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History & Heritage

History of the Area

Indigenous people had lived in Pittwater for thousands of years when Europeans arrived in 1788 and soon displaced them. From 1810 Aboriginal lands were given to pardoned convicts and free settlers. Some land was cleared for cultivation and to provide timber for building and fuel. Later in the century Pittwater became a farming district, grazing sheep, cattle, horses and pigs and producing butter, milk, vegetables, fruit and wheat.

On 2 March 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of NSW, explored the southern arm of Broken Bay. He described this waterway as “the finest piece of water I ever saw” and named it ‘Pitt Water’ in honour of William Pitt, the Younger, who was then Prime Minister of England.

Pittwater was isolated and reached mainly by ship to Barrenjoey and after 1880 to Newport. The earliest land explorations followed Aboriginal tracks. Over the years a rough bush road was established from Manly, along the coast to Narrabeen. By the early 1880s a bridge spanned the ford at Narrabeen. Travellers by coach paused at the Rock Lily Hotel in Mona Vale (which opened in 1886), and then continued northwest to Bayview and Church Point, or northeast for Newport and Barrenjoey. By 1913 trams replaced coaches to Narrabeen. From there passengers could take a bus north. After The Spit (1925), Roseville (1925) and Sydney Harbour (1932) Bridges were opened, the Pittwater peninsula was more easily reached. Cars opened up travel. People built holiday shacks, often only occupied for a few weeks a year.

However since the 1950s, the area became predominantly residential in character and a suburban region of Sydney.

History of Pittwater Council

The Pittwater local government area was proclaimed on 1 May 1992— named after the 20 km2 of waterway within its boundaries—after a long and energetic campaign for secession from Warringah Council by many Pittwater residents.

It was the first new council in NSW for 100 years, and as such could be described as an experiment to develop a modern, progressive and forward-thinking council, to deliver services to the ever-changing needs of the community and society at large. With this in mind, the new Councillors together with their community developed the council's vision and mission to reflect this aim.

Just over a decade later, Pittwater became a model council in NSW, with various procedures taken as benchmark for other councils and organisations. In June 2003 it was presented with the Bluett Award, a pinnacle of achievement in Local Government, naming the council as the "best and most progressive Council in New South Wales."
In 2016, Pittwater Council was again recognised with a special commendation Bluett Award for its achievements in environmental protection, infrastructure projects and strong community ties.

Pittwater Council’s first residing Mayor was Robert Dunn, followed by Ron Starr, Patricia Giles, Lynne Czinner, Alex McTaggart, David James, Harvey Rose and Jacqueline Townsend. 

Pittwater Council was a progressive, financially strong and sustainable organisation praised for its innovation in a variety of projects, known for featuring community consultation heavily in Council policies and procedures and protecting the natural and built environment.

Following the NSW’s mandate for fewer councils in NSW, Pittwater Council merged with Manly and Warringah councils to form a new Northern Beaches Council on 12 May 2016.

During the transition period, the Northern Beaches Council will be overseen by Administrator Dick Persson and former Pittwater Council General Manager, Mark Ferguson as General Manager.

A new Council will be elected in September 2017.