Tag Archives: abattoirs in NT

Katherine #1


Other Names

  • Bovril meatworks

Current Operation

  • Never completed to start operations.


  • 300km S of Darwin, Victoria Hwy Katherine 3km

Australia. Katherine

Map. Katherine. jpg


  • Bovril Australian Estate (English) owned VRD at the time(1947)


  • An abattoir was begun to be built and due to lack of government backing was stopped and demolished before even finished

Katherine. Bovril.Source – Northern Territory Library

Katherine #1 Abattoir – Bovril works, Photo dated 1951. construction was never completed

Is now the site of BOC gas, Bovril Street. Cement posts are still evident but roof is now a flat roof.


  • Bovril moved equipment and some infrastructure from Manbulloo site1
  • Bovril leased 2,260 acres, land close to racecourse area and began erecting ‘Bovril meat extraction plant’2
  • Meatworks never used. Rumour was Vestey’s were going to take over or Bovril Estates3


  • Project abandoned – Cost £300,0004


  • Extraction plant construction stopped and started several times finally abandoned 3rd January 19512
  • “To this day, the enormous concrete shell still stands, only now it houses a multitude of trades, including a panel beating shop, a mechanic and a furniture factory. Also standing a short distance up the road, are the staff quarters and engineer’s house which were erected by Bovril and which are now part of a caravan park”2


  • Victorian company Preston Meatworks & William Say & co. Considered purchase of Bovril equipment to build a plant between Elliott & Darwin, small scale to start them to eventually process 30,000 hd a year4. This never happened!


  1. ‘Pastoral Australia: Fortunes, Failures & Hard Yakka: A historical view.” M. Pearson, J Lennon. 2010
  2. ‘Katherine abattoir finally put down’ ABC rural 15.09.11
  3. ‘Meat Monopolies’ Northern Standard 07.03.47
  4. ‘Meatworks project for N. Territory’ The Canberra times. 21.11.52

Point Stuart

A small abattoir that was in operation prior to  BTEC was being conducted, Processed buffalo and cattle.

Other Names

  • Jimmy Creeks meat works

Current Operation

  • Closed


  • 150km E of Darwin

Point Stuart abattoir ruinsSource – Northern Territory Library. Not dated.

Point Stuart abattoir ruins.


  • Epitoma Pty Ltd1





  • Alan Woods worked as an accountant for the abattoir.6


  • Bulls and other cattle being delivered to site by Tom Fawcett from Old Mt Bundey station(Pg 162)4


  • Paddy Heatley carted buffalo from Walgait reserve to Pt Stuart (then called Jimmy’s creek)5


  • abattoirs closed for a period (Pg 244)4


  • AMEU served logs of claims to set up tally system2
  • Workers contracted, unskilled workers earned $50-$60 a day2
  • Skilled slaughterman earn $350 day2


  • AMIEU set up picket line3


  • Closed prior to 871


  1. Savanna Responses to Feral Buffalo in Kakadu National Park (2007)
  2. Mudginberri revisted: a case study of a secondary boycott. Green Left. 16.01.13
  3. Mudginberri dispute. Wikipedia 16.01.13
  4. ‘The Privileged Few’ Jeff Hill. 2008
  5. http://www.roadtransporthall.com
  6. ‘NT live exporters mourn loss of founding identity Alan Woods.’ Beef central. 18.02.14


Current Operation

  • Closed


  • West Alligator River, 190km E of Darwin, 60km W of Canon Hill & Mudginberri

Map. Munmarlary. jpg




  • Species Cattle / Buffalo1



  • Closed prior to 871


  1. Savanna Responses to Feral Buffalo in Kakadu National Park (2007)


Other names

  • Wild Bore

Current Operation



  • 100km SE of Darwin


  • Wild Boar Abattoir


  • Pet meat abattoir, couple hundred metres from licensed premises.



  • Pet meat (horse)was being packed as Buffalo for human consumption1
  • Pet Meat 30c/kg – Buff $1.40/kg1
  • Other litigation pending at Wild Boar at this time



1.       Royal Commission into Australian Meat Industry A. Woodward 1982

Alice Springs #1 (The Gap)

Current Operation 

  • Demolished 1968. New abattoir built Alice Springs #2 (Ghan Rd)


  •  North of The Gap, South of  Gap view Motel. Area is now a grassed reserve.

Map. Alice Springs




Source – National Archives – Dated 1958


  •  1st abattoir- The Gap
  • Built by army2.


  • South Australian Government undertake building a telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin to link with the international system coming from the Far East4.


  • March 11. A gap is found through the MacDonnell Ranges, Area now called Alice Springs4.


  • First Pastoral lease of the Alice Springs area is granted4.
    • Undoolya station, Aboriginal meaning ‘Shadow’

War years

  • Abattoir was built by the army and handed to government administration after the war5


  • Central Australian Pastoral lessees Association approach Commonwealth government to establish a meat works in Alice Springs3


  • Alice Springs butchers apply for increase in price of all meat to cover increased government fees of slaughter and inspection charges conducted at the abattoir5
    • Cattle
      • Old fees. Inspection 1/6, slaughtering 3/65
      • New fees. Inspection 5/-, slaughtering 33/65
    • Sheep and Goats
      • Old fees. Inspection 6d, slaughtering 33/65
      • New fees Inspection 1/6, slaughtering 6/65
    • Pigs
      • Old fees. Inspection 9d, slaughtering 1/95
      • New fees. Inspection 2/-, slaughtering 15/65
    • Increases amount to an extra £3,000 per year, 800% increase on previous rates5.
  • Up to the 30/06/1954 following numbers of stock were slaughtered for  local consumption5
    • Cattle 788 head5
    • Sheep 2,770 head5
    • Pigs 381 head5
  • Government had maintained the abattoir at a loss5
    • employed one man full time to clean and maintain the facility5
    • Stock inspector visited 3 times per week5


  • Major drought in the region4
    • Became the worst in history at the time, not breaking until 1966



Source. Alice Springs Library. Town Planning 1963

Town Planning map of 1963 showing the location of the Slaughter reserve in ‘The Gap’ area of Alice springs. Now the area is a grass reserve


  • Major drought that began in 1960 is broken by one fall of 6″4
    • further rains followed several weeks later


  • Buildings sub standard and no longer met hygiene standards2
  • Demolished and new abattoir site Ghan Road. Alice Springs #2.


  1. Removed
  2. ‘$370,000 abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 23.03.68
  3. ‘Pastoralis want meat works here’ Centralian Advocate 29.07.1949
  4. ‘Pastoral Properties of Australia’ Peter Taylor 1984
  5. ‘Butchers hit by abattoir fee increase – apply for a price rise’ Centralian advocate 13.08.1954

Alice Springs #2. (Smith St)

Current Operation 

  • Closed, burnt down 1988.


  • Smith St beside railway siding, is now abandoned and derelict with some area of the lot used as a storage and freight depot.

Map. Alice Springs

Locations of other Australian abattoirs


  • As at 1984. Wales meat. (Sydney based)6


  • Employed 130 workers4.


  • 1st abattoir- The Gap
  • Built by army2.
  • Buildings sub standard and no longer met hygiene standards in 1968. Location was in a increasinly urbanised section of town and a major access point through the Gap.

Authors Note. In researching this site I came across a number of adverts which I think illustrate that period of time technology and thoughts. They are not necessarily in relation specifically to the Alice Springs Smith street abattoir.




Source. Beef in Northern Australia – JH Kelly. 1971. Pg 9


  • Australian Labor party branch meeting complain of deplorable conditions at the Alice Springs abattoir (Alice Springs #1. The Gap). Describing conditions as a major health hazard for Alice Springs12.
    • Consideration is urged to build a new abattoir further from the town.
    • Local butchers were disgusted with the slaughter conditions and lack of fly proofing of the facility with meat often covered in flies.
      • Meat was at time blown by the time it was collected.
    • Blood and offal was allowed to lie in heaps on the open ground
    • Complaints had been made in the past 12 months with some improvements occurring.
    • A pressing need was for a cool-room to be constructed to hold slaughtered meat


  • Darwin. A  £300,000 export and home market abattoir will be opening in Darwin in Mid May13..
    • Being built by William Angliss – a subsidiary of the British company Vesteys Limited.
    • Company paid £5/10/0 per 100lbs dressed weight
      • The highest price paid to Top End Cattlemen ever.
      • Hong Kong markets pay 5 and half d. per pound on the hoof.
    • A private company has lodged plans to open an abattoir in Katherine costing £200,000
      • Katherine company announced it would pay £5 per 100lbs dressed weight and would be operating by the end of March
    • Two abattoirs in the Top end will mean the first competitive market that Top End cattle have ever had
      • It could lead to increased prices and stability in a shaky industry” Director of Animal Industries Mr Whittam
  • October. Katherine and Darwin abattoirs are forced to delay killing stock as their coldstores are full due to delays in ships loading meat at the Darwin Port87.
    • Katherine abattoir may be forced to close a month early for the season87


  • July. Katherine abattoir operation is being impacted by high electricity and freezer charges, shocking road conditions and inadequate loan funding from the government14.
  • Drought conditions are prevailing in the Alice Springs area with some areas having received only light falls in early June15..
    • Cattle are generally in poor condition in the area
  • September. Top End abattoirs may be forced to slow down operations due to uneconomic levels because of low cattle number supply for coming season16..
    • Reports indicate Katherine and 10 mile abattoir were currently working at capacity
    • Numbers of stock were available but higher meat prices needed to paid and better control of stock on properties was required.
      • Mataranka station was fencing at area at £300 a mile
        • prices of fencing  were considered crippling unless higher stock prices were received
        • 30,000 cattle were killed at the 2 meatworks this season
          • Each was expected to end their seasons in a few weeks


  • March. Unsigned Letter to the Editor of Centralian Advocate indicates that a new abattoir site is being considered beside the one being suggested at the current trucking yards (Smith Street)88
    • Water supply is an issue as water is gravity fed in Alice Springs at this time88
    • there is a bitumen road to the site and cattle are already trucked there to reach the railway siding for loading88


  • US quota diversification scheme took effect (pg 64)10.
    • disadvanteagd northern works who were most suited to grinding markets.10
    • R Condon – Katherine #2 (NT) was chief spokesperson that argued for special consideration of northern works under the US beef quota system10
    • Number of Northern plants received special allocations for US beef quota.10
    • Alice Springs abattoir was given 2,000t quota to US.10
    • US quota was worth $1B at the time10
  • March. Announcement in Canberra calling for tenders to build new abattoir2
    • Based on a plan would allow for expansion to overseas export markets2
    • Costs of Killing charges would have to be adjusted for new facilities, cost to build $370,0002
  • June. Difficulty in settling contracts for construction and tenders3
    • Intended to be a multi purpose – as in kill local and export3
    • Building intended to start before the end of the year3
  • October. Site was constructed west of town, next to railway trucking yard4
    • Contractors to build – West Australian Contractors Universal constructions Pty Ltd4
    • Scheduled to open March 19694
      • Provided the sub-contractors were ready to begin
      • Work had begun on the killing floor (first floor above the ground)
        • require 160 cubic yards of concrete
      • Cattle race and another for pigs and sheep had been poured and wooden slats would be laid in them
      • Frames and floor of the skin drying shed have been completed
      • Earthworks around the abattoir had been completed except diversion of the creek.
      • mains water had been laid
    • Set up to kill cattle, pigs and sheep


  • February. Abattoir is nearing completion of first stage and is available for lease or purchase17.
    • Applications could be made and received to the close of 2pm 28/03/196917
    • Government was under no obligation to accept any offers17
      • Government had always intended that private enterprise take over the abattoir19
  • Abattoir had been built to plans prepared under the supervision of the Commonwealth department of Primary Industries17.
    • Would initially only cater to local requirements17
    • Met the standards of export and modern hygiene requirements18
      • Complete on the rail dressing
        • carcases never touched the floor
        • Large storage chillers
    • Design allowed for considerably higher kill capacity than old facility18
      • as requested by the pastoral community18
        • take advantage of opportunities to export interstate chilled quarters18
    • Designed for throughput of 10,000 head per year19
      • Capable of further expansion if required
  • Construction was hoped to be finished by late April17
  • November. New Alice Springs abattoir would be opened by mid December18
    • Government charges would be significantly increased for inspection and slaughter with the government subsidising by about $3 per head18
    • Killing charge from $1.95 to $10.70 per head
      • Butchers estimate charges would raise price of meat 7c per lb
    • Comparable abattoirs – Darwin were charged $10.25 per head including the killing.
    • Alice Springs butchers were expected to provide their own labour while the government ran the abattoir pending a lease or sale
  • Minor items of equipment remained to be installed18.
  • Government were expected to soon close the old abattoir at Gap road (Alice Springs #1) and withdraw the inspector there18.
    • Force the new abattoir to be used as no meat can be sold for human consumption unless it has been inspected
    • Higher kill capacity resulted in higher interest and depreciation charges on a “per head” basis
    • Costs would be reviewed.
  • December. 2 butchers announce they will refuse to use the new abattoir under the planned charges19
    • Mr Terry Leigh and Mr George Summers


  • March. Abattoir is sold to an Alice Springs Company $452,30019
    • Company. Alice Springs Abattoir Pty Ltd19
      • Chairman of Directors Mr Terry Leigh (butcher by trade)19
      • Directors. Ted Hayes, Brian Bowman, Wally Mason and Tony Chisholm20
      • Secretary Mr Peter Batty20
      • Board comprised of town people, pastoralists and butchers19
        • Mr George Summers is involved in the company19
      • General Manager Mr Gerry Gentle20
      • Shareholders include current town Mayor. Mr Jock Nelson20
      • 25 shareholders in total90
    • Local kill was planned initially19
      • for local butchers and delivery to their shops
    • By Products plant was being installed costing $70,00019
      • Produce blood and bone, manure and tallow
    • Installation of the by-products plant would enable better economic operation of the plant and it could better kill chilled beef for southern states19
    • Anticipated that initial kill would be 100 head of cattle per week19
      • Killing to occur one day a week
      • Employing 10 people
    • Government was now installing bitumen access roads19
  • Local pastoralists are trucking cattle via the trains south to Maree and South Australia19
  • Agreement to purchase at $452,000 based on a 40 year low-interest loan90



 Source – National Library of Australia. Alice Springs abattoir 1970


Source – National Library of Australia. Alice Springs abattoir 1970


Source – National Library of Australia. Alice Springs abattoir 1970

Ghan road abattoirs #1_edited-2

Source. P. Bloomfield. 1970’s
Cattle in the yards at the Ghan rd abattoir.

Ghan road abattoirs #3Source P. Bloomfield. 1970’s
Shorthorn steers at the Ghan road abattoir.

cattle train_edited-1Source P. Bloomfield. 1970’s
Cattle train – Alice Springs.



An advert in the Centralian Advocate for Haulmark Trailers dated 18/05/1972

  • May. Alice Springs Abattoir Pty Ltd is threatened with closure due to unpaid debt20
    • Building contractors – Ferrari and Co were proceeding against the abattoir for $20,73120.
      • Built and amenities block and an concrete enclosure for transformers
    • Before the petition for winding up the Alice Springs company abattoir could be presented the Alice Springs abattoir company obtained a interlocutory injunction to prevent it (petition) being lodged for one week20
    • Delegation from the company and NT governments meet in Canberra with Prime Minister Mr McMahon20
      • Delegation were to discuss obtaining guarantee of a loan to allow the abattoir to continue functioning under its present ownership
      • More than $100,000 of the paid up capital was from local sources
        • Locals and pastoralist would be hurt by the closure
    • Alice Springs abattoir company had rejected an offer to manage the abattoir by John Nankervis (Mudginberri)20
      • Mr Nankervis was part owner, director and works manager of the Victorian meat company, H.W.Wilson Pty Ltd
      • Would have sought and interest, likely a controlling interest to manage the facility
  • October. Minister for Primary Industries Mr Ian Sinclair inspects facility and listens to suggestions for improving its throughput21.
    • Acknowledged financial difficulties of the operating company
  • Suggestion that the mutton chain should be removed21
  • Tuberculosis-reactive cattle were now being killed at the facility21
    • Meat went through certain processes and was safe for human consumption
    • America were still buying this sort of meat
  • South Australia would likely come into line and implement a program to eradicate TB and Brucellosis21.
    • Federal government would ramp up the national TB and Brucellosis eradication campaign21
    • Failure to eradicate the disease would affect export markets21
    • It was hoped a scheme of compensation to the producers for the campaign would be formulate21
  • Pastoralists were now getting ‘decent’ money for beef cattle and had the chance to meet the changing demands of the market21
  • December. Rainfall for the year is a record 903mm recorded at Alice Springs Post Office99
    • 778mm recorded at the Airport99


  • Australia answers a request by US Nixon administration to increase beef exports at short notice to the US to solve a domestic supply problem101


  • October. Industries Assistance Commission releases ‘Meat report’89
    • Doesn’t recommend freight subsidies to Central Australian Cattle Producers89
    • If a farm business is deemed non-viable by rural reconstruction authorities there could be provided a living for up to one year equivalent to unemployment benefits of the time89
    • Loans limited to $15,000, at interest rates below 4%. Repayment after 2 years for purpose of carry-on finance89
    • Meat export charge of 1.6 cents per pound remains. 0.6c goes towards BTEC program, 1c is used to recoup export meat inspection costs89
      • Some beef producers were unable to turn off cattle as costs of freight to markets was costing more than was being received for sale of the animals89
        • further supply of cattle to already low markets could actually drive prices lower89
      • Mustering assistance was not made to producers who were bringing cattle together for the BTEC program89
    • 3 local producers and a butcher propose building a third abattoir90
      • Wamboden abattoir NT
      • Dissatisfaction with the operation of the Alice Springs abattoir90
      • Producers think the works should look beyond supply of only the domestic market of Alice Springs
    • Alice Springs abattoir would lodge an objection to Wamboden but was unlikely to be successful in stopping the proposal90
    • Current manager. Terry Leigh90
      • Secretary Geoff Holdich90
    • Alice Springs was currently killing 160 – 200 head a week90
      • Capacity was 400 per week90
    • Value of the works was now estimated at $1M90
      • Loan agreement taken out in 1970/ 71 purchase was arranged for 40 years as low-interest90
      • Payments to the government would be up to date by December 197590
    • Current assessment of market opportunities made upgrades to the facility to meet export requirements not profitable90
      • Upgrades would cost $300,00090
        • Installation required of boning room, blast freezers, more cold storage and general improvements such as tiling throughout the works90
    • Meat quality was an issue with quality of stock on the general market too fat and not sought after by southern butchers90
    • Most Centralian beef was exported for manufacturing purposes90
      • A local restaurant was advertising it only served meat imported from the south.90
    • Profitability of serving a wider market was doubtful under present market conditions90
      • Stock purchased from Haasts Bluff area (200 east of Alice Springs) for $10 per head on property90
        • Transport to Alice cost $13.70
        • Killing fee was $29.29 (slightly less than Adelaide)
        • Freight to Adelaide $16.27
        • Re-inspection and insurance $6.50
        • Made the average carcase cost $75.76 landed Adelaide
      • Price paid was 10c pound, average carcase weighed at 651 pounds90
        • Average carcase returned $65.10
          • Loss of $10.66 realised
      • Local meat wholesalers were negotiating further contracts with southern retailers increasing a planned order to 200 carcases per week90
    • Alice Springs abattoir committee management had approached Wamboden group opportunity to obtain financial interest and take part in management at the Alice Plant90
      • Wamboden group declined90
    • Wamboden abattoir begins operations and supplies meat to Gillen Meat store, IL Sorrentino and Woolworths91


Source Centralian Advocate 13.11.1975
Advertisement placed to sell meat from the local butcher IL Sorrentin Butchers

  • Cattle turnoff in November from the Alice Springs area totalled 898 head92.
    • 451 to local butchers
      • 376 fats and 75 store
    • Alice Springs yard trucked 407
    • MacDonnell yard trucked 185
    • Finke yard trucked 306
  • December. Cattle train from Alice Springs is cancelled as producers are concerned freight costs will exceed sale price of the stock93.
  • Good rains are received in the area with cattle prices also improving94
    • Large numbers of stock in the region due to build up and result of low prices and good seasons
  • December. Rainfall recorded for the region99
    • Alice Springs Post Office 684mm99
    • Alice springs Airport record 600mm99


  • January. Cattlemen’s Association of North Australia (CANA) feels better beef prices are about to occur100
    • Current president  of CANA Bill Tapp100
    • Forecast $15 per 100kg at the opening of the season100
      • Return to the producer has been low100
    • Expected beef prices to improve by 30%100
  • Government were negotiating better export deals100
    • 90 – 96% of beef is being exported100
      • US market forecast to take 300,000 tonnes in coming year100
      • Note – later document states that 300,000 will be the increased amount.
        • represent 4% of total American consumption100
      • Japan is expected to take 80,000 – 90,000 tonnes100
      • Rest of export will go to SE Asia and Europe100
  • Rising abattoir costs and lack of slaughtering capacity in the NT for expected 190,000 cattle turn off is affecting producer returns100
  • Abattoir capacity in the NT at the present time only had 100,000 head capacity100
  • US increase beef import quotas101.
    • Quota will be 4.2% above the previous year101
      • Secure an additional 300,000 t101.
    • US export represents 52-53% of total American imports101.
    • Irish had been given a quota in 1974 that they did not take up and could be possibly given to Australian exporters101
  • February. Alice Springs abattoir meat inspector is withdrawn for one week until minor repairs are conducted on the killing floor102
    • re-packing of corroded insulation covers on some steam pipes102
  • Current abattoir manager – Terry Leigh102
  • Significant flooding in the area had affected stock supplies102


  • March.Wales Australian Resources Pty Ltd, owners of the facility give assurance that it would kill stock for the local market in Alice Springs95
    • $2M investment will be used to purchase and upgrade the facility to export standard95
      • Hopes to gain US export licence through government assistance95
      • Meeting was held 07/03/1977 with interested persons and government to consider the matter95.
      • US export market would allow the abattoir to purchase all types of stock including cows and store cattle that were presently unsaleable95.
  • Managing director – George Whitaker95
    • Current local market within the NT was insufficient to make the works viable for supply of only domestic product95
  • Properties were currently overstocked which was of concern to the Government and NT Soil conservation Board95
  • Abattoir is hoped to be back in production by the end of May95
  • June. Alice Springs abattoir operators delay commencement of killing from expected May 3022.
    • company would not commence killing for the domestic market before killing for the export because it may prejudice the grading of the export licence requirements22
    • Killing was now expected to begin mid July22.
  • New Owners of Alice Springs abattoir are said to have invested millions of dollars22.
    • No guarantee and export quota would be allocated to them
    • If the abattoir applies for a licence it will require Australian and American inspections
    • If USDA quota is allocated it would enhance the viability of the facility
      • At the moment there is only one standard of export licence that currently satisfies the USDA requirements
    • The abattoir has important function to process domestic kill for export and local sale.
      • Alice Springs area if heavily overstocked at the present time
  • September. Facility is opened after a $2M refit of equipment23
  • November. Facility is shut due to rain and lack of markets forced a shutdown23
    • Of the 150 employees 145 were laid off
    • Peak of production 450 cattle a day were being killed
      • Capable of throughput of 600 head
        • At operation of 600 head a day the facility would have employed 200 people


  • January. Centralian beef producers support their claim for an American beef quota for the Alice Springs abattoir28
    • Meat and Livestock Corporation had decided not to grant an export quota to Alice Springs28
      • newly constructed facility had to earn a quota under the meat diversification scheme
        • that could take a long time
        • Blue tongue virus restrictions prevented cattle being allowed to move interstate
        • Alice Springs was free of Blue tongue but was a buffer zone.
          • QLD had recently lifted transport restrictions with NSW currently considering lifting them also
          • SA still had a ban in place of cattle transported from the NT
        • Alice Springs would like 10,000 t of the as yet unallocated 30,000t
      • If the abattoir could not get a quota then an assistance scheme for local producers should apply to allow livestock to be transported to Adeliade28
  • Operations were scheduled to resume 10/01/1978 but will depend if markets can be found23
    • future largely depended on the allocation of a quota
  • Current manager of Alice Springs abattoir. Mr Lindsay Hart23
  • No other markets were available that warranted opening of the facility23
  • Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation (AMLC) allocate quotas according to past performance of the facility103
    • Put Alice Springs at a distinct disadvantage to other processors103.
      • perpetuated benefits to established exporters103
      • New works were being locked out of the lucrative USA, Japan and Canada markets103
      • Alice Springs was the only area in Australia without a quota103
        • Cattlemen claimed that an export quota would ease their financial and overstocking problems as there was no economic market for low grade stock because of high freight costs103.
          • Some reports say Alice Springs region is overstocked by 50%
    • Alice Springs facility was undecided to complete further work on improvements or even re-open under present circumstances103
      • Possibility facility would give a guarantee of price increase $10 -$20 per head above last year if a quota was made available103.
      • Company had invested $2M into the facility so far103.
        • may well have been a mistake if a quota is not received103
    • Primary Industry minister – Ian Sinclair. says quota is not the answer to local cattleman’s problems103
      • other measures needing reduction in restrictions were live exports overseas and into South Australia with reduction of blue tongue  impositions103.
  • Alice Springs facility was sending 2,500 tonnes of meat to markets in USA, Canada and Japan through quotas of southern meatworks103.
  • US special quota is received of 2,000 tonnes104.
    • Had producer support104
    • Once-only allocation approved by other growers104
      • Other producers jealously guard their own abattoir interests and wanted to allocate only 500 tonnes to Alice Springs104.
  • South Australia is expected to lift the import ban of cattle from Central Australia because of a suspected outbreak of bluetongue105
    • only apply to fat cattle intended for slaughter105
    • Stock must be sold through Pooraka yards near Adelaide105
      • NSW and Victorian interests would purchase Central Australian stock through these facilities105
  • March. A new type of railway container is used that utilises low temperature gas to keep goods cold on the 1600km trip to and from Adelaide24


Alice Springs abattoir advert in the Centralian Advocate 09/03/1978

  • September. Fumes from the abattoir are causing complaints of vomiting, headaches and nausea in the town residential regions25
    • Scrubbers would be fitted to the air filters.25
      • worked on principal of passing contaminated air through a spray of water
  • Abattoir was in a healthy financial state in spite of low beef quotas25
    • Some residents claim the abattoir was being irresponsible and was denying there were problems with the operation25
      • chimney of the cooking stack was too low and did not allow the cooking smell to be lifted high enough and carried away
      • appropriate legislation would be introduced if the facility didn’t rectify the issue of smell.


  • January. Saleyard prices of cattle were likely to increase this year26
    • Slaughterings expected to decline and prices increase about 20% above the previous years26
  • Peak in slaughter animals of NT abattoirs from 1979 to 1983 was due to increase cattle supply following beef slump of the mid 1970’s11.
    • Southern Part of the NT was experiencing good seasons at this time

Insert chart of Number of cattle slaughtered at NT abattoirs 1978 – 1987

  • Alice Springs abattoir is told by Producer group to appreciate the US quota it received and get on with the job
  • April. Work begins on the clearance of a site at Tennant creek to build a $2M abattoir27
    • Governments development corporation would lend $1M repayable over 7 years
    • Tennant creek area case indicated that the meatworks would be able to almost operate year-round27
  • May. Smell from the abattoir is plaguing Alice Community29
    • Hearing is held that voices opinions of the public that the government are aware of the smell issue but will not take action to force the abattoir to rectify it
  • US Import agreement for 10 years is made38
    • Based on 8% of the US demand38
    • Hamburger trade of meat that was then mixed with American product for sale as hamburgers38
    • Half of the supply was coming from Australia38


  • Brumbies are a significant issue on pastoral properties30.
    • The Alice Springs abattoir rule out the killing of horses at the plant as it can only be used for beef export and would also require major change at the present complex
    • Current export licence that is the highest that can be obtained forbids the slaughter of horses at the facility
    • A mobile abattoir similar to that used in the Top end for Buffalo processing is considered for the horse issues.
  • February. Alice Springs abattoir will open for the 1980 season on 20/02/198031
    • Current manager Mr Tom McDougall
    • Interviews for general labour were being held at the plant
  • Stations in the region are in need of rain after an extended dry period32
    • Drought relief policy is to be considered for the region
  • Kulgera trucking yards are near completion allowing the first south bound rail shipment of cattle to occur in the next week32
    • Kulgera is located 250km south of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway
  • June. Legal action has been instigated by 2 residents against the abattoir to take action about the noxious fumes have been in the region for more than 3 years33
    • Scrubbers had been installed at the facility but had little or no effect
  • Meat industry Royal commission is hearing matters into ‘Roo in the stu’ substitution racket.
  • A major scandal erupts due to Gratuity payments to meat inspectors at Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Katherine abattoirs35
    • Gratuity had been accepted to cut out excessive bruising of stock by the inspectors instead of stopping the carcase chain each time and having a worker perform the task35
      • Tennant Creek had paid inspectors up to $150 each a week35
        • Similar payments occurred at Alice and Katherine35.
      • If the payments were not made the inspectors would adhere so closely to  the government regulations as to make the plants operation impossible35
        • Payments were to ensure the slaughterhouse production remained at optimum levels36.
        • Payments had been disguised at ‘DPI’ or called handling charges35.
      • No other meat inspectors around Australia outside of the NT received extra payment for the function36.
    • Present arrangement of NT export abattoirs were supervised by DPI officers and inspectors based in Adelaide36.
  • September. USDA annual US meat quota has been removed37
    • 90% of the kill in past years had been exported to the US
    • There was still 3 months and about 18,000 cattle left to slaughter in the season
    • Quota opened at 307,000t in January and was already half filled when the Territory season began37. Authors note – Think the quota of 307,000 is for  just the NT abattoirs
  • October. Throughput at the abattoir is a record kill of 11,000 head since it’s opening in August 197734
    • Average of 2,500 – 3,000 animals per week
    • Average monthly kill is usually about 10,000 head
    • Was hope that a kill of 80,000 would be killed this year prior to Christmas period
  • Current Manager is Lindsay Hart34
  • Abattoir is faced with loss of a market and rising operating costs37..
    • Electricity costs have risen by 34% in one year.
    • Labour costs have risen by 15-20%
      • Currently employs 155 people
    • Freight costs have risen 15%
    • Drought elsewhere means southern buyers are competing for cattle in the territory to keep their meat works at working capacities37
    • Special consideration is requested of government for territory abattoirs37
  • Beef trade between Australia and the US was expected to remain strong38
    • Scandal of meat substation played down in American media to protect their own industry38
  • Present Australian drought was likely to lead to a supply bulge early next year
  • Current prices38
    • $65 to $150 a head for cows
    • $100 to $300 a head for bulls
    • Freight costs to Adelaide were about $40 per head


  • AMEU served logs of claims to set up tally system
  • Costs $580,000 every year for electricity and diesel fuel5.
  • Consideration given to building another abattoir at Roe Creek yards5
  • AMIEU – Ray Evans “..new abattoir is the only way out for Alice Springs”5
  • Intended cost $1.5-$2M, possible site at Roe Creek cattle Yards, south of Alice Springs
  • Alice Springs cost $60-70 to slaughter a beast – SA cost $234       
  • April. Tennant Creek abattoir hold a stop work protest  because they refuse to have routine health checks to assure free of transferrable diseases to the meat38    .
    • Stoppage costs Tennant Creek facility $7,000 a day 38
    • 1,500 cattle slaughter cancelled and redirected to other abattoirs in the NT and interstate38
    • A union worker with past bad behaviour and was not allowed return to his job39..
    • 400 men applied for 160 jobs39.
    • Estimate wages of 160 jobs cost $100,000 to $150,000 a week39.
  • May. Workers return to work in Tennant Creek after 3 weeks strike39.


Extract of article ‘Meat men start work’ Centralian Advocate 15/05/1983.
Illustrates the peer pressure to support other workers while striking at Tennant Creek and attitude of people in the community.

  • August. Slaughtermen at Tennant Creek abattoir at height of the season can earn up to $1,250 per week40
  • Production of carcases at Tennant Creek abattoir could be valued at $21,000 per hour40
  • October. Angry crowd of 100 workers meet Federal Primary Industries Minister, John Kerin in Alice Springs41.
    • concerns over the number of cattle leaving the Alice Springs region to be slaughtered in other states41
      • 173,000 head left the Territory this year41
        • 100,000 head were slaughtered in South Australia41
      • Drain of cattle was affecting the Alice Springs abattoir viability41
    • Other issues were high electricity, freight and transport costs41
    • Federal Government had increased the kill levy41.
      • Meat substitution scandal had forced increases in cost due to increased inspection demands of overseas buyers41
        • Was $1.80, now $5.40 per head41
    • Mr Kerin could not offer relief to workers in one abattoir without giving assistance to other facilities41
      • Government would not dictate to producers where they could send their cattle41
      • General outlook for the meat industry was gloomy due to drought conditions41
        • some processors in other states were buying cattle only to maintain their export quotas41
      • TB campaign was expected to cause a decline in NT cattle numbers in the future41
    • NT Government officials had said that Territory pastoralists were reluctant to send their cattle to local meatworks because they would be caught up in industrial disputes41
      • AMIEU denied this claiming only 3 days of industrial action had occurred since 197741
        • Claimed higher level workers had not had an increase in pay since 197741
          • Wages were not linked to the CPI41
          • no penalty rates, overtime, holiday or sick pay41
        • Warned abattoir was in danger of closing with 70% of workforce prepared to leave the area to find other work41
  • October. Federal Member for the NT Mr John Reeves proposes building a new meatworks42
    • Federal Government is responsible for the areas of the workers major concerns
    • A new facility should be built at Roe Creek (10 km south of Alice Springs) and the Alice Springs abattoir on Smith st subsidised in in the interim42
    • Advantages of new facility42
      • freight reduction of $50,000 pa
      • run on reticulated gas  and cut down on fuel costs
        • Currently electricity and diesel cost $580,000 pa
      • New site could suit local production and export needs
      • Meat industry summit would be held in a few weeks to consider the issue
      • New abattoir would cost $1.5 – $2M
        • Costs would be expected to be quickly recouped
    • If the proposal for a new abattoir is not accepted it would likely close42
    • Alice Springs abattoir cost $60-$70 per beast to operate42
      • South Australia costs were $23 per head
    • Current workers at Alice Abattoir injected about $2.6M into the local economy42


  • January. Closed at this time6
    • Wales Meats – “doing everything possible to reopen”. “get the works back in tip-top condition”.6
    • Prices not paid comparable to southern abattoirs6
  • April. Court dispute over the electricity bill means the abattoir will not open until May44.
    • Owner of the Meat Works44.
      • Sydney based. Wales Meats owns the company called Alice Springs Abattoir Pty Ltd44.
        • Manager Mr Manfred Hochwallner44.
        • Facility had been leased to another company Alice Springs Abattoirs NT Pty Ltd, had gone into liquidation44.
          • Left an electricity bill of $100,00044.
    • NT Government have directed that all outstanding money to to be repaid before the power will be reconnected44.
  • Killing season normally begins at the start of April in Alice Springs facility44.
  • Facility had been inspected by a freelance abattoirs consultant44.
    • Mr Dough Vout ” (Alice Springs) was one of the best small meatworks in Australia
  • May. Facility would be opened first week in June45.
    • NT Government have allowed the abattoir to open under special condition that Wales meat would pay a deposit of $100,000 and pay their electricity bill on a monthly basis45.
    • Court case to be heard in the last week of May regarding the unpaid electricity45.
  • Maintenance had already started at the plant45.
    • requiring $300,000 – $400,000 to have the plant up to standards45.
  • Approximately 130 people are employed at the plant48


Cartoon appearing in the Centralian Advocate 11/05/1984 in regards to the re-opening of the Alice Springs abattoir

  • July. 70 workers for a picket line to force the abattoir to pay them under an award47.
    • Picket line would be manned continuously until a award equal to Tennant Creek abattoir was given47.
    • Contract for this year was believed to be considerably less than previous years51
  • Meatworkers were asked to sign an agreement stating47
    • that “Evidence of workers’ compensation to be provided to the company by the group”46.
    • the abattoir “wants to operate as in previous years”
    • Previously the company, not the group had paid workers compensation
    • If the workers paid the compensation it would be 25% of their earnings
  • Meatworkers industry was one of the last in the NT to be brought under an award47.
    • If the workers were under contract they were not able to claim
      • holiday pay, sick pay, termination pay or travel allowance
    • Unlike other abattoir workers Alice Springs workers were expected to buy, maintain and launder their own work clothes
    • They would pay their own taxes on wages
  • Territory wide action was taken at other abattoirs not covered by an award47
    • Point Stuart
    • Mudginberri
  • Katherine and Tennant creek already operated under an award47
    • “The only abattoirs that don’t go broke are those which have an award wage system” AMIEU QLD Assistant branch Secretary Mr Nelson Williams47
      • Katherine closed officially 2002, reported last kill at this time but other reports say had been mothballed since 200048
      • Tennant Creek. Authors note – think this facility closed around sometime 1990
  • August. Workers return to work following 5 weeks of industrial action49
    • Hearing before the Full Bench of the Arbitration Commission49
      • Hearing was held in Darwin51
        • President Sir John Moore51
        • Commissioner MacKenzie55
      • Decide if the workers would work under an award49
        • An interim award was handed down51
        • Waiting upon further submissions and would make a final decision in early September51.
        • Return to work would be under terms that operated in 198351
      • Final Decision handed down in September51
        • contract system of employment was appropriate for the Territory Industry51
          • But only for payment for work actually done51
        • Concerned51
          • Employees may be kept waiting in a remote area until slaughtering started51
          • present contract system didn’t give employees proper award coverage51
        • Full Bench did not prescribe a unit tally system51
          • AMIEU had pushed for tally system51
          • Set a minimum of $269.70 wage for 40 hour week55
            • Additional awarded penalties to cover sick leave, annual closure, annual leave and overtime55
              • increased the total pay to $330 per week55
        • Full Bench did not extend the terms of the agreement applying at the Katherine meatworks to any other Territory abattoir51
          • AMIEU had been seeking private agreements such as the QLD Meatworks Industrial Agreement Award 1979
          • AMIEU wanted same conditions of pay as those at Katherine
        • Most abattoirs welcomed the decisions handed down55
          • Except clause 33c55
            • Gives employees the rights to negotiate their terms of employment with the owners, if necessary outside the AMIEU55
            • Preference was to be given to union members over non-union members55
          • National Farmers Federation, NT Cattleman’s Association also supported the commissioner findings55
    • Meatworks operators were re-examining the situation including the lateness of the season49
  • Abattoir is unlikely to open this season50
    • two thirds of the stock mustering in the area was already completed50
    • Appears that this late in the season there wouldn’t be enough stock to process50
    • Facility would require several weeks to reach optimum level50.
  • September. Abattoir would not open this season51.
    • No point in opening this late in the season51
      • Was hopeful it would open in 198551
    • recent rains in the area has also hindered mustering51
    • Peak of the season is June through to September51
      • Stock had been in the yards ready to kill when the workers went on strike for 5 weeks51.
    • Member for MacDonnell, Mr Neil Bell believed the abattoir had not been serious about opening this year51


  • February. Some Meatworkers in the Territory could earn up to $1,000 per week52.
    • Employees employed on daily or weekly basis52
      • No notice if no work was available52
    • Meatworker in Adelaide were earning $400 -$500 per week for 50 weeks of the year52
    • Other isolated abattoirs were paying $600 – $1,000 a week52.
    • Some Members of Alice Springs had back tax bills of $15,00052
  • Tennant Creek would not be opening this season due to high costs of operation52.
    • Other reasons were limited sources of poor quality cattle for the hamburger trade52.
    • Less than 20% of the workers at the abattoir lived permanently in the area52
  • April. Wet season had been poor in the Top end53.
    • Top end abattoirs expecting a short season53
    • Only some Southern stations receiving summer rains53
      • Many having to consider destocking some cattle in the coming months if rain didn’t occur53.
      • Alice Springs station owners expected to initially rush to destock some animals to conserve fodder53
  • BTEC was still in progress and forced slaughter of breeding stock would cause disasterous vacuums in restocking programs53
  • UD demand largely determines the contract prices of the whole of the Pacific Basin54.
    • 60% of the Pacific Basin Beef trade is to the US54
    • A large volume of highly subsidised meat from the European Economic council through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East54
  • May. Sales through Alice Springs agents has been heavy55
    • Normally 2,500 head per week55.
      • Currently selling 3,000 head per week55
        • 95% going to Adelaide as Export bodies55
          • 20% retained at stores for fattening55
      • Rail system has helped producers with 390 cattle vans going from Alice Springs railhead weekly55.
  • BTEC funding would be scaled back by $36M56
    • Castrated the Territory and Kimberley BTEC programs56
      • Funding was to compensate testing and upgrading of properties56.
  • Federal government were considering eliminating the fuel freight subsidy scheme56
    • 4c per litre56
  • Tailtagging of cattle with a PIC (Property Identification Number) is made mandatory57


Article appearing in Midweek Territorian 22/05/1985 Instructing how to apply a tail tag.

  • Major confrontation is looming between meatworks and facility58
  • Major issue is Incentive payments58
    • AMIEU had been meant to meet a week earlier but had not turned up, AMIEU says representative had been caught up in Tennant Creek58.
    • AMIEU plans to picket the works58
  • Current meatworks operator Mr Con Stamos58
    • Stamos has leased the facility from Wales Meat Exports for a trial period63
      • If the killing season for 1985 was successful he may consider buying it63
        • UNION claim Stamos is only the manager63
  • Works are being prepared for start in June58
  • Power struggles within the AMIEU are seen as attempting to the destroy the Territory cattle industry and not representing the workers59
  • AMIEU repeatedly hammer the point that “employees have no say in running of the union whatsoever” Federal Industrial director of the Meat and Allied Trade Workers Employers Association, Ron Burdis59
  • Employees say they have to accept a 50% cut in wages if the union leaders instructions are accepted59.
    • Industry is being taken over by paid union employees from other states who have little comprehension or consideration of Territory conditions” Ron Burdis59
  • Territory meatworkers are the last to be employed under the ‘payment by result’ system59
    • Others having adopted tally system many years59
      • has been disastrous to the prosperity of the abattoirs, the cattlemen and the workers alike in those states59
  • Australian and New Zealand beef suppliers to Taiwan are facing stiff competition from EEC and in particular Swedish packers60.
    • 1983 / 1984 Australia and New Zealand supplied 23,000 metric tonnes of low grade meat to Taiwan60.
    • In 1985 Sweden is expected to take 30% of market with heavily subsidised meat60.
      • First shipments to occur in December60.
        • Chilled knuckles from Australia $US2.53 kg60.
          • Equivalent from Swedan purchased for $US0.80 – $1.76 per kg60.
      • Quality of some meats from Swedan had been downgraded to be advantageous to Australia60.
  • Mudginberri, Victoria Valley and Menaling (Batchalor) are still embroiled in protracted strike action61
    • Vic River abs. Example of a workers wage61
      • Gross $167 week61.
        • Deductions Tax $50, Board $50
          • Net $67
  • Further dispute is occurring within the AMIEU due to wording of clause 33c61.
    • Employees are given alternative to negotiate own agreements with employers61
      • Industrial award was intended to only apply to NT workers61.
    • Arbitration Act 1925 clearly states individual agreements is against union rules61
      • Expulsion or fine of $1,000 as penalty61
      • interstate unions wish to affect control over the whole of Australia61
      • Some people need protection for their own benefit, as many enter into agreements that leave them clearly disadvantaged” Trevor Surplice, Industry Employees Union secretary61
  • Meatworkers picket begins 27.05.1985 after discussions fail the previous week62
    • Workers want the tally system used elsewhere in Australia62
      • Don’t want the cents per carton incentive scheme as proposed by management62
        • Union president Mr Werris Noble62
        • Scheme doesn’t reward fast individual workers64
        • Workers were paid on an hourly rate65
          • Preferred to be paid according to number of head killed65
        • No penalty rates for overtime64
        • Scheme was less than pay received 2 years previously64
        • Previously 6 boners had processed 700 beasts a day and received $400 for the weeks work66
  • Workers had already been out of work for a year62
    • 80 people who still were in the town who had worked for the abattoir62
    • Protest was entering 4th week64
  • June. 14 Meeting is held64.
    • AMIEU were preparing a new set of rates64
      • Include a guarantee of no further industrial action for the rest of the season64
      • No limit on the kill64
  • Unclear when the abattoir would re-open64
    • Reported plans to kill 700 head per day and management were buying cattle64
  • Some station properties in the Central Australian region are drought declared86
  • July 12. Mudginberri picket in the Top end is outlawed by the Federal Court by Judge Mr Justice Morris.66
    • AMIEU refuse to lift the picket 66
      • AMIEU are fined $100,000, imposed for contempt of court66
      • already been fined $40,000 for defying an order to lift the picket line66
      • May also pay $3.1M in damages to the Mudginberri abattoir 66
        • Final decision of $1.8M in damages was awarded to Mudginberri76
      • Mr Jay Pendarvis, owner of the Mudginberri abattoir is named Australian of the year because of his defiance of the union system69
  • August. Supreme court hand down a decision in favour of NT Electricity commission to apply $50,000 in payment from the deposit/bond paid in May 198471.
  • AMIEU claim that the decision to re-open the abattoir rests entirely with the management96.
  • Abattoir manager – Con Stamos96.
    • AMIEU wanted Mr Stamos to approach the AMIEU to talk about the type of work pay system used96..
      • AMIEU wants to work under tally system96.
      • Con Stamos wants to use contract system96.
  • Abattoir workers had placed a ban on processing any stock owned by Grant Heaslip, who was president of the NTCA and owner of Wamboden (NT)96.
  • NTCA in conjunction with NFF had threated to picket any NT abattoir working under the tally system96.
    • Workers felt it was hypocritical to protest against the tally system while sending cattle to other states for slaughter under the same system96.
  • Primary Production Minister – Steve Hatton calls for a branch office of Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation to be established in Darwin97.
  • The “whole meat industry debacle was caused  because the AMIEU  did not accept a decision handed down last year by the full Bench of the Arbitration Commission” NT Confederation of Industry and Commerce spokesperson Shane Coyne98.
    • AMIEU had pickets works throughout 198498
    • Agreement had been made to cease all industrial action and argue case in the commission98
      • Now AMIEU refused to accept the decision and should expect legal action against them98
  • September 3. Abattoir begins operations after not having processed any cattle for 2 years65
    • 72 head of cattle had been trucked through the picket line65
    • Picketers yelled abuse at workers unloading cattle65
    • Picket has been in place for 3 months65
      • Tents had been set up outside the gates65
    • AMIEU QLD secretary Mr John Brady in attendance65
      • Any meat processed would be declared ‘black‘65
      • AMIEU achieved one of it’s aims in picketing when the work’s export licence had been revoked65
      • AMIEU picketers were working to having the local export licence revoked and the abattoir declared non-operational when the picket was lifted” President of the Alice Springs AMIEU Mr Wirri Noble65
  • Alice Springs abattoir is flooding local market with cheap meat65
    • Only 7 workers were inside the facility slaughtering and processing the cattle65
  • Graziers and stock agents were no longer supporting the works and sending cattle south65
  • National Farmers Federation comfirmed union fears that NFF wish to us Mudginberri and the new Territory meat processing award as a precedent to establish contract labour throughout Australia’s abattoirs66
  • December. Problems with Alice Springs carcase disposal sites and effluent in a near by creek.67
  • Management deny the problems are due to the abattoir as waste product is piped to holding pits and there are not problems with them67.
    • Council health authorities insist any potential health hazards from the abattoir are rectified before operation begins68
    • Abattoir had been releasing wastes into the creek, diluted paunch material taken from cattle’s intestines. pipeline had been blocking up68
    • Abattoir had not been in operation for over 5 weeks and it was unclear by authorities as to how the waste material had been placed there68






  • January. Future of the abattoir is in doubt for the 1986 season70.
    • If it will reopen and whom the manager will be is unknown70
    • Con Stamos would not be considering the matter for some time70
  • Alice Springs abattoir Pty Ltd43
    • Managing Director / Owner  Mr George Whitaker43
  • Application of renewal for export licence would have to address the waste issue into the creek at the abattoir that had been originally denied by the operators71.
  • February. Meatworks advertises for a new manager to start in March71
    • other job positions advertised were, cattle buyer, supervisors, mechanical engineer, boners and slicers71
    • Adverts appeared in interstate papers71
  • Territory government has taken further action to recover unpaid electricity bills from 1984, $50,000 to $100,00071
  • March. Devastating drought has been in the area for some time with hugh stock losses and soil erosion72
  • April. US import controls may be triggered when imports into the US from Australia reach 25,000 tonnes of a level73.
    • could mean restrictions are activated in Mid 198673
    • At a time when large numbers of drought cattle are being trucked from properties and slaughtered73
    • Prime Minister Mr Bob Hawke was meeting with President Ronald Reagan to negotiate that Australia be allowed to maintain it’s shipments to the US73
      • Australia was critically dependent on the US market73
      • Territory was currently in severe drought with a significant cost price squeeze73.
        • some local properties had been drought declared in June 198575.
  • Alice Springs abattoir begins slaughter74.
    • Held a 5 day test period74.
    • 70 meatworkers, with most already trained and others in training74.
    • Abattoir wished to attract cattle and regain the confidence of producers74.
      • Many stock were being sent to Adelaide or Perth74.
  • June. Alice Springs abattoir had obtained an export licence with permission to export to America75.
    • It is unable to secure significant numbers of local livestock75
    • some stock have come from the Barkly region75
    • Stock agents claim the problem is the drought75
  • NFF, NTCA, private businesses, form a fighting fun to fight the AMIEU77
    • also have the support of NT Government and Westpac bank77
    • Territory cattlemen are in a relatively bad position at the moment77.
      • Drought
      • Introduction of Capital Gains taxes
      • What they see as ‘suffocating union demands’
      • Australian dollar has plummeted


  • April. Unlikely the abattoir will open this78
    • Meant to start on April 16.
    • Maintenance staff of 20 and general manager were laid off last week
  • $1M installation improvements had been installed with upgrades to the chain78 .
  • Believed the facility is in financial difficulty78
    • AMIEU blame management and management blame AMIEU
    • AMIEU claim management refused to negotiate with the AMIEU when employees elected the AMIEU to represent them on 4 occasions
    • Alice Springs was capable of processing 400 – 500 head a day79
  • Tennant Creek abattoir is currently being dismantled78
    • plant and equipment to be sold 28/04/1987
    • works operating at a loss for some time
    • experienced labour had been difficult to source
    • Industrial action meant the abattoir only operated for 13 weeks of last season78
      • AMIEU claim cattle were unable to sourced and it wasn’t union strife that caused the losses, as industrial dispute only lasted 2 days.
      • Tennant had a policy of working only 5 days which limited overtime
      • Had employed 100 – 180 people
      • Tennant was capable of processing 400 head a day


  • March. Abattoir is placed up for sale. expectation of $4M79
    • Tenders for the sale will close April 2079
  • Point Stuart Abattoir is also for sale for $2M79
    • Capable of processing 200 – 300 head per day79
    • Wales Meat – George Whitaker owns both facilities79
    • Abattoirs will be sold together or separately on a walk in walk out basis79
  • June. Computer Décor Pty Ltd trading as Alice Springs Meatworks enter occupation of the Alice Springs abattoir lot43
    • Director Mr Milson Hayward43
      • Business to be conduc/ted by brothers, Milson and Elton Hayward
      • Wilson Hayward had /reviously worked at the abattoir
      • Court action is taken 08/08/1997 to recover unpaid electricity costs for the period June to October 198843.
  • At this time the abattoir was processing cattle and stock were arriving using the stockyards to which electricity was connected43.
  • Electricity costs43
    • 08/06/1988 – 07/07/1988 $2,289.40
    • 07/07/1988 – 22/08/1988 $46,061.84
    • 22/08/1988 – 20/09/1988 $35,945.88
    • 20/09/1988 – 20/10/1988 $18,380.20
  • October 4. Fire destroyed the facility87.
    • Abattoir was in operation with freezers and chillers stocked with meat87
    • 100 workers lost jobs.87
    • fires destroyed chillers, boning room and loading bays7
    • Unknown if the buildings would be repaired or re-opened87
  • Suspicion was insurance claim – truck caught fire in building8


Centralian Advocate news headline 05/10/1988. Fire has destroyed the abattoir

  • Northern Territory Government has been urged to assist the meatworks by unions and politicians80
  • Nice to have another local outlet for beef, but the Centralian cattle industry would probably not be adversely affected if the abattoir never opened again” DPI southern regional manager Mr Dave Tabrett80.
  • Management claim that they will need some form of assistance to re-open80
    • Estimate loss of 120 jobs80
    • AMIEU said the government should help to get the works up and running again80
      • AMIEU suggesting the government assist by funding a refrigerated site where boning and packaging could continue80


Centralian Advocate comic appearing 07/10/1988


Open letter appearing in Centralian Advocate 28/10/1988 written by the NT Organiser AMIEU Trevor Surplice

  • Victorian investor expresses an interest in building an abattoir at Brewer Estate, south of Alice Springs81.
    • No response had been received from the Territory government81
      • Had planned to spend several million dollars and process greater numbers than the old abattoir81
  • Victorian investor had been negotiating buying the Alice Springs (now burnt down) facility for $3M prior to the fire81
  • November 29. Receiver and Manager is appointed by Westpac Bank a secured creditor of the Mr Whitaker43.
  • Alice Springs and Point Stuart abattoirs are both placed in receivership83
    • Another 3 companies of Mr Whitakers are also in receivership83
    • Point Stuart abattoir closed 3 weeks ago83
  • Government will not act on any proposals for the Alice springs abattoir to rebuild or support until the insurance assessment is completed82
    • At this point in time no settlement has been reached82
  • December. Alice Springs meatworks operator Milson Hayward expresses an interest to buy the works83
  • Victorian group are also interested with the Point stuart facility included83.
  • Police report on the fire was completed83.
    • No evidence of arson83
    • faulty battery charger in the abattoir storeroom had started the blaze83.
  • Personal Communication. Abattoirs are required to use electric forklifts in store-rooms etc to lesson exhaust fumes and contaminents. A battery charger used on a forklift was faulty and where the forklift was stored overnight was near or in the same store room used to house the cardboard boxes flat packed for use after the meat is processed84.
  • Tennant Creek Kimberg abattoir hopes to open as a horse and beef export works next year with a trial kill occurring85.
    • Formerly only killed horses and has not been in operating since 198785..
    • Would process 50-60 head per day85.


  • Insurance hadn’t been paid, wouldn’t until coroners report9
  • Operators – Milson and Elton Haywood, waiting to hear from government concerning relocating9
  • Barkly producers had been sending cattle east, more convenient than Alice9
  • Government had indicated before the fire that the abattoir would have to be relocated away from residential developement9


Advert for sale of Alice Springs Abattoir appearing in Centralian Advocate 08/11/1989


  • Slaughter of cows in NT abattoirs increased in 1990 and 1991 due to the completion of BTEC destocking11


  • December. Alice springs abattoir offer to settle outstanding electricity bills 60%43.
    • Nothing was paid43
  • Reduction in number of NT operating abattoirs from 10 in 1987 / 1988 to 5 in 1991 due to completion of commercial BTEC destocking and the growth of the live cattle export industry11


  • Court action is taken place in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory to recover electricity costs that were unpaid in June – October 198843.
    • Power and Water Authority v’s Alice Springs Abattoirs Pty Ltd #381 of 199143.


  • June. Authors Note. The current owners of the Alice Springs abattoir kindly let me stickybeak around the old building. It has the majority of its equipment removed and still shows evidence of the fire that gutted it. As it is a serious state of decay I was not able to access the higher levels to take photos.


All stock yards have been removed. Stock would have entered the yards either through the offload ramp which is behind the camera or another large offload ramp further back. Larger holding pens then fed to smaller holding cement floored pens that then flowed to these pre slaughter wash yard pens. I don’t know the use of the crushes. It is possible that BTEC positive cattle may have been slaughtered in the lower kill box at ground level pictured to the left and clean cattle went up the cement ramps that are on the right. Horses may have also been killed in the lower kill box.


The lower level kill box.


Ramps leading to the upper level of the abattoir. I assume both ramps were used with a person walkway on the far left.




Alice Springs abattoir. Looking at the main truck access/load area is to the right. Stock would enter the facility on the ramp that is in the air behind the tree. slaughter area was in the top floor with initial carcase break up at that level and the boning room and further packing in both and upper levels.


A boning or packing room. There is a very large cement raised area to the right of this area of the building that original had shed structures either housing coolroom storage or general storage goods.


Inside the packing or boning area room. A large floor opening from the upper levels is located at the top right and may have housed some form of conveyor equipment.


Faded sign outside the building reads “Gut down area only. Do not use for entry to the boning room”


Looking at the now cleared cement floored space. Boning room is located to the left with the abattoir slaughter upper floors to the top rear. Engines, generators and various by products processing were located in the rear and right hand buildings.


Possible tallow, boiling vat areas.

Generators, electrical and refrigeration equipment may have been housed in this area.


Large shed structures at the rear of the abattoir now used for other purposes.


Administration building is located to the right front, with government inspectors offices to the middle and amenities, cafeteria and staff rooms are located to the left. The photo is taken from what would have been the pre- slaughter pens.


Note. Not sure how dated this sign is. It was located under a very protected eve a the gate entry. If it is relevant to the abattoir period it would indicate the stressed relationship between the operator and workers at the time.



  1. Personnel Communication deleted.
  2. ‘$370,000 abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 23.03.68
  3. ‘No decision Yet on management of abattoirs’ Centralian Advocate 27.06.68
  4. ‘New abattoir building is well up to schedule’ Centralian Advocate 31.10.68
  5. Personal Communication – Ben Hayes. 16.03.13.
  6. ‘Abattoir reprieve offered’ Centralian Advocate 06.01.1984
  7. ‘Inferno’ Centralian Advocate 04.12.88
  8. Personal Communication. Rob 16.03.13
  9. ‘Abattoirs future is undecided’ Centralian Advocate 22.03.1989
  10. ‘World on a plate – A history of meat processing in Australia’ Stephen Martyn. 2013
  11. ‘Territory Stockies and Government Vets – The Northern Territory Animal Health System from 1965 to 2012’ NT government.
  12. ‘Deplorable conditions at abattoir’ Centralian Advocate. 30.03.1962.
  13. ‘Vesteys to open £300,000 abattoir in Darwin shortley’ Centralian Advocate 25.01.1963
  14. ‘High Costs and bad roads mar Katherine abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 16.07.1964
  15. ‘Alice Springs district still most drought affected area in NT’ Centralian Advocate 16.07.1964
  16. ‘Enough cattle for abattoirs – Says Director’ Centralian Advocate 03.09.1964
  17. ‘Abattoir for sale’ Centralian Advocate 06.02.1969
  18. ‘New abattoir open in a fortnight’ Centralian Advocate 27.11.1969
  19. ‘Abattoir Sold – $452,300″ Centralian Advocate 09.03.1970
  20. ‘Government may save abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 25.05.1972
  21. ‘Minister inspects abattoir and sees difficulties’ Centralian Advocate 19.10.1972
  22. Question Paper Q1977 16 June.
  23. ‘Re-opening hinges on talks with Minister’ Centralian Advocate 12.01.1978
  24. ‘The Frozen food breakthrough’ Centralian Advocate 09.03.1978
  25. ‘Fumes from abattoir cause illness’ Centralian Advocate 21.09.1978
  26. ‘Beef looks Better’ Centralian Advocate 04.01.1979
  27. ‘Work begins on Tennant’s $2M abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 12.04.1979
  28. ‘Quarantine tightens squeeze on producers’ Centralian Advocate 05.01.1978
  29. ‘Govt gutless over abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 31.05.1979
  30. ‘Is mobile abattoir the answer’ The Star 06.02.1980
  31. Abattoir workers advert. The Star 13.02.1980
  32. ‘Stations need rain’ The Star 20.02.1980
  33. ‘Reader air views on abattoir smells’ Centralian Advocate 12.06.1980
  34. ‘Abattoir record kill’ Midweek Territorian 08.10.1980
  35. ‘Gratuity for meat inspectors’ Canberra Times 22.06.1982
  36. ‘Secret Money for NT Meat inspectors’ Centralian Advocate 23.06.1982
  37. ‘Meat Market’ Centralian Advocate 08.10.1982
  38. ‘Jobs on Line’ Centralian Advocate 29.04.1983
  39. ‘Meat men start work’ Centralian advocate 18.05.1983
  40. ‘Bribe charges’ Centralian Advocate 22.08.1983
  41. ‘Meat Industry outlook bleak’ Centralian Advocate 28.10.1983
  42. ‘Build new meat works’ Centralian Advocate’ 02.11.1983
  43. Power and Water Authority v’s Alice Springs Abattoir Pty Ltd #381 of 1991. 08.08.1997
  44. ‘Abattoir opening delay’ Centralian Advocate 06.04.1984
  45. ‘Abattoir all set to open’ Centralian Advocate 11.05.1984
  46. ‘Economics of Agricultural development in Northern Australia’ B Davidson 1974.
  47. ’70 Workers form picket’ Centralian Advocate 13.07.1984
  48. ‘Welcome news on meatworks’ Centralian Advocate 11.05.1984
  49. ‘Meat Row: It’s up to abattoir, now’ Centralian Advocate 13.08.1984
  50. ‘Abattoir unlikely to open’ Centralian Advocate 31.08.1984
  51. ‘Abattoir too late to open’ Centralian Advocate 21.09.1984
  52. ‘Meatworkers’ wages on par with rest’ Midweek Territorian 06.02.1985
  53. ‘What is the future of Territory beef industry’ Midweek Territorian 10.04.1985
  54. ‘Trade flows affect our beef markets’ Midweek Territorian 17.04.1985
  55. ‘Sales heavy in Alice Springs’ Midweek Territorian 08.05.1985
  56. ‘Funding freeze threatens BTEC’ Midweek Territorian 22.05.1985
  57. ‘Tail tagging successful’ Midweek Territorian 22.05.1985
  58. ‘Picket for Meatworks’ Midweek Territorian 22.05.1985
  59. ‘Power struggle threat to NT beef industry’ Midweek Territorian 29.05.1985
  60. ‘Swedish danger to Aussie exports’ Midweek Territorian 29.05.1985
  61. ‘Industry still in chaos after strikes’ Midweek Territorian 29.05.1985
  62. ‘Picket line Alice Abattoir’ Midweek Territorian 29.05.1985
  63. ‘Who owns abattoir’ Midweek Territorian 12.06.1985
  64. ‘Stalemate nears end’ Midweek Territorian 20.06.1985
  65. ‘Abattoir opens in anger’ Centralian Advocate 04.09.1985
  66. ‘Abattoir row part of a 4 year battle over rights’ Centralian 20.09.1985
  67. ‘It’s just the pits’ Centralian Advocate 18.12.1985
  68. ‘Meat man gets waste order’ Centralian Advocate 24.12.1985
  69. ‘Progress and some protests’ Centralian Advocate 03.01.1986
  70. ‘Meatworks under cloud’ Centralian Advocate 31.01.1986
  71. ‘Meatworks seeks staff’ Centralian Advocate 28.02.1986
  72. ‘Drought relief at last’ Midweek Territorian 26.03.1986
  73. ‘Hawke’s cattle talks crucial’ Centralian Advocate 25.04.1986
  74. ‘Abattoir killing at last’ Centralian Advocate 25.04.1986
  75. ‘Mystery of the missing cattle’ Centralian Advocate 20.06.1986
  76. ‘Joint bid to fight unions’ Centralian Advocate 30.07.1986
  77. ‘Cattlemen and unions at war’ Centralian Advocate 30.07.1986
  78. ‘Abattoir’s future grim’ Centralian Advocate 08.04.1987
  79. ‘Abattoirs tipped to fetch $4M’ Centralian Advocate 30.03.1988
  80. ‘Govt urged: Help abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 07.10.1988
  81. ‘Abattoir plan for centre may be lost’ Centralian Advocate 28.10.1988
  82. ‘Claims on abattoir wrong’ Centralian Advocate 30.11.1988
  83. ‘Meatworks in receivership’ Centralian Advocate 09.12.1988
  84. Personal Communication. June 2016
  85. ‘Export earner for Tennant abattoir’ Centalian Advocate 21.112.1988
  86. ‘Drought relief money’ Centralian Advocate 20.06.1986
  87. ‘Cold Store Problem’ Centralian Advocate 03.10.1963
  88. Letter to Editor of Centralian Advocate 14/01/1965
  89. ‘Little for NT Cattlemen in report on beef industry’ Centralian Advocate 16/10/1975
  90. ‘Pastoralists seek licence to open a second abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 16/10/1975
  91. ‘Killing at new abattoir’ Centralian Advocate 13/11/1975
  92. ‘Turnoff of cattle’ Centralian Advocate 31/12/1975
  93. ‘The Year that was – July’ Centralian Advocate 31/12/1975
  94. ‘The Year that was – October’ Centralian Advocate 31/12/1975
  95. ‘New abattoir owners will supply locally’ Centralian Advocate 24/03/1977
  96. ‘Abattoir decision rests solely with management’ Centralian Advocate 07/08/1985
  97. ‘Office – Hatton’ Centralian Advocate 07/08/1985
  98. ‘AMIEU cause of meat industry chaos’ Centralian Advocate 07/08/1985
  99. ’75 wet but no record’ Centralian Advocate 08.01.1976





Manbullo abattoirPhoto – Cattleproducer. 2013
Manbulloo abattoir historic site , Katherine river is located to rear.

Current Operation

  • ·         Old historic site


  • ·         8km from the current Katherine meatworks. On Manbulloo.

Manbulloo #1              

       Manbulloo #2

Locations of other abattoirs in Australia may be found at Australian Abattoir Locations


  • Abattoir and freezing chamber, 30,000 poultry farm, with a major army camp close by7.
  • By products plant was begun but abandoned due to costs7


  • Site has concrete slab, with some information, airstrip opposite, pipeline into the river2
  • Visited 29.02.13. Squatters present. took photos



  • Manbulloo station established 11km W of Emungalan (original township north of Current Katherine town area). Used for holding cattle waiting for shipment to Vestey’s Meatworks in Darwin (established 1917)1
  • Manbullo0 & Wave Hill were leased to Vestey’s under agreement that abattoir in Darwin was to be built and operated6



  • December 7, 1941 Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and quickly occupied most of South East Asia (Pg 134)8
    • Territory was suddenly vulnerable and the government evacuated women and children from Darwin and the hinterland.(Pg 134)8


  • February 19, 1942 Japanes bomb Darwin.(Pg 134)8
    • All sea lanes are closed (Pg 134)8
  • By 21st February, Northern portion of the NT was under martial law (Pg 134)8
    • All male civilians mediacally examined – those fit for service conscripted into militia8
    • Unauthorised persons excluded from the area north of Pine Creek8
    • Situation was now extremely serious8
      • labour shortages affected day to day operations of beef industry8
      • difficult to move large numbers of stock due to lack of availability of skilled stockmen8
  • Whydham meatworks was closed (Pg 134)8
    • Due to fear of being captured by the Japanese
    • As many cattle as possible were being moved from the east Kimberley and Victoria River district for fear of invasion (Pg 134)8
      • Need to deprive invaders of ready food source
  • Military meat contract sub committee emphatic that killing should be concentrated at a large abattoir in Katherine region (Pg 134)8
    • reduce need for additional droving and rail transport to current processing sites8
    • Allow more efficent processing of offal (Pg 135)8
  • Meatworks built by the army, but offered to Vestey’s to operate4
  • Construction started – Army constructed, to feed the 3 services stationed in the NT, site consisted of 46 buildings including mess halls, barracks, poultry farm, shilling rooms which could hold 1000 carcasses. Cattle came from Pine Ck, Mataranka and close areas to Katherine5.
  • Vestey’s operation was accused by local pastoralists as having unfair advantage in animals being processed and supplying army with rations and stores4Pg 133
  • Slaughter occurred at site, cool storage plant was built in Katherine, meat was bought in and frozen then distributed to troops3


  • March. Abattoir commissioned, cost £70,000 (Pg 136)8
  • Was built (on then Manbulloo- Vestey’s) by A.W.C cost £65,0009
  • by end of 44 was killing 700 hd cattle a week, several butchery units stationed at the abattoirs including 2/3rd Australia field butchery platoon, engineers, cooks and quartermaster personnel5


  • Over 23 months processed 34,000 head (Pg 136)8
  • Following the immediate postwar departure of personnel, facility was closed in early 1946 (Pg 136)8


  • Bovril Australian Estates purchased Manbullo, moved sections of it to Katherine to establish new meatworks6
  • Manbulloo plant & equipment sold for £10,0007.



1.       Katherine Museum 25.02.13

2.       Personal communication. #1. 26.02.13

3.       ‘Katherines No lady’ Winsome Maff

4.       ‘The Big Run – The story of VRD station’ Jock Makin 1970

5.       ‘The Track: 1000 miles to war’ NT Library

6.       ‘Pastoral Australia: Fortunes, Failures & Hard Yakka: A Historical Overview’ M. Pearson, J Lennon, 2010

7.       ‘Katherines Earlier days’ Pearl Ogden

8.    ‘Distance, Drought and Dispossession – A history of the Northern Territory Pastoral industry’ G McLaren & W Cooper. 2001

Bullocky Point.

Other Name                                                                                                  

  • Vestey’s Freezer works

Current Operation

  • Closed – Historic.


  • Darwin (NT) Wharf, Bullocky Point, Fannie Bay area.
    Darwin High School7
  • A large cement tank still exists that is used as a pavilion for expos that are held at the site4
    • authors note – in more recent photographs it looks like these large square tanks are used for water storage.
  • Bullocky Point is north of Mindil beach adjoining it and  the Darwin ski club.

Australia. Bullocky Point

Map - Bullocky Point

  • Holding paddock of old abattoir was Burrells Creek (Pg 141)11


  • Vestey’s, Owned Wave Hill (then 6000 sq miles)7


  • Closed 19201



  • Captain James Bremer of HMS Tamar takes possession of Melville and Bathurst Island, in response to concerns over the security of northern Australia (Pg 1)14


  • Buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs are imported to the Islands for food supply (Pg 1)14


  • Settlement was established, Port Wellington at Raffles bay on the mainland14 (Pg 1)
    • Animals brought across from the islands14


  • Port Wellington was abandoned (Pg 1)14
    • Some animals were shipped to WA, those that remained were abandoned14


  • 3rd attempt to establish permanent presence in the North of Australia (Pg 1)14
    • Settlement of Victoria at Port Essington on Coburg Peninsula14
    • Some livestock were came with the settlers and others augmented from shipments from Java and neighbouring islands (Pg 1)14


  • Settlement of Victoria – abandoned and the majority of stock left to run free (Pg 2)14


  • British authorities influenced by earlier problems of colonising the north, they viewed pastoral settlement as dubious (Pg 2)14
    • disease was prevalent14
    • mortality commonplace14
    • little knowledge of the topography or vegetation, particularly poisoness plants14
    • controlling stock was extremely difficult14
      • would require horses, expertise and intensive capital investment in fencing, water supplies and yards.14
    • Distances and risks of shipping goods was extremely expensive14
  • No attempt was made to establish pastoral industry until this time. (Pg 2)14


  • What is now known as the Northern Territory is temporarily annexed to South Australia and is known as the Northern Territory of South Australia (Pg 7)14
    • Created the Northern Territory Act – Limited pastoral leases to between 25 and 300 square miles, with only a 14 year tenure (Pg 8)14
    • stocking had to be done before the lease was processed (Pg 8)14


  • NT Act – stocking arrangements were eased (Pg 8)14
    • Encouraged more uptake of land14
  • SA came under increasing pressure to construct a railway system (Pg 23)14
    • Most favoured a south-north line14
      • Studies indicated that even with the country fully stocked with cattle there would be insufficent stock for the venture14
    • Legislation  was introduced to induce British entrepeneurs to construct a land-grant line, in return for freehold title of up to 50,000 acres per track mile14
      • Proposal had significant public support but was rejected as it would have meant transfer of one-quarter of the territory to overseas interests (pg 23)14


  • Forerunner roadway of the Stuart Highway extends 135 miles southward of Darwin14
  • Cattle located in NT – 17,720 head (pg 12)14


  • Cattle located in the NT – 146,562 head (Pg 12)14
  • Cattle overlanded from the Territory to various markets 4,970 head (Pg 25)14


  • Editor of the Times newspaper had considered the question of frozen beef was potentionally a more lucrative export market than live cattle (Pg 28)14


  • Construction began on the railway from each end (pg 23)14
    • Darwin to Pine Creek14
    • Adelaide to Oodnadatta14
  • At this time cattle were mainly walked overland (Pg 24)14
    • long waterless sections of stock routes – no wells or man made facilities14
    • Localised droughts could cause deprivation of markets for up to 2 years14
    • Rendering works located at this time in Normanton and Burketown14
    • Other markets were goldfields in mainly WA14



  • SA authorities aware that Territory meat markets were deeply depressed and mindful of a much needed export trade (Pg 26)14
    • realised to establish export trade would need significant government assistance14
  • Tender was called to supply, provision and operate a vessel to carry 200 fat bullocks to export (Pg 26)14
    • 10 trips per year
    • subsidy of £5,000, plus a charge to stock forwarders for each animal payable to the carrier.14
    • Had to ship from Port of Darwin, Victoria, Adelaide, McArthur, Roper and Limmen Bight rivers and Glyde Inlet14
  • Only one tenderer – Stevens, acted on behalf of stock agency Goldsbrough Mort (pg 26)14
    • failed to attract further interest or establish to a co-operative14
    • contract was for 5 years, starting 1st April, steamer Darwin.14


  • Stevens had gained entry to Javanese market (Pg 27)14
    • secured a contract to supply 750,000 pounds of beef annually for 3 years14
    • Prices £8 a beast, this was regarded as satisfactory14
  • Criticism as to quotas not filled but full subsidy received, profit in backloading and no Macarthur and Tableland cattle were being exported, market was mainly for Goldsbrough and Mort properties (Pg 28)14



  • Shipping trade developed between Whydham and Fremantle (Pg 25)14
    • Cattle loaded at Whydham receiving £16 to £17 per head14
    • Territory producers were recieving £2 10s on property14
    • 4,000 head shipped from Whydham, numbers were expected to increase in following years.14
  • 13,896 head had been overlanded from the territory to various markets (pg 25)14


  • Cattle located in the NT – 280,957 head (Pg 12)14
  • Territory authorities extended Goldsbrough Mort contract for 2 more years (Pg 27)14
    • conditional on the construction of a £30,000 meatworks in Darwin14
  • Freezing works were not viable alternative in the Territory at the time – due to wide dispersion of stock facilities would need to be built at Victoria River, Port of Darwin and the Gulf (Pg 29)14
    • Producers not prepared to invest capital14
  • Returns to producers for live cattle on property £2 10s, animals delivered to Rockhampton £2 15s14
  • Frozen meat wasn’t an option for wider Asian market (Pg 29)14
    • lacked refrigeration capacity14
    • poor distribution facitilities and retail outlets14
    • specific religious rites had to be performed14
    • government health inspectors requirements14
    • Asians did not like the texture of frozen meat.14
  • Canning was another possibility, there were proposals for more rendering works (Pg 29)14
    • could have absorbed poor quality stock14
    • High costs prevented an proposals being established in the Territory14


  • Goldsbrough and Mort is restructured and properties are sold (Pg 43)14
    • Victoria Downs, costs are slashed by 25%14
    • Newcastle waters is wound up for there is “not market for cattle within payable distance” , Stock are sold for less than £1 per head14
    • Wave Hill station is auctioned on a per head basis with all improvements14
      • Cattle fetch 15s each14


  • January 15 – Government of SA appoint a 7 member Royal commission (Pg 43)14
    • To determine the causes of the Territory’s ills and hopefully right them14
    • Over 6 months and 2 days the commissioners visit Melbourne, Brisbane and 4 other major QLD centres.14
    • Speak to cane-growers and visit meatworks14
    • Hold 35 meetings, take evidence from 69 witnesses14
    • Genuineness of the commission comes into question when they failed to visit the Territory, relying on questionaires sent to a number of settlers and prominent businessmen14
  • Commissioners report lists a number of factors that they believe are responsible for the Territory parlous state.(Pg 43)14
    • Emphasis the necessity for amendments to the Pastoral Act14
    • a thorough investigation into redwater disease14
    • government subsidise water-boring in dry country14
    • provision of adequately watered stock routes14
    • Subsidies for freezer and canning works14
    • Completion of trans-continental railway – on a land grant system14
    • re-opening of WA border to Territory cattle.14
  • Report was not well received, proposed nothing that had not already been canvassed (Pg 43)14
  • Authorities had not intended to accept findings unless ready money was available or well backed by private enterprise (Pg 43)14
  • SA Government offered £5,000 loan on a pound for pound basis to be repaid from profits to investors willing to construct and operate meat preserving and canning works (Pg 50)14


  • Live exports – Hong Kong market alone capable of absorbing 12,000 head is sent a trial shipment to Batavia from Marrakai and Daly River (Pg 25)14


  • Nieuman and Niemann establish a series of meat extract and canning works (pg 50)14
    • First is located on Daly River14
      • Was operational within 3 months14
      • Tins were made at the works14
      • Product was satisfactory14
      • Venture failed14
      • Producers were selling to Wydham for better livestock prices14


  • Successive – residents (administrators of the Territory) called for freezing work options – a number of schemes advanced.(Pg 51)14
    • Victoria River Meat Freezing and Preserving Co was promised under specific conditions to construct works (Pg 51)14
      • £10,000 to assist in construction14
      • Capacity of 1,000 head per week14
      • Work force of 3-400 people14
      • proposed to be built at Rugged Ridge on the south bank of the Victoria River14
    • Concerns there weren’t enough cattle to support (Pg 51)14
      • 50 to 60 thousand cattle or previously unsaleable animals could be processed.14
    • Victoria river  was too shallow to accomodate ocean going vessels (Pg 51)14
    • Factory was never built. (Pg 51)14
  • Establishment of profitable meat-processing enterprises in the NT wasn’t easy (Pg 51)14
    • suffer from diseconomies of small scale14
    • distance factor meant no single abattoir could attract all Territory cattle.14


  • Bovril Australian Estate announce its intention to open a preserving, packing and extract plant capable of processing 300 head a day over 6 month season in Wyndham (Pg 50)14
    • Bovril had acquired Victoria River downs and 2 other properties14
    • Bovril had expected turnoff of 20,000 head annually14
    • Darwin wasn’t preferred as the immediate land surrounding was less suitable for agisted stock14
    • Territory public and authorities reacted vigourously to assist via incentives to have facility build in Darwin14
    • Bovril response – proposal to build a floating abattoir and freezing works, located in the VRD district (Pg 51)14
    • SA authorities insisted that plant be constructed in Darwin14
      • Bovril choose not to build anywhere in north Australia14


  • Labour government planned to build a state sponsored packing plant at Darwin to process the cattle raised on properties3                                          


  • Commonwealth Government now assumed resposibility for the NT, effective 1st January 1911 (pg 56)14
    • SA Premier had tried to sell NT to the infant commonwealth for £2,585,57314
      • didn’t succeed in sale14
        • region had a very poor economic record14
        • Large Asian population lived in the NT14
  • Vestey family capital had grown to £1M in the NT.(Pg 51)14
    • Part of its buisiness was production, processing and distribution meat empire14
    • had acquired cold storage plants in China, Argentina, Russia and France14
    • Vestey’s looking to acquire NT land and run 250,000 head of cattle14


  • Parliament readings – Katherine railway line estimated to cost of survey £5,000 and construction £500,000, announce proposed freezer works to cater for all the needs of all northern Australia7Pg 24.


  • Agreement signed contract between Vestey’s and Commonwealth for company to construct and operate a meatworks in Darwin and Government would extend existing rail line from Pine creek to Emungalan (Katherine)6

                                                “The agreement was with regard to the lease of the land and to conform to this, the company had to kill, store and ship for private owners under the terms and conditions which required the approval of the Administrator6

  • December. Construction began

…steel and reinforced concrete, with galvanised iron roofing. The total ground area under roof is about 5 acres, the total floor space being 10 acres. The refrigeration space comprises of 1,000,000 cubic feet. The staff quarters can accomodate 35 men, and the men’s quarters 320. For senior members of the staff 14 dwelling-houses are erected or in course of erection. The works accommodation provides for killing and chilling 500 cattle, while 400 carcases can be frozen and 200 canned per day (Pg 51)

  • Construction began – delays due to war, supply of goods and materials and costs esculated8.
  • Planned to commence operations in April 1916 (Pg 51)14
    • delayed due to labour disputes and wartime shortages of material14
  • Vestey’s had significant contracts with British military establishments to ensure progress on the facility continued (Pg 51)14
  • Construction employed 500 or more men at a time with unprecendented rates of pay (Pg 51)14


  • Michael Durack visits Bullocky point in the process of being built.10

” The works here well advanced – about 149 men on the job and quarters for 300 men under construction. Four bores pumping into a 40,000 gallon tank, 700 gallons every 24 hours. The water supply does not seem to me to be too assured but a general feeling of optimism prevails and all are looking forward to the works being ready for action mid 1916. It is believed that 250 head will be treated per day” MP Durack. 16.07.1915.pg 42810

1915 construction - Copy_edited-1Source NT Library – NT Library – Construction of Vestey’s meatworks 1915
Dated 1915 – During construction. The Slaughter area is the sawtooth building at the rear, Freezer area is lower buildings to the right foreground. The buidings to the far left I think was the preserving/canning



  • Michael Durack visits Bullocky point.10

“One of the buildings- a two storey place has a floor space of 350′ x 65′. The entire works has a floor space of ten acres. The water supply still seems to present a problem though at present they are drawing 15,000 gallons a day from 3 or 4 wells. For washing down, cooling etc.. they will draw water from the sea.. They expect soon to be killing 500 head a day” MP Durack 01.01.1916. Pg 44010

Aerial _edited-1Source NT Library, Aerial view Vestey’s meatworks 1944

Facility was actually abandoned at this point, Far left is Vesteys beach.

DArwin _edited-1Source NT Library. Darwin meat works (no date)

Double story building, unknown use. There is a railway line located on the left, think this buiding may have where animals housed waiting for slaughter.

mens quarters_edited-1Source NT Library. Mens Quarters UnDated

Men’s quarters able to house up to 300

  • NT administrator – Dr Gilruth speaks with Durack.10

” He sees the labour problems looming with the encouragement of irresponsible unionists. Sly grog selling is rife and the polic can’t cope with it. He thinks as before that WA made a great mistake in starting the works at Wyndham – says we should have waited and profited by the mistakes that Darwin is soon to make” MP Durack 01.01.1916. Pg 44110



  • Constructed1
  • Eventual cost £1M9
    • Cost of construction escalated from £300,000 to estimated £700,00015
      • Equivalent of $200M today (2018)15
  • Vesteys built 3
  • Construction costs substantially higher than expected6
  • Was intended that killing was done on land and a specially fitted out ship was moored alongside the Darwin wharf, war prevented the wharfs use7
  • Was a large employer when Darwin only had population of 20004. pg 67
  • Meatworks had a capacity to process 55 head a day, freezer capacity of 6000t, the largest in Australia at the time5
  • Facility intended to target a kill of 50,000 bullocks every dry season15
  • Government completed 88km rail extension to Pine Creek6
  • April. Killing commenced – 14 week season.(Pg 52)14
  • Season of 1917 processed nearly 19,000 cattle, majority from Vestey’s properties5
    • Processed 18,911 head in 191714
  • Used all parts of the animal (Pg 52)14

“The blood and bone go to make manure, the horns and hoofs are carefully saved, the fat melted down into tallow, the very membranes of the stomach go to make sausage skins” (Pg 52)14

  • Vesteys Manager – CWD Conacher – Plant was having problems due to wartime shipping restrictions, high costs and labour disputes. Pg 45210
    • Believed problems would be easily resolved once war finished. Pg 45210

    picture_edited-2Source http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au ID 41113/1
    The writing on the photograph –
    far left Concrete feed water tank – 2 straight walled square concrete tanks
    Centre – ?? Steam room – the two tall pipes are chimneys and this is where the boilers were located

  • Variable costs of operation that included wages, materials and administration(Pg 65)14
    • greatly in excess of those current elsewhere14
    • £8 16s 8d per head14

          cold Storage building – assume where meat was chilled. Actually refers to building that wall can   be seen of. The saw tooth building in the rear right back is the slaughter area.

2 - Copy_edited-1Source – http://www.trove.nla.gov.au. Looking west towards Darwin.
Railway tracks entering the facility.
employee preserving section_edited-1Source NT library. Meat preserving crew Dated 191?

1920.'s #2 - Copy_edited-1Source NT Library – Buildings Dated 1920’s
Looking at other photos the saw tooth building is the slaughter floor at the top level and and assume animal housing at the lower.

  • about 460 men were employed and 1,680 cattle were being processed each week (Pg 52)14
  • Effect on the local community was substantial14

“During the killing season the monthly average payment for railway freight on cattle was over £1,000. The highest fortnightly pay to employees was in July, when butchers and construction men received £10,754, and the highest amount drawn by any one worker for a fortnights labour was £40 1s 1d” (Pg 52)

Source ABC Rural 08.06.2018

Source ABC Rural 08.06.2018


  • Season of 1918 processed 29,000 cattle, majority from Vestey’s properties5
    • Processed 29,011 head in 191815
  • 500 beasts could be killed and chilled, 500 carcases frozen and 200 canned a day7

1920's - Copy_edited-1Source NT Library Buildings 1920’s Looking to Darwin, Mindil beach in background

Looking into the cement water storage tanks with residences and assume offices in the mid ground, mens quarters to the far right. Darwin city in the far back ground.

  • Community unrest was extremely high. 1,000 demonstrators marched on Darwin parliament house(Pg 40)13
    • Conspiracy had been uncovered between the government and Vesteys regarding illegal take over of large pastoral properties involving bribes.(Pg 40)13
  • Vestey’s seeking further Government assistance, including a reduction in rail and wharf charges (Pg 66)14
    • and a £2 head killing subsidy14
    • Authorities were already losing £70,000 a year in concessional rail freight14
  • Wartime contracts were what kept the facility in operation (Pg 66)14


  • Short operating seasons and union disputes caused problems8
  • Stop work meeting at works in protest at an increase in the price of bottled beer. Pg 47510
  • Vestey’s requested government assistance due to higher costs of construction, exceptionally high labour costs and therefore higher treatment costs. They also requested long-term rail freight agreements, adjusted wharfage rates and bores on their properties. Government refused8
  • Scandal – pastoralists stopped sending cattle to £1M abattoir. A letter had been published outlining among other things a plot to derive another large pastoral company of its stations.2pg.21
  • John Carey, Director of Agriculture and Acting Administrator of NT when Dr J.A Gilruth not present. Carey also took on job as chief clerk in Vestey packing plant. Carey wrote to Vestey’s “..that the lease of a large pastoral holding with hundreds of thousands of head of cattle on it would expire shortly. The administrator could refuse renewal and grant it to Vestey’s, but it would be necessary to pay him £20,000 to use as graft for officials and parliament for this purpose.”3
  • Due to Carey incident, Unions striked, other pastoralists refused to supply, the officials were smuggled out of Darwin as threats and abuse had been directed at them3
  • Only operated 3 seasons4
  • In 3 years of operation processed meat value was £1,029,271(Pg 52)14
    • meatworker employees had received approximately £400,000 in wages14
  • Variable costs of operation that included wages, materials and administration(Pg 65)14
    • greatly in excess of those current elsewhere14
    • £11 13s 2d per head14
  • Processed 21,866 head in 191915


  • February. Gilruth advises Serious trouble with Darwin works and doubts Vestey’s can carry on. Pg 48910
  • Closed – was never profitable1
  • Closed March 17, 1920 (Pg 61)14
  • Reason for closure – Vestey’s blamed ‘Labour indiscipline and poor quality of local cattle.3
    • Strikes occurred over accommodation – Severe housing shortage in Darwin and therefore administrator waived health regulations and allowed workers to live in camps and tents (Pg 62)14
    • Vestey’s had to meet all demands of the unions (Pg 63)14
      • Company tried to control situation by paying inflated wages, living allowances and travel costs to and from southern states for seasonal workers.14
        • Made bonus payments to other employees in other industries in return for agreements not to strike14
        • Unions justified actions – AWU Darwin Branch Secretary – Harold Nelson14

“In the past capitalists have stolen from the workers and now the workers propose taking back the spoils. Anything wrong with that?” (Pg 64)14

  • Due to war, workers took advantage of labour shortages and went on strike for higher wages, Quote by Sir Edmund Vestey “..it was more profitable to let the cattle die on the stations than to put them through the Port Darwin works5
  • NT cattle herd now at 659,840 head. (Pg 60)14
  • Most immediate cause of closure was the shortage of shipping arsing from losses sustained in the WWI (Pg 62)14
    • Telegram from the Minister for Territories14

“Conacher, meat company states only reason for not operating this season is the government can not give a guarantee regarding shipping to bring coal and supplies and necessary labour. As 95% of settle population is dependent on the meat industry, therefore strongly appeal to the Government for consideration as regards our quota of shipping” (Pg 62)14

  • Government wasn’t in a position to promise ships or guarantee 8-10,000 tonnes of coal required to operate the works (Pg 62)14

Other reasons cited

  • Vestey’s owned a South African operation which was a powerful competitor to Australian product in England. The South African business being more profitable than the Australian. Vestey’s hadn’t wanted to turn down the offer by government to build the Darwin abattoir, someone else would have and thus created competition. Vestey’s invested £1M to build packing plant, they effectively made sure no-one else could compete with them in Australia3
  • Vestey’s had a divested a large proportion of their assets with American interests in WWI for taxation purposes, American Meat Trust (Pg 61)14
  • Gilruth, NT administrator was part of the conspiracy to allow the Meat trust run of the NT (Pg 61)14
  • Australian government failed to build railway between Alice to Darwin to bring in Cattle. Meant plant couldn’t operate profitably and forced Vestey’s to send their cattle to QLD abattoirs3
  • Basic error in abattoir location was due to lack of infrastructure and transport capabilities of source of animals from cattle producing areas, Vesteys owned Wave Hill and would have been better suited to locate a works at Wyndham (WA)8
  • Supply of stock was unsufficent. Turnoff was restricted to animals 4 years and older, Vestey’s herd was only capable of supplying 60% of the Darwin plants operation(Pg 61)14
  • Quality of the stock was unsatisfactory and the immediate area around the hinterland poverish in grass for stocking animals. (Pg 62)14
  • Reported losses of £250,000 after just 3 years2
  • Vestey’s forfeited capital investment of £900,000 and over £260,000 in operating losses (Pg 61)14
    • represented a budget over run of 300% (Pg 65)14
    • Original agreement with NT administrator (Pg 65)14
      • rate of return included depreciation 7.5%pa14
      • profit margin of 6.5%14
        • Company was entitled to annual return of 14% or about £128,00014
      • Yearly throughput never exceeded 30,000 head per annum14
        • represents a fixed cost range £4 5s and £5 16s14
      • Severe impost of wages, materials, admin, repairs and fares14
        • these were greatly in excess of those current elsewhere14
        • Variable cost range from £8 16s 8d in 1917 to £11 13s 2d in 191914
      • Added expenses were station costs, droving fees, rail freight14
      • Vestey’s received £16 per head for a slaughtered beast.14
  • Critics saw building of the facility as a token gesture to simply secure northern land, Vestey’s argued that the government never kept its promise to build the rail lines.(Pg 40)13
  • Effect on Darwin and its narrow ecomic base was calamitous (Pg 61)

“Five or six hundred unemployed were walking the streets, and in spite of every effort made by the Federal Government, no vessels could be procured for nearly two months to take them away to some place where work might be obtained.
As it was impossible to find work locally for the large number of unemployed, many of whom were without any means, the Government was forced to the alternative of either granting to these free rations or free steerage fares to some other part of Australia. The latter was the lesser of the two evils, both from the point of view of the men and the Government. In all 216 free passages were granted, principally to Greek, Patagonian and Spanish immigrants who had been attracted to Darwin in previous years…” (Pg 61)14


  • Abattoir didn’t reopen in 1920 or 1921. Government became concerned and extended the rail freight agreement to 19248
  • Export beef market plummeted in 19218 (Red water fever)


  • Reopened briefly to operate as a boiling down works4
  • 9600 head turned into tallow but Vestey’s claimed a loss on operations8

Boiler room_edited-1

Source NT Library. Man in boiler room 1940.


  • Payne Fletcher report – Board of inquiry in regards to a range of issues concerning the NT at the time (Pg 128)14
    • Considered the possibility or re-opening the meatworks, but considered it unviable as by now it was suffering badly from rusting and deterioration of the concrete (Pg 129)14


  • Threat of war, army base was made at the site of Vestey’s meatworks12

1941 army trucks - Copy_edited-1Source – NT Library. Army base at meatworks. 1941/1942

Army vehicles of the 23rd Reserve motor transport unit.

ablution block_edited-1Source NT Library Ablution block 1940

1940's barracks - Copy_edited-1Source NT Library. Army barracks at meatworks 1940’s


1950's chimney's - Copy_edited-1Source NT Library. Meatworks in derelict state 1950
Facility by this time had been guttered of usable equipment, some used at other facilities to start meatworks.


  • Fire extensively damaged what remained of the facility, mens quarters was burnt to the ground and several other buildings.
  • Site demolished except for large cement tank6


  • Construction of the Darwin High school began

1962 high school construction_edited-1Source NT Library.. Construction begun on Darwin High School 1962.


Darwin high school_edited-1Source – NT Library. Darwin High School. 1982

The old Vestey’s meatworks buildings removed and replaced by school facilities. The only historic infrastructure remaining being the 2 square water tanks built in 1915.



  1. ‘100 years of Northern Beef production’ Nth QLD Register 22.11.12
  2.  ‘The Australian Livestock export trade’ Nigel  Austin 2011
  3.  ‘The Rise and fall of the house of Vestey’ Phillip Knight 1993.
  4. ‘Wild Cattle, Wild Country’ Ann Marie Ingham. 2007
  5. ‘Vestey’s before the food commission’. www.samememory.sa.gov.au. 1925
  6. ‘Establishment of Vestey’s meatworks’ Commonwealth Government records about the NT.
  7. ‘Katherines No lady’ Winsome Maff
  8. ‘Pastoral Australia:Fortunes, Failures & hard Yakka’ M. Pearson, J. Lennon.2010
  9. ‘Meatworks project for N. Territory’ The Canberra Times 21.11.52.
  10. ‘Sons in the saddle’ Mary Durack.
  11. ‘The privileged few’ Jeff Hill 2008
  12. NT Library. Photographic history of Vestey’s meatworks
  13. ‘World on a plate  – A history of meat processing in Australia’ Stephen Martyn 2013
  14. ‘Distance, Drought and Dispossession – A history of the Northern Territory Pastoral Industry’ G McLaren, W Cooper. 2001
  15. ‘Vestey’s and AACo abattoir both mothballed after 3 years, So why can’t Darwin sustain an abattoir? ABC Rural 08.06.2018