Henry’s legacy

By Andrew Potter

A generous gift of $5 million has enabled the setting up of a new trust to advance research into liveable cities and sustainable development.

Warren Halloran with the Vice-Chancellor

A new trust, to be called the Henry Halloran Trust, is being established in honour of a man who was an active advocate for town planning in the first half of the twentieth century. He introduced and implemented new concepts of town planning in the many settlements he established as part of his contribution to nation building.

His son, Warren Halloran, who has actively continued his father’s pioneering works, made the generous donation to the University “in memory of my father and his vision”.

“This transformative gift will enable the University to promote interdisciplinary research in the field,” says Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence. “Our ambition is to become a leading voice and advocate for the advancement of liveable cities, thriving urban communities and sustainable development.”

Solving global challenges

The primary aim of the trust will be to bring together scholars, students and practitioners from around the world for interdisciplinary and collaborative projects to address the most important challenges facing land management and urban development in Australia and overseas. These are global challenges.

John Toon, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University from 1960-2005, has been an adviser to Warren Halloran for many years, working on a number of projects for his company Realty Realizations. These projects included the master plan for Jerrabomberra, a suburb of Queanbeyan, and plans for Vincentia and other settlements in the Jervis Bay region.

“The Halloran contribution to the establishment of new settlements throughout New South Wales is a story yet to be told,” observes Toon. “You cannot fail to be impressed by Warren’s wealth of knowledge about the development of settlements and his abiding interest in the communities he has helped to create.”

It is imperative that we consider the best ways to husband our limited natural resources...

“The beauty of this new trust is that it will bring together experts from diverse academic disciplines such as public finance, infrastructure planning, the social sciences, the built environment, ecology and natural resource management, and law to work together on a range of critical issues that will shape the future of society and the environment.”

“It is imperative that we consider the best ways to husband our limited natural resources as well as searching for new ways to create shelter, to create an environment in which we can live sustainably.”

These words would have been music to Henry Halloran’s ears. He was a surveyor, valuer, engineer and town planner as well as a flamboyant and dynamic real estate developer who promoted and created new settlements throughout coastal NSW. The areas he opened up for settlement were sometimes difficult to access and little explored; others were new estates adjacent to existing settlements, including Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Hard won successes

Poster of Seaforth land sale

Courtesy: National Library of Australia

One of his lasting successes was the development in 1905 of the Seaforth Estate, a waterside suburb on Sydney’s Middle Harbour. He had trouble getting his proposed development approved by the local council, but eventually won the day and decided to name one of the streets “Battle Boulevard” to commemorate his hard-won success.

The huge number of lots for sale meant the auction was spread over two days, complete with a band to entertain the crowds. Special steamers operated from Circular Quay and Neutral Bay to give prospective purchasers the opportunity to view the blocks from the water.

Other well-known settlements established by Henry Halloran include Avoca on the NSW Central Coast, Stanwell Park on the South Coast and the garden suburb of Mount St Thomas in Wollongong.

Halloran’s vision extended from Port Stephens to Jervis Bay, from Canberra to Coffs Harbour. His ambitious plan was for Port Stephens City to be the future New York of Australia.

He commissioned Walter Burley Griffin to prepare plans for the future city, using similar planning concepts to those Griffin used in Canberra – wide streets, circles and a very careful fitting of the urban form to the topography. But his ambitious plans evaporated when the railway wasn’t extended to Port Stephens, ending hopes for a big naval base north of Sydney.

St Vincent City on Jervis Bay was intended to be Sydney’s sister city but only embryonic parts of the city were established, notably the suburbs to be, now distinct settlements, of Orient Point and Culburra.

Henry Halloran was a man who dealt in land and dreams. Some of those dreams are about to come to fruition because of the generosity of his son.

Urban planning and the Halloran name have been synonymous in Australia for over a hundred years. Now thanks to Warren’s foresight and transformative gift, future generations will know the name and reap the benefits for many years to come.