Saturday, 7 June 2014

Malanda Milk - a household name

For many decades the name Malanda Milk was a household name in north Queensland, as it supplied milk to thirsty Townsville residents who at one time consumed almost half of the company’s total output.

Milk being bottled at the Malanda Milk Depot in Garbutt, Townsville, c.1957.
Photo by Fred Carew, held by CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
Curiously, it was the influx of tens of thousands of American soldiers during World War II in Townsville that was the catalyst for its success.  Up until then, milk in Townsville was sourced from local dairies, but when Townsville’s population swelled from 30,000 to nearly 100,000 in 1942 as the city became a staging point for the allied war effort in the Pacific; local resources just would not stretch far enough.

As well as the enormous increase in demand, American soldiers demanded that they be supplied with pasteurised milk, when Townsville dairies were still only supplying raw milk to locals.

Farmers with dairy herds on the Atherton Tablelands were able to capitalise on this demand quite quickly, even though butter had previously been the only product produced in bulk by the Tableland dairies.  Pasteurised milk from 350 dairy herds began to be delivered to Townsville on a regular basis, satisfying both the locals, and the city’s military visitors.

The Atherton Tableland Cooperative Dairy Association Ltd - which came to be known throughout north Queensland as Malanda Milk - became so successful that in 1953 Malanda Milk was reputed to have the longest milk run in the world.  Tankers transported milk by road from the Tablelands down the Palmerston Highway to Townsville and from there it went to Cloncurry, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin and Wyndham.

A special advertising feature in the Townsville Daily Bulletin in October 1984 promoted Malanda Milk’s new $3 million milk-packaging plant as one of Queensland’s largest, and most modern.

The size of the cold storage area had been increased and dispatch facilities were improved to ensure that dairy products reached consumers in “perfect condition.”  The new cold rooms covered 950 square metres of floor space.

The massive demand for fresh, pasteurised milk had a flow-on effect to other industries as well.  Arthur and Eileen Battle built their Norgate Transport business on the back of the success of Malanda Milk.  In 1984 their fleet of nine, insulated milk tankers carried over 20,000 litres of milk to the Townsville factory on a daily basis.

The Bulletin described the Battles’ use of insulated tankers as, “a marvellous advance on the tin cans packed with ice on the rail overnight from Innisfail.”

The milk tankers may have been a “marvellous” improvement to the former system of transporting milk, but the big tankers still encountered many pitfalls.  In the early 1950s, when the Battles began carting milk to Townsville, 40 per cent of the Palmerston Highway was still unsealed and flooding during the wet season often threatened to disrupt supply.

According to the Bulletin, “Often the big trucks got bogged to their axles and there were times that Mr Len Nolan, the production manager of the Townsville factory, would walk across a submerged wooden bridge near Halifax to pilot the tankers across.”

The Bulletin reported that Arthur Battle’s slogan might well have been: “The milk must go through”.

No comments:

Post a Comment