5 Australian Farm Company (Kairi State Farm)

Kairi Research Station (DPI Research Station)

Factory site/industry
Atherton Tablelands

Experimental Station Road, Kairi 4872

A part of army life has always been to complain about the food. However troops sent to Queensland during World War II benefited greatly from the early development of experimental farms throughout the state by the government’s agricultural branch.

Farming had commenced on the Atherton Tableland by the 1880s and a few experimental nurseries and field sites were established in north Queensland to quarantine and disseminate seed and plant material and help farmers develop new skills and knowledge. Increasing demand for government-operated agricultural research centres resulted in the establishment of eight state farms Queensland-wide between 1897 and 1920, including two in north Queensland at Home Hill and Kairi.

The Kairi Research Station today forms a complex of farmed land, buildings and other structures that covers 244 hectares on the banks of Lake Tinaroo. Only a few structures of the early State Farm era survive. They include twin grain silos of concrete construction erected in 1918, a timber dairy shed alongside, and the foundations of No.1 Poultry Shed, the northern-most of four built at the farm, during World War II to produce fresh eggs for troops on the Tableland.


In 1911 the newly elected Denham Government established a reserve of 527 hectares for a state farm along the Barron River near Kairi. The land consisted of uncleared rainforest and was chosen specifically to research the suitability of rainforest land for agricultural crops. As clearing proceeded 130 hectares was sown with Rhodes grass as stock feed and a smaller area was used for maize cultivation. Twin reinforced concrete silos were constructed in 1918 to store green fodder including sugar cane. At the time these silos were regarded as cutting edge technology and became a common sight within north Queensland dairying districts during the first half of the twentieth century.

Kairi State Farm played an important role in the early development of the north Queensland maize industry and during the early 1920s local growers formed the Atherton Tableland Maize Board which was responsible for storage and marketing of the crop. The board subsequently raised funds for substantial storage silos at Kairi, Tolga and Atherton. However, prospects for the State Farm diminished in the interwar years. After World War I the demand for land for soldier settlements led to the resumption of almost half of the reserve and the farm was closed by the government in 1929 due partly to the onset of the world economic depression. By 1932 the land was abandoned and later leased.

In late 1942 following Japan’s entry into World War II, the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces Lieutenant General Thomas Blamey, ordered a survey of the Atherton Tableland with the intention of developing facilities for rehabilitation and training of Australian troops brought home from the Middle East to defend the country. Atherton Tableland Base Area was officially established on 14 December 1942. Units of the Australian 6th and 7th Divisions started arriving on the Tableland in January 1943 and began setting up tent encampments around Atherton, Wondecla and Ravenshoe. During February 1943 the 9th Division returned to Australia and the following month began moving into camps around Kairi, Tinaroo and Danbulla. Soon about 40,000 personnel were quartered on the Atherton Tableland, although this number would later swell to as many as 100,000 troops.

Transfer of the headquarters of the Australian Army in north Queensland from Townsville to the Atherton Tableland and the return from overseas of thousands of regular army troops of the Australian Imperial Force created an urgent need to supplement normal rations with locally produced fresh meat and vegetables. To produce food for troops station in north Queensland the Kairi State Farm was reactivated and occupied by 5 Australian Farm Company. Large areas of the farm were cultivated for vegetables, particularly cabbages, silver beet and corn, and improvements were made including the installation of an irrigation system. The army also established a large egg-producing facility comprising four long poultry sheds constructed in parallel rows with some 3500 fowls by mid-1944. Cultivating equipment used was both horse-drawn and tractor-powered and the harvested produce was transported to the Australian Army stores depot at Atherton for distribution.

The farm was no longer required by the army after World War II and in 1947 it was reopened by the Queensland Primary Industries Department as the Kairi Regional Experiment Station-one of a number of such facilities established across Queensland. The station operates as a research and training facility and is prominent in tropical maize development in Australia. Since the late 1950s much of the wartime farm land has been inundated by the Tinaroo Falls dam.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

DPI Research Station and Silos, State Heritage Place Site ID 28903. Queensland Heritage Register, Brisbane.

Jeffrey Grey. A Military History of Australia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990.

Peter Nielsen. Diary of WWII North Queensland, Nielsen Publishing, Gordonvale, 1993.

Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.