Vanderlin Island (Proposed 1934)

Vanderlin Island is located approximately 50km off the south west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria at the point of the MacArthur River mouth. A processing works was proposed as a co-operative of mainly tableland owned properties, with it being exempt from taxes, shipping acts and all government fees. The intention being to process cattle but reintroduce sheep in large numbers across the tableland areas.

Current Operation

  • Proposed in 1934


  • Vanderlin Island is located 50km from the mouth of the MacArthur River on the South west edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Vanderlin Island #1

Vanderlin Island #2


Other Abattoir locations in Australia

Australian Abattoir Locations



  • April. Government considered granting concessions if one or more chartered companies could be formed that would create development in the North of Australia (Pg 123)
  • 9 Tablelanders met – represented 13 stations covering 25,259 sq miles. (Pg 123)
    • proposed a formation of a chartered company to build an abattoir, freezing works and shipping facility on Vanderlin Island.
  • Would require borrowing £1M to be gauranteed by the government (Pg 123)
    • money was to be borrowed on the British money market
  • Chartered company proposed it would have complete control of the area (Pg 123)
    • including all mineral rights
    • free and uncontrolled industrial power” – to prevent a repeat of Vestey’s Bullocky Point (NT)
    • company and its land would be totally exempt from
      • tariffs and taxation
      • all shipping and navigation acts
      • almost all government fees and charges
    • Education, policing, postal services and defence would be supplied by the Commonwealth
  • Engineer – GH Anderson, appointed NT Pastoral Lessees’ Association assistant secretary – appointed to work full time on the proposal (pg 124)
  • Project in its final form would encompass 100,000 sq miles from the Roper River to the QLD border and south to Austral Downs.(Pg 124)
    • Of this area 68,000 was under leasehold, remainder was planned to be developed.
    • Cattlemen participating would provide land, livestock and station improvements
      • Would be shareholders in proportion to their investment
    • Of the £1M borrowed
      • £250,000 fencing and stud stock, including provision of waters to improve herds
      • Balance was for abattoir, water and power supply, accommodation, trucks jetties, barges and roads
    • Initially it was planned to build a railway to Borroloola then across the salt marshes to the coast plus two miles of stone causeways and bridges on Vanderlin Island
      • Prliminary costing of light rail from Anthony’s Lagoon would cost £1.5M
    • Cattle trucking experiments were being done in NSW, use of diesel transport and trailers would be only 23% of the cost of the railway line.
    • From Borroloola the cattle would be transferred to Vanderlin in shallow-draft lighters similar to the picture below.
      • Capacity of 320 head
      • double decker, twin engined, 130′ long, 32′ wide
      • draught was 5’6″
      • maximum speed 7 knots

Bullocky Point 001Source Distance, Drought and Dispossession McLaren & Cooper
A Bovril cattle barge in Argentina that could be used to transfer cattle to Vanderlin Island

  • Construction of the wharf and abattor would take 2 years
  • Plans to commence operations in 1937
    • require 400t of diesel engine oil,  petrol and lubricating oils to be imported each year
    • Called for 20,000 cattle to be processed annually for the first decade
    • 30,000 head annually for the second decade
    • 40,000 head annually for the third decade
    • Processing would occur March to June, until the roads dried out and then the Tableland cattle would be slaughtered until November
  • As profits would be re-invested sheep were to be reintroduced to the Tableland
  • Walhollow station was to be used as a cattle depot
  • Plan was strongly opposed by other producers.
  • The abattoir was to provide a market for aged cows, scrub bulls and culls.
  • Longer term plan included agriculture development of supply of fruit and vegetables to employees and produce tobacco, maize, peanuts and pigs for export
  • Commonwealth expressed willingness to gaurantee loan subject to a detailed feasibility study
    • 17 days investigation identified no insurmountable problems
    • Cost was now estimated at £1.48M
  • Townsville district associations complained the facility would take shipping and general business from the town.
  • Conacher (Vesteys chairman) forsaw a number of problems in relation to labour, supply, freight and supply of fresh water.
  • Treasury didn’t support the proposal, Government were not prepared to back the loan
  • Anderson approached AMP society for backing and other potential lenders – all refused.
  • Anderson approached the German government to provide materials, plant and machinery, in return for credit for puchase of wool
    • Germany to provide preferential tarriffs to Australia to import 30,000t of beef each year for 10 years
      • German government refused they were not interested in the project


  • Government opposition to the proposal had increased
  • Payne Fletcher report into the issues of the NT thought is was feasible that 2.55M sheep could be run in the Northern Territory


  1. ‘Distance, Drought and Dispossession – A history of the Northern Territory pastoral industry’ Glen McLaren and William Cooper. 2001

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