Hornsby Shire is a Local Government Area in the North Shore region of Sydney, Australia. The estimated population of Hornsby Shire as of June 2003 was 155,971 (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Hornsby Shire was originally occupied by the Dharug and Ku-ring-gai tribes of Australian Aborigines. While the northern part of the Shire (via the Hawkesbury River) was visited by the first European settlers in late 1788, due to the Shire's rugged landscape permanent Europen settlement did not begin until almost half a century later.
Hornsby Shire got its name from the town of Hornsby at the eastern end of the Shire, believed to be derived from Convict-turned-Constable Samuel Henry Horne, who earned distinction by capturing bushrangers Dalton and MacNamara on June 22, 1830. In return he was granted land in the locality known as "Horne's grant".
Hornsby Shire has remained largely rural for many decades. The construction of the Northern Railway Line (see Cityrail) in the 1880s opened up the Shire to the rest of Sydney and also to Newcastle, but it was not until motor vehicles became commonplace in the 1950s that the southern part of the Shire truly became part of Sydney's suburbia.
Hornsby calls itself the 'Bushland Shire'. This is in reference to its location on a high ridge separating two expansive areas of natural bushland: The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on the eastern side and the Berowra Valley Regional Park on the western side. These provide large areas of natural parkland that form a greenbelt running from Sydney at the south to the Hawkesbury River at the Shire's northern end. These parks are extremely popular with day-trippers from all areas of Sydney and provides diverse recreations such as bushwalking and boating.
The northern half of Hornsby Shire remains a semi-rural area, retaining a number of farmlands and market gardens. The village of Galston is the centre of this rural area.
The southern half of the Shire is urban, forming part of Sydney's suburbia. Traditionally most of the Shire's residents live in free-standing houses, but in recent years a number of semi-detached housings as well as high-density apartments have appeared around the town of Hornsby.
The Shire has two industrial areas, in Hornsby and Thornleigh. The major commercial centres of Shire are the town of Hornsby; the suburbs of Pennant Hills, Epping, and Carlingford.
Local attractions in the Hornsby Shire include its easily accessible wilderness areas, many parkland recreational facilities such as Fagan Park at Galston and Pennant Hills Park, and Koala Park , a popular koala sanctuary in West Pennant Hills. There are marinas in Hornsby at Bobbin Head on Cowan Creek, Berowra Waters on Berowra Creek, and the village of Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River.
The urban areas of Hornsby is serviced by two railway lines (the Northern Line and the North Shore Line) of the Cityrail network.
The Northern Line forms an arc which begins at the Central Business District, going through the Inner Western suburbs, turns north and enters the Hornsby Shire at its south-western end, heading north-east to the town of Hornsby, then proceeds northward to the city of Newcastle and beyond.
The North Shore Line begins at the Central Business District, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and passing through North Sydney, then proceeds northward until terminating at the town Hornsby.
Because Hornsby Shire is somewhat deficient in bus transports, its residents typically rely heavily on family motor vehicles. Moreover, being the northern gateway of Sydney means that thousands of heavy trucks pass through Hornsby Shire every day and night. The main roads within the Shire are the F3 Freeway (which is managed federally), running from the Wahroonga northward to the city of Newcastle; the Pacific Highway, running from Wahroonga southward to the Central Business District; the Pennant Hills Road (part of Cumberland Highway), running from Hornsby westward to Parramatta; and part of the M2 tollway.
Hornsby Shire has numerous schools, both government and private. Government schools can either be selective or comprehensive; private schools are typically run by Catholic, Anglican, or non-denominational Christian groups. Single-sex schools are somewhat more common in Hornsby Shire than in other parts of Sydney. Regardless of the type of school, however, their academic results are generally above that of the state average. Because Hornsby Shire is often seen as a desirable place to raise schoolchildren, even comprehensive government schools can have long waiting lists.
There is also a TAFE College at the town of Hornsby.
Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital at the town of Hornsby is the main public hospital for the Upper North Shore.
Hornsby Shire has five public libraries, three public swimming pools ("Aquatic Centres"), and a range of other sporting and community facilities.
The Hornsby Shire Council (established in 1906) is the local government authority of Hornsby Shire. The Council consists of nine councillors (three for each of the three wards of approximately equal population), plus a popularly-elected mayor, all elected for a four-year term. Traditionally, "independent" councillors who had close ties with the Liberal Party of Australia dominated the Council; however the current Council (elected in 2004) has three councillors from the Australian Labor Party, plus one from the Australian Greens.
Hornsby Shire is divided between the New South Wales state elatorates of Hornsby and The Hills, while federally it lies within the electorate of Berowra. These have always been "safe" Liberal seats; the current Federal Australian House of Representatives member for Berowra is Philip Ruddock, who, while considered a controversial figure by many Australians, is well-supported by the largely conservative residents of the Berowra Electorate.