The Municipality of Townsville was proclaimed under the "Municipal Institutions Act of 1864" on 15 February 1866, and the boundaries of the municipality were proclaimed on 8 March 1866. On 15 March 1866 a returning officer was appointed to hold elections on 4 April 1866 and the first bye-laws were gazetted on 19 September 1866.
The function of Municipal Councils under the "Local Government Act 1878" was to generally maintain "the good rule and government of the municipality", and specifically to provide and manage such public services and amenities as: parks and reserves, libraries, schools of arts and other recreational facilities and places of improvement; cemeteries; water and sanitation services; roads, bridges, wharves; street lighting; public health services including control of contagious and infectious diseases; fire prevention; the regulation of building construction, and the regulation of and issuing of licences including those for exhibitions and markets, carriers and carters, slaughter-houses and abattoirs.
Municipal Councils were also responsible for the administration of the Municipal Fund and the valuation of properties within the municipality for the purpose of determining and collecting rates. Councils could pass by-laws regarding all matters within their jurisdiction, but all such by-laws required the assent of the Governor-in-Council.
Every municipality was governed by a council composed of a chairman and six, nine or twelve councillors. If the municipality was subdivided, three councillors were assigned to each subdivision.
Under the "Local Authorities Act 1902", Municipal Councils were abolished and under Part II, s 10 of the Act, Townsville was declared a City.