Tennant Creek

Authors Note – I may have confused information from 2 sites for abattoirs at Tennant Creek,  there was possibly another beef processing facility that I’m yet to find information on.

Other Names

  • Tennant Creek North
  • Horseworks

Current Operation

  • Closed (1982)


  • Tennant Creek is located 500km north of Alice Springs
  • This facility is located on the eastern side of the Stuart Highway approximately 16km north of Tennant Creek township.

Tennant Ck. #1

Tennant Ck. #2


  • commissioned – Edward Souery’s (NT) 1980


  • Operated seasonally – April to End of November – 80 & 81 seasons1
  • Capacity to process 70 head a day2
  • Originally built as a horse processing plant.4
    • exported meat to Europe for human consumption4
  • Slaughtered Beef when owned by Brunei Meats.4
    • Note this may be in relation to Tennant #2.
      • June 1997 Brunei Government purchased the Brunei Meat exports company which purchased shares in the Tennant abattoir6
      • Ensured Brunie customers would continue to have reasonably priced and genuine halal producers from a halal accredited abattoir6
  • Fundamentally this abattoir was built in the wrong place.5
    • Water supply shortage was a recurring problem
    • Building it above the Tick line (Elliott) would have enabled better welfare of stock and increased throughput.5
      • All major export abattoirs in QLD are above tick line – dated 2007.5
      • Producers incurred extra expenses in clearing animals of ticks.5
      • Additional handling and strees associated with clearance plunge dipping of animals5
      • Increased risk of chemical exposure to meat.5
      • Horses can’t be treated with Amitraz – which is preferred treatment for cattle and buffalo5
      • Amitraz had a nil with-holding period5


Unknown time

  • First Australian domestic abattoir to be granted an export licence for beef.4
    • Note this may be in relation to Tennant #2, not the horseworks.
  • Richard Vincent Hammond – employed as consultant to set up the boning room1
    • ran his own boning out operation in Richmond – was deemed fraudulent by the Royal commission, substituted pet meat for beef. Hammond sold his product through Edward Souery subsidiary in Melbourne 1


  • Souery’s operated
  • Bribed DPI ‘gratuity’ payments. Most inspectors bribed with $100 per week – Main DPI Ronald Stow. Stow originally worked at Alice Springs as grade 2 inspector – bribed there too. Katherine know to do as well. Bribes in return for trimming bruising from carcases rather than stopping the chain for employee to do so. Practice of bribes started as early as 1963. 60 inspectors worked at Tennant ck, 200 through NT/SA knew of bribe system1


  • Cartons beef rejected by USA- ‘off condition’ and ‘unspecified contamination and pathological defects’. Adelaide inspectors thawed and inspected some cartons – contained pieces of bone, hide, blood clots – described as ‘floor sweepings’1
  • Boning room foremam paid 3c extra a carton, quality of workers was very poor, unskilled, labour turnover high and slow1
  • ‘snow shoot’ method of injecting carbon dioxide into the containers to freeze meat sometimes didn’t work or wasn’t checked enough to ensure meat remained frozen
  • Abattoir ceased to kill beef, started to slaughter horses for export, Ran out by December1
  • NSW accepted no meat, QLD very hesitant, Victoria refused any from Tennant ck1
  • Meat sent  to Darwin – condemned


  • Brian Francis Hale – pleaded not guilty – 8 charges of receiving secret commission3
  • Ronald Keith Stow – convicted earlier in year – receiving secret commissions3


PhotoSource NT Library. hdl 10070/9732

Tennant Creek abattoir – dated 1984.


  • Tennant was operating as a export abattoir for horses and cattle7
    • Note may be Tennant #2.
  • Horse numbers slaughtered for 88/89 574 head.7
  • Horse abattoir at Tennant closed.7


Abattoir Front from Southern Gate_edited-1Source J. Purdie. October 2005.
Looking at Tennant abattoir from Southern gate at Highway.
Packaging shed is to the far left, cool rooms – centre. Right side of the road is shed and generators.

Abattoir Front from Northern Gate #2_edited-1Source J. Purdie October 2005
Looking at Tennant abattoir from Northern gate at Highway

Demountable is to far left, rooms joining main processing shed centre, kitchen. Packaging shed to the right with the coolrooms behind it covered by the main roof structure.

Abattoir From NE_edited-1Source J.Purdie. October 2005
Tennant abbatoir – Looking from North East
Standing at unloading ramp for the trucks, looking at yards leading into facility. Demountable or rooms to the right.

Abattoir from SE_edited-1Source J. Purdie October 2005

Tennant abattoir Looking from the South east.
Animals enter through yards from the right, knocking box at the right end of the shed and main processing area to the left.


 17.10.2014 227_edited-1


Source J Bloomfield. October 2014
Looking at facility from southern main road gate.

Racks and equipment had been stacked infront of the coolrooms.

17.10.2014 229_edited-1Source J Bloomfield October 2014
Structure and frame of a shed and boilers and generators. Abandoned tractor in the centre.

17.10.2014 230_edited-1Source J Bloomfield October 2014
Standing at building and looking east into yard and unloading ramp.

17.10.2014 236_edited-1Source J Bloomfield October 2014

Inside slaughter room, looking at the knocking box where animals were stunned. They would have fallen out otherside to enter processing area.

17.10.2014 235_edited-1Source J Bloomfield October 2014
Inside initial processing area, some equipment and railing still there.

17.10.2014 239_edited-1Source J Bloomfield October 2014
Abandoned forklift tractor. Still sitting in the exact same place as 9 years previously


  1. Royal Commission into Australian Meat Industry. A Woodward 1982
  2. ‘Northern Australian Beef Industry – Assessment of risks and opportunities’. ABARE 2012
  3. ‘Ex-Inspector on 8 counts’ Centralian advocate. 02.11.1983
  4. J. Purdie. DPI Meat Inspector.
  5. ‘A pre-feasibiltiy study of supply and demand issues for multi species abattoir in Northern Australia’ G. Niethe 2009
    • Contains extracts of ‘The Meat industry of the NT’ Lorraine Corowa 2007
  6. Far East & Australiasia 2003 – Regional surveys of the world.
  7. ABARES year book 1990
  8. DPI Technical Annual Report 88/89

Tagged: , , ,

3 thoughts on “Tennant Creek

  1. Lee Clarke 28/08/2016 at 10:42 am Reply

    The plant in your photos are not the main Tennant Creek plant which is situated 5 Klms south of Tennant Creek on the highway. It was an export abattoir and worked seasonally.
    It ended up as part of the initial merger of 4 companies which formed Australian Meat Holdings AMH and closed soon after the merger in 1996 as it was unprofitable. It killed only about 3000 head of cattle that year. The site has been for sale for some years and is a run down mess.

  2. Trevor Oxley 23/09/2020 at 6:37 am Reply

    Whoever wrote the commentary on Tennant Creek Meatworks has confused a small local shed with the Export Shed built by Souerys in 1979.
    The Export works killed 400 up to 600 head per day during the dry season and employed over 150 personal . Slaughtermen were bought in from the middle east for halal requirements.
    The shed was built using the latest kill, boning ,packing ,freezing and rendering processes available worldwide for X$ million
    The shed was built at Tennent Creek and not Elliott ,the preferred location, because there was no infrastructure to support such a large works at Elliott.
    Reason for closure debatable as owners were also involved in Meat substitution scandal

    • Jo Bloomfield 30/09/2020 at 8:30 am Reply

      thanks Trevor.
      I haven’t had a chance to make these corrections but thanks for pointing the correction out.
      Cheers Jo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.