local traffic, will have to be seriously considered.

Roads and Bridges

Policy hitherto adopted

The responsibility for the location, construction, and maintenance of streets and roads has rested for many years chiefly on local government authority. In early times there was a system of tolls, which provided a revenue that went to provide for efficient maintenance. But, following European precedent, all barriers to the free user of the highways were swept away many years ago, and each municipality became responsible for the roads within its own territory. The results of this policy provide evidences of the extremes of efficiency and the reverse. Wealthy city corporations have been enabled to give expression to the latest thought in road engineering, while the more outlying, extensive, sparsely populated and indigent shires have found their resources altogether inadequate for the merest semblance of usable roads. In the last ten years has come the clamour for mechanical transport, and it has found the municipalities responsible utterly unable to respond.

For many years past the Government of the day has doled out small subsidies to the poorer shires to help in the work of creating some kind of road, but the broad result today is that, always excepting the streets within city and town limits, and a few main roads in specially easy and favoured districts, there are few of the thousands of miles of so-called roads all over the State which can be described as efficiently serviceable for ordinary industrial purposes. While some part of this evil is doubtless due to errors in location on the part of the earlier lands surveyors, lack of funds to carry out proper grading or drainage or the laying down of a stable road bed chiefly contribute to the result that there are very few first class roads yet available to the Victorian public. Very many "roads '' are wholly unformed ; more still are formed but unmetalled; and there has been in the past a serious lack of what may be described as the strategic location of main transverse arteries of traffic to provide for cross communication between contiguous industrial or producing areas.

Country Roads Board

The advent in ever increasing numbers of motor vehicles has accentuated the bad condition of most of our roads, and is one of the factors which has precipitated a wise and beneficent governmental action in the creation by statute of a Country Main Roads Board with extensive responsibilities and powers. This Board will be placed in control of a sum of £4,000,000, raised one-half by Government loan and one-half by local rating which is to be expended in the next five or six years in the construction and maintenance of main roads. The Board has power to declare any existing road a "main road", to create new main roads, to levy rates accordingly, and to inaugurate a system of first-class road construction. Owing to dispersion of effort in the past, little has hitherto been possible in the direction of the installation of modern road-making machinery, or of embarking upon comprehensive quarrying, breaking and distribution of suitable road-making material, which fortunately exists within easy reach all over the districts where the need for good roads is most acute. The Roads Board contemplates operations on a scale which will permit of considerable economies, and will also aim at a standardization of engineering practice which can only be beneficial.

Methods of construction

In the country roads of the past, excluding the many cases where either lack of funds or of experience has prevented the employment of any orthodox methods, the favorite mode of construction has been Macadam from 6 inches to 9 inches thick, of basaltic or metamorphic stone broken to 2-in. or 2½-in. gauge, blinded with sand or loam, making a very fair road surface, but one liable to rapid deterioration in a wet environment. The employment of Telford sub-bed has been rare. In city streets the bulk of the construction is Macadam or "Tar Mac.", only the more pretentious main city streets of Melbourne and its more affluent suburbs being treated with wood blocking on a cement concrete bed. Certain Victorian hardwoods have proved eminently suitable for this purpose after being cut into blocks and soaked in coal tar. Such streets are hygienic, very quiet, and durable, especially when treated annually with a dressing of distilled coal tar and sand. There are very few and only very restricted examples of the experimental employment of natural asphaltum or of concrete in city street construction, while the use of asphaltic concrete is still unknown in this State.

Bridges and Culverts

ln connexion with roads are to be considered bridges and culverts. Only a few districts of the early days adopted construction in brick or stone arches, or abutments, with iron or steel superstructure; and the great majority of municipal structures have been of hardwood timber of very varying quality and durability. While constantly confronted with fresh requirements in the way of new bridges and culverts, by a steadily increasing population, most municipalities are now faced with the great burden of the reinstatement of old timber structures, of ages varying from 25 to 40 years, which have fallen into dangerous decay. Fortunately, the difficulties of the situation have been greatly relieved by the advent of reinforced concrete, as a means of construction eminently suited for the purpose, of quite indefinite life, and of a first cost little greater than timber construction at the present market prices of reliable timbers. Already many hundreds of bridges and culverts of reinforced concrete have been constructed all over the State, including several ambitious and ornate structures over some of the larger rivers. The immunity from depreciation and heavy maintenance charges is already having its effect upon municipal finances.

Extent of Local Government

Some idea of the extent to which local government has been developed may be gleaned from the fact that there are in Victoria 208 municipalities, having rating powers upon all annual real property value of about £15,400,000. These municipalities spend annually about £1,000,000 in construction and maintenance, the greater portion of which sum is devoted to roads and bridges.

Water Supply and Sewerage

Melbourne Water Supply

As nearly one-half of the population of the State is localised in the Melbourne district, it will be understood that the Water supply system of the Metropolis greatly exceeds in magnitude, importance, and complexity all the other similar works of the State. Until 1891 the Melbourne system was under the control of the Water Supply Department, but it was in that year handed over to a newly created corporation, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which body was also charged with the task of introducing a comprehensive system of water-carriage sewerage. Under its control the water supply system, already copious, efficient and prosperous, has, during the past 22 years, been greatly expanded and improved, and it stands today for plenitude, reliability, and purity of supply in an almost unrivalled position. This Board has spent (inclusive of the capital cost of the works taken over from Government) nearly £5,000,000 on water supply and £7,000,000 on sewerage, and both systems have now almost reached the full development necessary to meet the utmost demands of the present population. Moreover, the reservations of forest lands in the mountains to the north and east of the city have been on such a generous scale, and the ascertained further sources of supply are so considerable, that no serious thought will need to be given to any curtailment of the present very liberal allowance of over 100 gallons per head per day for a generation or two to come, if the present rate of increase of population be maintained.

Sources of Supply

The system comprises at present three main sources of supply - the Yan Yean Storage Reservoir, capacity 6,400 million gallons, which is fed by aqueducts tapping the Silvery and Wallaby Creeks flowing from Mount Disappointment, some 30 miles due north of Melbourne; the Maroondah River (a tributary of the Yarra), at a point about 35 miles east of the city; and the O'Shanassy Creek, another tributary, still further east. From these several sources, the water is led, wholly by gravitation, to a series of sedimentation and service reservoirs at Preston to the north, and Surrey Hills to the east, of the city, from which points the reticulation system is taken. The normal minimum supply is at present upwards of 65,000,000 gallons per diem, but this quantity is capable of very considerable expansion by a further storage reservoir in the Maroondah basin and the duplication of the Maroondah and O'Shanassy conduits, without any call upon further known sources of supply within the reserved areas. The water supply is on such a generous scale that potable water is permitted to be freely used in street and garden watering, being sold by meter at ls. per 1,000 gallons to ratepayers.

Melbourne Sewerage System

The sewerage system is water carriage by gravitation to a pumping station on the River Yarra at Spotswood, where, after a pumping lift of about 80 feet, it is taken by a main outfall aqueduct to the Werribee Sewage Farm, and there profitably and inoffensively disposed of. The system of main and branch sewers over the area under the jurisdiction of the Board is now practically complete, and only a small percentage of the house connexion work still remains to be done The results of the introduction of the system in the reduction of zymotic diseases have been markedly successful.


The City of Geelong is, step by step, following the example of Melbourne, possessing since 1910 a Water and Sewerage Board with independent powers, which took over the existing Stony Creek Water Supply, and inaugurated a scheme of sewerage, with ocean outfall, near Barwon Heads. These works are now in their more initial stages.

Other Districts

The water supply of other provincial centres and rural districts, as well as the main works of conservation and distribution for irrigation purposes, are still under the control of the Government, being vested in the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, which is responsible to the Minister of Water Supply. Under its charter, this Commission absorbs the whole of the water rights of the State, and thus the rights of riparian proprietors to the use and flow of the streams entirely disappear. No conservation or diversion may any longer take place, except under special licence. The activities of this Commission in the direction of water supply for irrigation purposes are dealt with comprehensively in the chapter on Irrigation, so that reference need here be made only to water supply for domestic and industrial purposes. These fall into two groups, classed respectively as National and Municipal.

National Works

Of the national works, the largest are the Gong Gong system for the supply of Ballaarat; the Coliban and Malmsbury system, for the supply of Castlemaine and Bendigo; and the Nagambie system, which, in addition to supplying certain towns in the Goulburn Valley, includes the head works of a great irrigation system. The main conservations are carried out on quite orthodox lines, with the usual earthen embankments with flat slopes and a clay or concrete core, lower slope grassed, upper scope beached, or with masonry or concrete gravity dams of moderate height. The experiences with such dams and embankments have been, upon the whole, satisfactory, none giving serious trouble from leakage or foundation difficulties. The distribution works consist of open channels, stone or concrete lined, and of piping. In earlier days, the use of cast iron was universal, but latterly steel pipes, both spiral riveted, spiral welded, and of the locking-bar type have grown in favour. Steel piping, when properly protected by pitch and tar coating, carefully applied, has given every indication of a satisfactory life. Reinforced concrete is being gradually introduced in short lengths for relatively low heads, while wood-stave piping has also been applied experimentally.

Minor Systems

Apart from these greater works, there exists a very large number of minor urban and rural systems, both gravitation and pumping, which serve populations of from 500 to 5,000, and are based on a local rating varying from 1s. to 2s. in the £1 on annual rateable values. The installation of such schemes is ever on the increase, and the sources of supply are in general pure and satisfactory.

Potentialities of Goulburn River

Apart from the Upper Yarra Valley, upon which rests the principal responsibility for the supply of potable water for the future expansion of the Metropolis, the other great Victorian source of supply is the Goulburn River, the largest and most bounteous of the Victorian tributaries of the Murray, which is fed by numerous mountain streams that take their rise in the northern slopes of the great Dividing Range, and receive accretions from an extensive area of winter snows. It is a reproach to engineering enterprise that no utilisation has yet been made of the greater portion of this splendid annual supply of water. From the time the thaw commences, about the end of August, until well into the summer, the Goulburn runs a banker, often in high flood and most of this precious water has been allowed to flow into the Murray, and thence to the ocean. Schemes are, however, now under consideration for large storage works in the upper reaches of the Goulburn, to operate both for conservation for irrigation purposes and in mitigation of floods.

Loan Liability

The loan liability of the State for water supply works amounts to about £8,000,000. Of this sum about one-sixth is for free head-works, while for the payment of interest on the balance the districts and populations benefited are liable.

Canalization of River Murray

Associated with the question of water supply and irrigation is the great outstanding question of the canalization of the River Murray from a point at about the meridian of Melbourne to its mouth - a question whose financial solution and realisation will on the one hand make available vast additional water for irrigation and intense culture, and on the other hand provide a new avenue of cheap carriage by water to the sea. This question is, however, one affecting the three States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, whose interests are not, or are thought not, to be identical; and numerous conferences, both scientific and political, conceived with the object of framing a common policy and line of action, have, so far, proved abortive.

Harbor Works.


Victoria possesses only the one great natural harbor of Port Phillip, and the policy of the concentration of all ocean trade in the Metropolis has discouraged any attempts to seriously develop and improve the few other outer harbors. Those worthy of mention outside Port Phillip are the harbors of Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool, and Western Port. At all these points there has been considerable expenditure on wharfs, jetties, and landing facilities, and in some cases on breakwater construction, but neither the depth of draught provided, nor the equipment for handling merchandise, has been on a scale to serve more than a modest coastal trade. The harbor of Port Phillip, however, has both justified and benefited by considerable works.

Deepening Entrance to Port Phillip Bay

A troublesome, tedious, and costly work has been the progressive deepening of the entry to the harbor at Port Phillip Heads, as the gradual increase in the draught of ships has made the negotiation of this difficult entrance more and more hazardous. A rocky ledge, extending completely across the entrance, has had to be cut away for a width of 1,000 feet, first to 30 feet, and later to 35 feet, and now the deepening to 40 feet at low water is under way. The limitations of the Suez Canal operated for many years to delay this important work but the gradual adoption of the Cape of Good Hope route for vessels of large draught and tonnage, and the imminence of the Panama Canal trade have precipitated a work by means of which alone the ocean trade into this harbor can be preserved.

Works at Melbourne and Geelong

Within Port Phillip, the two bays, named respectively Corio Bay and Hobson's Bay, mark the spheres of jurisdiction of the Harbor Trusts of Geelong and Melbourne. The former, having been but recently constituted, represents the first serious attempt to decentralise from Melbourne the trade of the great and wealthy Western District. The harbor works of Geelong are still in their initial stages, consisting chiefly of dredging and pier construction. The Melbourne Harbor Trust has, however, since 1876, carried out very extensive works, of which those associated with the navigability of the River Yarra have been the most important. From a point near the heart of the city to its mouth, the river has been rectified, trained, and deepened so as to secure a natural scour, and has been equipped with about 6 miles of wharfs, transit sheds, landing machinery, water supply, and swinging basins. The large Victoria dock debouches from the river immediately to the west of the city, and has an area of nearly 100 acres, with a depth of 26 feet at low water.

The Trust is also responsible for considerable works in the Bay, including large timber piers at Port Melbourne and Williamstown. The revenues of the Trust from harbour dues and landing charges amount to about £350,000 per annum. While much has been done in the direction of improving natural facilities, it is recognised that much effort and expenditure are still necessary to bring our harbor facilities into line with modern requirements. The total shipping of the Ports of Melbourne and Geelong now exceeds 7,000,000 tons per annum, being about one-third of that of the Port of London.

Other Public Works

The activity of the State has entered other domains. A small section of electric street tramway is owned and operated by the Railways Commissioners. The State also possesses a coal mine at Wonthaggi, chiefly for the supply of the railways; while its operations in the construction of buildings for education and administration have been extensive. All public works in connexion with posts, telegraphs, and telephones, coastal lighting, defence, and Customs within Victorian territory, have now been removed from State to Federal jurisdiction, and do not therefore find a place in what is intended as a brief résumé of the scope, character, and mode of creation of the public works for which the State of Victoria is responsible at the present day.

Monash's paper was illustrated with photographs of the Exhibition Building and Flinders Street Railway Station (both in Melbourne).