A Concise History of the Far North Queensland Sugar Industry, 1860-2000

Griggs, Peter (2007) A Concise History of the Far North Queensland Sugar Industry, 1860-2000. Report. James Cook University, Cairns, QLD, Australia. (Unpublished)

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[Extract] The region known as coastal Far North Queensland extends from Cooktown in the north to Cardwell in the south. The narrow coastal plain varies between 20 and 50 kilometres and is flanked by a continuous line of ranges, including some of Queensland's highest mountains (e.g. Mt Bellenden Ker; Mt Bartle Frere). This region is characterized by high average annual rainfall (in excess of 2,000 mm in some localities), warm maximum daily temperatures for most of the year (i.e. above 20° C) and an absence of frost. Permanent rivers, the Bloomfield, Daintree, Mossman, Barron, Mulgrave, Johnstone, Murray and Tully, and their tributaries, have carved deep gorges through the ranges. Patches of fertile alluvium had formed along the banks of these rivers as they meander across the narrow coastal plain. Before European settlement, the flood plains and ranges were thickly covered with vine forests (commonly known as tropical rainforest). 1

During the 1860s, the majority of the first Europeans who penetrated this region were bêche-de-mer fishers and prospectors, not agriculturalists in search of fertile land. An attempt during the late 1860s by John E. Davidson to establish a sugar plantation on the Murray River, between Cardwell and present-day Tully, had failed by 1875 due to repeated flooding of the property and attacks from Aborigines? Interest in the possibilities of tropical agriculture in Far North Queensland, particularly the cultivation of sugar cane, resurfaced in the mid-1870s. Two factors combined to stimulate this interest, especially from investors located in southern Australia. First, demand for sugar in the Australian colonies was increasing rapidly, and the already established sugar-producing regions in northern New South Wales and other parts of Queensland were unable to produce enough sugar to satisfy demand. 3 Second, the area was explored more effectively. In late 1873, the Queensland government funded an expedition to assess the resources of the colony's northeast coast. Leadership was entrusted to George Dalrymple, explorer and former Commissioner for Crown Lands, Kennedy District (1861-63). His investigations of the country between Cardwell and the Endeavour River (site of today's Cooktown) resulted in the discovery of several fertile coastal valleys which he considered were fit to be cultivated with sugar cane. Dalrymple advocated the immediate throwing open to selection of the agricultural lands along these river valleys. 4

Item ID: 34263
Item Type: Report (Report)
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2014 23:50
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 70%
14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140203 Economic History @ 30%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8206 Harvesting and Packing of Plant Products > 820603 Sugar Cane (Cut for Crushing) @ 40%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 20%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 40%
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