From the beginning, the trustees appointed to oversight the Dorrigo Nature Reserves faced a fundamental problem. They had responsibility, but no money.
The first small reserves had been created in 1901, the bigger Mountain Reserve in 1917. A first government grant of £5 was received in 1920. The next grant of £100 from unemployment relief funds did not come until 1933! It would be 1965 before there was enough money to employ the first ranger.
With the only income coming from the lease for grazing of a small portion of land, there was little that the trustees could do beyond some blackberry control and endeavouring to keep paths clear.
This created real governance problems as trustees lost heart, retired or died. Between 1940 and 1949 it appears that the Trust did not meet at all. Then came another of those energising events.
There had been problems with illegal logging and shooting for some time.
In 1949, the Thora sawmill lodged an application to log the park. As local member, Roy Vincent was able to block the application and get the Trust restructured, but in the absence of funding, the Trustees struggled.
In 1954, responsibility for the management of the park was transferred to the Dorigo Shire Council, passing to the Bellingen Shire Council in 1957 following the forced merger of the Dorrigo and Bellingen Shires. A management committee was formed to oversight the park in the place of the Trustees.
The merger of the two shires created bitter resentment on the Dorrigo Plateau Locals believed that they had little in common with the coast and that the merger would submerge their interests to their cost. This resentment turned into direct action when the Bellingen Shire Council recommended that logging be allowed in the park.
Local solicitor Ray Spinaze led the Dorrigo response.
Born in 1914, Spinaze was a descendent of the Veneto (Italian) families who had been attracted to the South Pacific by the ill-fated dreams of the Marquis de Rays. When that failed, the survivors established New Italy between Byron Bay and Grafton, now a significant tourist destination.
Spinaze had been dux of Lismore High School and then trained as a solicitor. On the boat to Sydney for exams, much coastal travel was still done by steamer, he met Georgina Cochrane. The couple married in 1941 and then settled in Dorrigo where Spinaze had bought a practice.
Spinaze's campaign blocked any attempt to log the Park. Because of the tensions between the park management committee and council, responsibility for the park's management was taken away from the Bellingen Shire Council and given back a newly reconstituted Trust.
The Park as we know it today had been born.
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