Caught in a bind

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 21-Sep-2017

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Bendigonians believed they had a solution to the sanitation question that was beneficial for both the city and the Shire of Strathfieldsaye.

Keck’s land, where the night soil was being deposited, was just inside Strathfieldsaye’s boundary. 

On the Bendigo side it was touted that the improvements to the land for its cultivating potential following the depositing of night soil would be advantageous for the shire. 

The land duly nourished would then be the perfect place for an orchard that would become a great rate producer and an attraction for Strathfieldsaye. 

Yet the positive aspects and the desire for co-operation in this important matter for the Bendigo council was not being entertained by the neighbouring council.

Meetings on the subject had been planned between the two administrative bodies, and there seemed to be a sense of optimism in Bendigo that all would be well. 

While all these activities were afoot, the shire’s council had its health inspector visit the Keck land at a most inopportune time immediately after extensive heavy rain. 

It was no wonder that Keck’s workers had not been in a position to cover the night soil that had been deposited the previous day.

A conclusion was being drawn that the shire was double dealing with the Bendigo council because of its legal action against Keck. 

Strathfieldsaye felt that any residents in the vicinity of Keck’s land at Spring Gully would find the depositing of this most valuable of fertiliser very offensive.

When the matter came to court, Keck’s legal representative had called upon five residents who were living the closest to his land to give their opinion of whether they were offended by the depositing of night soil. 

Without exception there was not a single murmur of  complaint. Surely, it was argued, the Central Board of Health must have approved of the city council’s actions?

It was pointed out in the clear light of day that the Health Act layed the responsibility on every local governing body to suppress any nuisance or remedy anything calculated to be injurious to the health of the public within its territory.

Upon failing to properly oversee these duties the Central Board of Health had the power to step in, do the work and compel the municipality (in this case Bendigo) to pay all expenses incurred.

In the Health Act there were stringent clauses relating to the disposal of night soil and hefty fines could be imposed for any person or organisation that contravened those regulations. 

News came to light that Bendigo had applied for land in the neighbouring shires to deposit night soil, however the other shires involved had not been consulted in the matter.

Further it was revealed that the Bendigo council had gone ahead to erect a night soil pan washing depot on Keck’s land even though Strathfieldsaye Shire had not acquiesced this action. 

Everything about the way that this whole affair had been handled by the Bendigo councillors was not according to the lette

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