Our History


On 12th July 1947, a group of interested cattlemen and women met at Lucey's Hotel, Mt Garnet to discuss the possibility of forming a Saleyard to market their livestock. As a result, the Primary Producers Co-Operative was soon formed, under the Chairmanship of Ken J Atkinson Snr. On 2 April 1948, the company name of North Queensland Saleyards Company Pty Ltd was adopted.


Historical documents show 5000 pound was required to fund the project, with shares issued at 25 pound each. The sale of shares in the Company was restricted to graziers, to avoid losing control of the Saleyards to any large corporations. At this time the biggest shareholder in the Company was Mr Walter Lawrence from Wrotham Park, which at the time, was one of the larges pastoral holdings in Queensland. Mr Lawrence pledge 1000 pounds to the project, and Mareeba Saleyards was born.


An extract from the 1947 share registry shows the following founding shareholders:


Shareholder Property District Brand

KJ Atkinson "Wairuna" Mt Garnet S9Z

Stan Collins "Spring Creek" Mt Garnet 9WC

Paul Hawkins "Brooklyn" Mt Molloy LO1

MJ DeTournouer "Wetherby" Mt Molloy 7VG

GG & VG Atkinson "Gunnawarra" Mt Garnet )5(

Walter Lawrence "Wrotham Park" Chillagoe 6DO

Mrs DK Champneys "Kinara" Mt Garnet 5VD

RL "Mont" Atkinson "Cashmere" Mt Garnet 9WD

Louis Fischer Daintree Q7F

Percy Peters Mareeba P4U

Dudley McDougall "The Springs" Mareeba lazy E1D

Jack Wallace "Fonthill" Mt Molloy

Ned Cobb "Glengarrie" Daintree RC crank

Jimmy Cobb "Sylvinia" Daintree CL3

Mrs E DeTournouer "Wetherby" Mt Molloy 3XU

Fred Keppel "Merlunda" Cape York XM0 B9L

James Grant "Mandalee" Innot Hot Springs L2G

Paddy Ahlers "Bellvue" Chillagoe A spade 9

Hughes Brothers "Koolatah" Normanton Y2X

Josephine Atherton "Nychum" Chillagoe W6A

Arthur H Wilson "Conjuboy" Mt Garnet V5A

Glendean Pastoral Co "Olivevale" Laura J0T

Est SL Roberts "Curraghmore" Mt Molloy Q lazy S 5

J F McGutcheon "Cowley" Innisfail 1SS

Starke Graziers "Starke" Cooktown RX9

WH Bert Simms Auctioneer Mareeba


Each station was entitled to one vote, regardless of the number of shares held, and ownership of shares was transferred with the sale of the property.


The first Chairman of the Board was Mr Ken J Atkinson Snr, who held the position from 1947 until his retirement in 1976. Mr Vernon G Atkinson was then elected and held the position until 2002. Mr VG "Gerry" Collins took over from 2002 until December 2015. Mr Chris Greenwood from 2015 until 2020, Ms Margie Atkinson 2021, and now Mr Giles Atkinson is the current Chair.


The original yard plan was that of a draft at one end, with a lane running down the center of the yard and pens branching off each side. Each pen was designed to hold approximately 150 head. Parts of the original yard stood until 1994, when the old sections were subdivided and replaced with steel.


Tenders for the construction of the Saleyards were called from July to August 1947, with the contract being awarded to the Mareeba Construction Co. At first it was decided to build the yards without removing any timber. When this was too slow, the site was cleared by blowing the trees with dynamite and pulling them over.


Mr Glen Steele, foreman for Mareeba Construction Co at the time reports that:

"The virgin site was rich, red soil covered with box trees on the railway side, sloping bck to a swampy, marshy area covered with ti-tree at the back. Construction began in September 1947. It was extremely hot and dry and hard going. All the holes were dug with crowbars, three inches at a time, filled with water and left to soak, and then dug another three inches. Then the wet season came and all the holes on the swamp side filled with water and fell in."


Contractors supplied the timber, with the ironwood posts coming from the Mt Molloy district. Rose gum or flooded gum as it was commonly called, was used for rails, these were bolted onto the posts - very modern for an era when most yards were cobb and coed. Mr Steele reported that "Mareeba Construction Co was able to obtain a large number of bolts very cheaply at post war army clearing auctions, and so the use of bolts."


The first agent to hold a selling permit was WH Simms, with New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agencies Co Ltd and Dalgety & Co Ltd followed soon after. The first sale was set down for 7th April 1948, but had to be cancelled due to a rail strike, and was subsequently held on Wednesday 19th May 1948, with a yarding of 1325 head.


The Boards' earlier decision to restrict the sale of shares in the Company was justified in 1952, when Primaries tried unsuccessfully to buy the yards. Dalgetys tried again in 1960, but with the same result.

Catwalks were erected in 1959, and lights installed in the main drafting area in 1962, with the yards being fully lit by 1963. The plunge dip was installed in the 1965/66 financial year with dipping fees set at 12c per head.

The most significant modernization plan to be undertaken at the Saleyards occurred in 1983, with the installation of live weight scales, at a cost of $85 000. The first live weight sale was held on 25th January 1983, the same year that the Mareeba Saleyards moved to weekly Tuesday sales, which had previously alternated with Tolga on a fortnightly basis.

There was further significant expenditure required with the introduction of NLIS in 2005, with the installation of a two lane walk through RFID reader, portable wands and significant upgrades to saleyard processing hardware and software.

Over the last fifty years, the Board continually strives to improve and develop the Mareeba Saleyards and its surrounds. The Company has always aimed to provide an affordable service for all vendors - big and small.

The Company currently has 48 shareholders, many of whom are direct descendants of the original founding forefathers.

12 July 1947

It All Started

12 July 1947

02 April 1948

The company name of North Qld Saleyards Company Pty Ltd was adopted


07 April 1948


The first sale was cancelled due to a rail strike

07 April 1948

19 May 1948

The First Sale



Kings Plains cattle at Mareeba Saleyard



Catwalks were erected


Lights installed in the main drafting area




The first Chairman retires



Installation of live weight scales