27 - Wieringermeer Board, Noordoostpolderwerken department

On May 7, 1930, the Wieringermeer Board was established to develop the polders that were reclaimed for the Zuiderzee project. The Board was a project organisation that operated as part of the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (VenW). Throughout the years, the organisation developed from a mostly agricultural-oriented service into a more general service. In total, some 165,000 hectares of new soil was added to the Netherlands, the salty Zuiderzee became the freshwater bodies of IJsselmeer and Markermeer and twenty new villages and cities were established.

On May 7, 1930, the 'Service for the recultivation of the soils drained in the Wieringermeer' was founded. This service was quickly given its alternative name, the 'Wieringermeer Board'.  The founders were three agricultural engineers: ir. F.P. Mesu, ir. A.L.H. Roebroek and ir. S. Smeding. As of 1935, Smeding was the sole director of the Board.

The first Board of the Wieringermeer was formed by these three gents. From left to right, ir A.L.H. Roebroek, ir S. Smeding and ir F.P. Mesu, 8 April 1930.

During the projects in the Noordoostpolderwerken, this organisation was called the Wieringermeer Board, Noordoostpolderwerken department, or the Board, in short. In 1963 the name changed to Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders [National IJsselmeerpolders Agency], abbreviated to RIJP. From 1937, there was a so-called personal union: the director of the Board was also the Landdrost (magistrate) of the public body.

During World War 2, the Board continuously struggled with a lack of materials and skilled workers. Colonisation of the Noordoostpolder was delayed and shifted ahead, giving the occupier little chance to select farmers. 

Ministries

The Board was a project organisation that consecutively had its seat in Alkmaar and in the Flevohuis in Zwolle. Afterwards, the successor of the Board (Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders) moved to Lelystad where it occupied the Smedinghuis in 1974. The state-enacted cultivation of polder soils was a novel thing in Dutch reclamation history. The Board was responsible for the subdivision and development of the Wieringermeer, the Noordoostpolder, and Eastern and Southern Flevoland. Of special note was that (scientific) research, execution, policy and management were all united in one organisation. 

Research in 'Laboratory Noordoostpolder'. Taking soil samples, 1943.

The work activities included: extraction and temporary exploitation of the land, issuance of land to persons, firms and institutions, the plantation of trees and nature reserves, the establishment of villages and cities and the provision of social-economical facilities for the new land. Whether it was house building, education, healthcare, utilities, the Board took care of everything. 

The mayor of Kampen, mister Oldenhof, receives German journalists at the town hall. At the front, a plaque of the Noordoostpolder and the Zuiderzee works, which was explained to the German journalists.

Specific (executive) tasks required the aid of various official and private advisors and bodies, like the Heidemij. Because the establishment of the large agricultural firm was in line with the vision on how to organise the cultivation activities, it was decided that the Board would carry out the temporary state exploitation of the soils. And so it occurred that the minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management soon held the title of largest farmer in Western Europe.

Decision

As the owner of the drained soils, the Board was at liberty to decide on the subdivision of the new land.  In order to promote a beneficial development of society, special attention was being paid to the selection and guidance of inhabitants (see also panes 18 and 19).

First stone laid by dr. Ir. S. Smeding of the Beursgebouw in Emmeloord, 1953.

The role of the Board in the subdivision of the polder, which in our view was rather undemocratic and hierarchical, persisted until the mid-1950s. After that, the Government,  through various official committees and other bodies, began to assume a larger role in the new land. Inhabitants began to participate more and the new land became subservient to the solving of national problems, like the 'small farmer problem', the trade and land consolidation on the old land and the making available of land for Walcherse farmers and flood victim farmers. Smeding was succeeded on 1 October 1954 by A.P. Minderhoud.

 

from left to right, mr Minderhoud, Smeding and Otto, 1964.

Multidisciplinary

By the late fifties, the subdivision and development of the new land had to increasingly be in line with the national spatial planning policy. In this period, the Board transformed from an agricultural service to a multidisciplinary service. The broadening of the Zuiderzee project objectives led to an expansion of the service and a deepening in its activities. Aside from scaling-up the agriculture, the Board also had to account for the interests of scenic design, leisure, nature and traffic. The Board also started the construction of two cities, Lelystad and Almere. On 1 April 1963, Minderhoud was succeeded by dr. ir. W.M. Otto. By that time, they had already left the Noordoostpolder 'behind them'. As of 1962, that location had a fully operational municipal board.

Markerwaard

The Markerwaard was to be the last project of the RIJP, but in 1984 the government decided to reconsider the scope and duties of the RIJP. As an unfortunate part of cost-cutting measures, the decision was made to not construct the Markerwaard and to dissolve the national agency as of 21 December 1988. A standard board of Rijkswaterstaat was then established which integrated the RIJP's core tasks: the Flevoland Board. On 31 December 1996, the Zuiderzee project was actually finalised when the establishment of Southern Flevoland was deemed completed.

Final situation Zuiderzee works.

Film: Maps of the Zuiderzee works