SMITH, DD

David Douglas Smith Road Construction.

Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2006.

David Douglas Smith, remembered as DD, first came to the Northern Territory in 1926 as a surveyor for the Commonwealth Railways.  His job was to supervise the surveying on three proposed sections of railway line, Daly Waters to Dajarra, Dunmarra to Wyndham and Bourke to Borroloola.

In 1928 DD resigned from the railways and took up a position with the Australian Government’s newly formed Department of Works as the first resident engineer for Central Australia.

Under his jurisdiction came the road transport fleet, mainly AEC trucks, and the development of the road between Alice Springs and Darwin.  The Ghan train was due to be extended from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs the next year and a good road was seen as vital in getting essential goods and supplies from the railhead.  DD and his men upgraded the road through the MacDonnell ranges and northwards towards Darwin.  It was back breaking work with most of it done by hand with shovels and picks and hard physical yakka.  DD ultimately took control over most of the Territory to basically everywhere excepting the Darwin city area and the Department of the Interior evolved to become the Department of Public Works and Railways.

The area that was now under DD’s administration covered one sixth of the continent and while it had an exceptionally large landmass, it was sparsely populated with little industry to sustain it.  While Government certainly had a definitive objective to encourage settlement in the more remote, less populous areas of Australia through the improvement of basic road and rail infrastructure, priorities changed with WWII.

The construction of an all-weather road link between Alice Springs and Darwin was still a priority, but now it was because of the Japanese entering World War Two in 1940.  Road building resources were brought in from all states of Australia and 1500 kms of sealed road was constructed linking Darwin in the north to the railhead in Alice Springs.  It was the biggest road building exercise undertaken by the Allied Forces during WWII.

David Douglas Smith died in Adelaide in July 1984 and received a state funeral.  Several generations of his family still live in Alice Springs were DD is remembered as a real pioneer.