Queensland has four coastal sugar-growing regions where average annual rainfall is 1520 mm or more. They are briefly described below, travelling from south to north roughly in accordance with their chronology.

South Queensland, Moreton, Maryborough and Bundaberg

Captain Louis Hope is credited with growing the first commercial crop at Ormiston in 1863. By the late 1860s cane was grown along the Oxley Creek and Brisbane River flats (Chelmer, Corinda, Hemmant, Bulimba). There was a convict plantation on St Helena Island. Within a few years there were also crops in the Albert and Logan districts (eg Pimpama), and in the Maryborough-Wide Bay district. An estimated thirty juice mills were operating in 1870.

Severe frosts in the 1870s greatly reduced sugar growing in the Brisbane district and, in any event, better growing conditions were available at Bundaberg and Mackay. In the 1880s juice mills were replaced by larger-scale enterprises. Examples of the new mills are:

Rocky Point Near Pimpama 1879-currenti
Eagleby Near Beenleigh c1881-1943
Moreton Nambour 1896-2004
Maryborough 1895-currenti
Mount Bauple South of Maryborough c1900-50
Qunaba East of Bundaberg c1880-1985
Millaquin Bundaberg 1882-currentb
Bingera West of Bundaberg 1884-currentb
Fairymead North of Bundaberg 1884-2005
Isis North-west of Childers 1893-currenti
Gin Gin 1896-1974

i Independent mill
b Bundaberg sugar

Mackay – Proserpine

Sugar was grown at Mackay as early as 1868, and the first Pleystowe mill is recorded in that year. (Pleystowe is 16 km west of Mackay, in the Pioneer River valley.)

Like Bundaberg at its beginning, Mackay had a multitude of small mills. Over 34 are recorded in Harry Easterby's Queensland Sugar Industry before larger-scale central mills were built. When Easterby's book was published in 1932 only seven of the 34 mills continued:

Pleystowe Midway between Mackay and Marian 1869-currentm
Farleigh North of Mackay 1883-currentm
Racecourse Mackay 1887-currentm
North Eton South-west of Mackay 1887-1988
Plane Creek Sarina 1893-currentc
Marian Pioneer River valley 1894-currentm
Proserpine 1897-currenti
Cattle Creek Finch Hatton, west of Mackay 1906-90

m Mackay Sugar Ltd
c Commonwealth Sugar Refineries

Herbert – Burdekin (Ingham, Home Hill, Ayr)

This area is south and north of Townsville. Sugar growing began at the Burdekin in about 1879, and the first mills started in 1884. Crops were held back by periodic dry spells in the Burdekin delta until underground water was successfully extracted in the late 1880s. Important sugar mills are:

Kalamia North of Ayr 1880-currentc
Pioneer North of Ayr 1883-currentc
Invicta South of Townsville 1919-currentc
Inkerman South of Ayr 1914-currentc


The Ingham area, on the Herbert River, apparently had an operating sugar mill in 1871. The Macknade mill (1874) was enlarged by Commonwealth Sugar Refineries. The two big mills are:

Macknade Ingham area 1874-currentc
Victoria Ingham area 1883-currentc

Northern Sugar Region

Northern sugar region is in two parts: Tully to Cairns; and Mossman.

The Melbourne biscuit manufacturer, Thomas Swallow, started the Hambledon mill, Gordonvale, in 1881, within a year of the Johnstone River district being opened up for sugar growing. The Innisfail/Mourilyan area was not far behind. Sugar mills were opened in two basic stages; private-sector central mills and farmers' cooperative mills. The important mills are:

Hambledon Gordonvale 1881-1992
Mourilyan 1882-2006
Goondi North-west of Innisfail 1883-1986
Mulgrave Gordonvale 1893-currenti
Mossman 1897-currenti
Babinda Co-op until 1989, south of Cairns 1915-currentt
South Johnstone Co-op until 1987 1915-currentt
Tully Co-op until 1990 1925-currenti

Many Tully-district farms were a soldier-settlement project.

In the Cairns area the Tableland millt, the first in 73 years, opened in 1998. It is 24 km south-west of Mareeba.

The sugar-regions' share of Queensland sugar production has swung from south to north, although among the northern regions there have been swings aided by irrigation from projects such as the Burdekin River dam.

Region Sugar Cane
Northern 5369
Herbert/Burdekin 8113
Mackay/Proserpine 13,426
Southern 13,493

Each region has bulk-sugar export terminals which replaced previous handling with jute bags:

Northern Cairns harbour 1964
Mourilyan harbour 1960
Herbert/Burdekin Lucinda Point 1958
Townsville 1959
Mackay/Proserpine Mackay harbour 1957
Southern Bundaberg port 1958
Brisbane 1985

Entries can be found on place-names in bold text above.

Several sugar mills have published histories.

Harry Easterby, Queensland sugar industry, Brisbane, Government Printer, c1932

J. Brigden, The story of sugar, Brisbane, Government Printer, 1932

Australian sugar year book, annual 1941- , various publishers



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