In 1971, the population of the City of Armidale reached 18,156. The NSW Department of Decentralisation and Development population projections suggested that the City's population would reach 47,301 in 2001, passing that of Tamworth.
Even then, some expressed doubts, but the prevailing mood was one of confidence, of complacency. There was also growing concern about the need to control growth to preserve the City's amenity.
Twenty years later, Armidale was in the midst of an economic and demographic crisis.
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Many blamed the City Council, many still do, for its failure to identify and address the emerging problems in an effective way. While there is some truth in that, I think that the reality is far more complex.
To show this, I will tell you the story of the rise, fall and slow recovery of a city. While I am writing as an historian, it's also a personal story for I was involved in some of these events. I do not pretend to be totally objective.
Our story begins in what is now called Macdonald Park. Today the Park is small and manicured. It is hard to see it as the centre of a considerable official complex.
In 1839 newly appointed Crown Lands Commissioner for New England, George James Macdonald, established his headquarters on what is now the Park, chosen for its central location in an extensive plains area.
Macdonald arrived with a party of eleven - three regular Mounted Police plus eight convict Border Police.
In addition to official duties - and these were many and varied - Macdonald and his convicts had to construct buildings, erect fencing and grow food. He was, in fact, expected to act like a squatter in terms of providing for his party.
You can still see signs of this today in the names Police Paddock and Commissioner's Waters.
To the north west of the Commissioner's headquarters, a straggling collection of slab huts emerged along the Great North Road, really track, across Dumaresq Creek.
The Government required order and planning.
In 1848, surveyor John James Galloway drew up a north-south-east west grid pattern. This cut across existing tracks and indeed through buildings including five inns.
After protests including a public meeting and a petition to the Governor, the north south grid pattern was rotated to the east, giving the layout we know today
Armidale now had structure, but remained small. The stations had their own stores and supplies, so the little village really serviced travellers with inns and then stores. With time, trades would be added and then professionals including clergy men and teachers, but numbers were initially not large.
Growth would come, but we can already see two key future features, the relative smallness of the local geographic catchment combined with Armidale's importance as and an administrative centre.