Richmond Valley Council was formed in February 2000 as a result of the amalgamation of the former Casino Council and Richmond River Shire Council.
The area of around 3050 square kilometres has a total population of 23,000 and is growing at a rate of 0.4% per year (State average 1.2%).
The traditional custodians of the land surrounding the Richmond River are the Aboriginal people of the Githabul. One of the annual rituals of the Githabul people was the movement from the mountain ranges to the coast during the winter months, when the mullet were plentiful.
The Githabul Nation encompasses some of Australia’s most scenic country and extends across a number of national parks and state forest reserves in north-eastern NSW, including some world heritage-listed areas.
Pastoral settlement in the Richmond Valley began in the 1840s, more than a decade after the Richmond River had first been entered from the sea by Captain Henry Rous. By the end of the 1840s, most of the valley had been occupied by large pastoral holdings under government leases. The town of Casino was the main entry point into the Richmond Valley for overland travellers; it was the district’s front door.
On 30 April 1879 a public meeting held in the School of Arts building in Casino began the process of forming a municipality. Following a petition of 76 ratepayers, elections were held 22 March 1880 and Messrs Simpson, Gulley, Jordan, Grouch, Vesper and Carlill were returned as alderman. From these men, the first mayor was chosen as Frederick Burgess Gulley, the owner of the largest store in Casino. Gulley would be mayor eight times, spanning his 17 years as an alderman for Casino. Their first challenges were many: streets were rudimentary and boggy and rubbish was dumped in the streets; and no drainage existed in the flood-prone area and trade focussed on delivery of goods via the river leading the provision of infrastructure to become a priority for the thriving township.
In 1890 the first Casino Town Hall was built and in 1900 a drainage plan submitted by the State Government’s Department of Works was adopted, despite an economic depression putting curbs on Council spending.
Progress was slow for Casino’s water supply and street lighting with 1906 seeing the advent of water works, with another four years of debate and negotiation with suppliers before Casino would see sewerage works begin and 11 years before 12 gas lights were installed in the CBD area of the town, supplied by Casino’s own gas works. In 1916, the first sale yards were opened in the heart of town.
Through further economic depression, the First World War and battles with plague and influenza, the Council emerged in the 1930s with a new town hall building and augmentation to its water plant to supply the burgeoning population. The new Civic Hall opened 1937 before war again curtailed government spending. Following World War II, Casino celebrated the opening of a library service in 1945, the aerodrome in 1947 and the Casino War Memorial Olympic Pool in 1952.
The year 1954 was marked with a royal visit from Queen Elizabeth and by a record flood which washed away the Irving Bridge. The third Irving Bridge was opened in 1959. A time of prosperity into the 1960s and 1970s saw the building of the new Casino High School, expansion of residential areas to encompass North Casino and western Casino and the first popularly elected Mayor, JCD Lane in 1977.
In 1980 Casino celebrated 100 years in local government with an extensive procession and an official dinner attended by Premier Neville Wran. In 1982, the first year Beef Week was celebrated, Council held a referendum to decide the method of election of mayors. In 1983 the saleyards opened at its current location of Nammoona and the Jabiru Geneebeinga wetlands was opened in 1988.
In 1994 Council opened the Casino Visitor Information Centre and became sole trustee of the showground. In 1997, Casino officially became a sister city to Cassino, Italy.
The end of 133 years of Casino Council began with the merging of Tomki Shire Council with Woodburn in 1976 to become the Richmond River Shire Council, which amalgamated with the Municipality of Casino into the Richmond Valley Council in February 2000.
These unions recognised not only the social, economic and historical connections between each local government area, but also highlighted the importance of the Richmond River in linking the communities.