Adapted from Killarney Co-operative Limited - A History, by John Telfer
The history of the Killarney Cooperative Dairy Company is one of a highly successful enterprise that brought a great degree of prosperity to the small farming community of Killarney.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Australia was experiencing an agricultural metamorphosis after the gold rushes of the 1850-1860 period began to decline. Immigration, both assisted and unassisted, began to emerge. The population in the country had seen an upsurge in numbers, which meant that food production became a necessity. Many of the new migrants to Australia were coming from the British Isles and other European areas where agriculture and dairying industries had been well established.
When the Land Acts of the 1860s freed up much of the land from squatters and opened it up to selectors and farmers, many regions of coastal Australia began to move into dairying and agriculture. Many of the areas that experienced high rainfall figures were ideal for the emergence of a dairying industry. These areas were known as the Wet Frontier“, and after the 1880s dairy products of milk, butter and cheese became the staple, they dominated all other products and farming activities.
Demand for butter grew in the late 19th century, and this caused great changes in rural Australia. With the expanding industry and urban centres of Great Britain calling for exports of butter from Australia and New Zealand, the butter industry began to boom. In 1886-1889, Britain imported an average of 1.7 million hundredweight of butter per annum from Australia and from 1889-1900, this was increased to 3.2 million hundredweight per year.
By 1906, 4.2 million hundredweight per annum was being exported to England, so that by 1910 Australia was the second largest supplier of butter to the British market, with 15 per cent of imports.
The State of New South Wales, especially the border districts of the northern region, fell to the Selection Acts and the land was used for dairying. The Premier George Reid was a dedicated Protectionist, resulting in trade difficulties between the border areas prior to Federation in 1901. The small Queensland town of Killarney, which bordered northern New South Wales, benefited from this and it was one of the factors in the setting up of the Killarney Dairying Company in 1913.
Until the 19th century, the vast majority of butter was made by hand on the farm and the process was very labour intensive. The invention of the centrifugal cream separator for butter manufacturing in 1877 sped up the process of butter making by eliminating the slow process of letting cream naturally rise to the top of milk.
This now allowed the dairy farmer to separate the cream on the farm and bring the cream only to the factory for further processing into butter. The Laval Separator became standard use for farmers in the Killarney district and gave the suppliers a good source of income for their labour. The skimmed milk also provided them with an extra income when it was sold to the local piggeries.
The Killarney district was made up of many small dairy farms that were producing milk and cream. The demand for butter throughout the world was increasing, with the Mother Country, Britain, eager to import the product for its vastly increased urban and industrial regions. Preferential trade agreements were struck with the Colonies of Australia and New Zealand, which almost guaranteed the dairy farmer a constant export product.
The Killarney venture started with the very primitive and labour intensive butter factory which opened in an old building known as Milward’s General Store, and the production of butter began in full steam. The electrification of the factory and the coming of the railway further enhanced the manufacturing process.
The railway that was part of the southern line was to reach Warwick in 1871 and was a real boon to the timber and dairying industry that stretched the 32 kilometres from Warwick to Killarney. Goods were taken by horse and cart to the rail head before the introduction of the motor truck.
The line out to Killarney began at Mill Hill Terminus which serviced the cement factory in Warwick, and extended out to Emu Vale in 1884. On 24 August 1885 the people of Killarney were elated when the line was extended out to their township. They saw it as a great advantage to their region with the butter factory now in full production at Killarney, the cheese factory at Yangan, and the opening of the coal mine at Mt. Colliery, presaging the coming of great prosperity to the area.
From 1908 a tramway from Mt. Colliery operated for the coal industry. The new Commonwealth Free Trade Act that lifted taxes from trade between the States allowed the northern New South Wales and southern Queensland regions to prosper.
However, rail transport south was restricted to Wallangarra, owing to the different railway gauges, and this was to prove a hindrance for the moving of butter and cheese products to interstate buyers.
The butter factory at Killarney was initially very primitive and labour intensive, struggling along on poor equipment. In 1920 the termination of the Imperial Butter Control released huge war stocks of butter onto the open market, causing the price of butter to fall from a high of 2s 6d per pound down to 7 pence per pound. It now seemed that the initial promise that the Killarney butter factory showed was gone. The Killarney Dairy Company was almost bankrupt and on the verge of collapse.
Negotiations for the sale of the Company’s assets and equipment were in progress when a young migrant worker from Denmark, who had recently started with the Company, emerged to lead them out of this crisis. He was trained in the manufacture of dairying products in Maryborough and Kingaroy and had a vision for the future of the Killarney butter factory. He was a man who could cover any position in the factory, and when appointed Manager and Secretary of the dying Company, led them out of the mire to prosperity.
His name was Christian “Christie“ Ludvig Petersen.
Christie was born in the small farming community of Sparkjaer in Viborg parish, Denmark on 29 August 1893. His birth name was Jeppe Christian Ludvig Pedersen, but he changed his name by Deed Poll when he arrived in Australia.
Dropping Jeppe from his name was due to his never using it, and his descendants stated he would have changed the spelling of his surname out of convenience with pronunciation. Christie grew up doing farm work, going on the work in a steam laundry.
In 1912, a visit from an uncle who lived in Maryborough spurred Christie to accompany his uncle back to Australia. He arrived in Brisbane on 2 March 1913, heading to Maryborough shortly after. He was 20 years old.
In Maryborough, he found work with the Maryborough Co-operative Dairy Association, which would no doubt inform his later work.
Christie returned to Denmark for some time, but eventually returned to Australia with his younger brother, Soren, in 1920.
Christie took up his old position in Maryborough before being transferred to an associated factory in Kingaroy. From there he was transferred to Killarney. He took up the position of Manager on 1 November 1921.
A meeting was held with Christie where he explained the idea of forming a Co-operative with the many suppliers of the district. Guided by the Government legislation of the period, the meeting supported Christie’s ideas and efforts were made to form the Killarney Co-operative Dairy Association.
This group would take over the operations of the Killarney Dairy Company, and the various suppliers of milk to the cheese factories in the district, would also support the venture by supplying milk for this new Killarney project.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Killarney Co-operative Dairy Association Limited came to existence in 1922.
A meeting of cream suppliers was held at 8pm on 10 October.
Eighteen suppliers were in attendance at this meeting, when the Killarney Co-operative Dairy Association was officially proclaimed. Mr WA Horne formally moved and Mr JW Watson seconded “that we, a number of cream suppliers present at this meeting, form a Co-operative Dairy Company to be known as The Killarney Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd and that we acquire and take over as a going concern the firm known as the Killarney Diary Company Ltd”.
About 1300 pounds was subscribed in share capital at the meeting, and 12 gentlemen – JH Hansen, WJ Grayson, F Grayson, O Spreadborough, JC Kable, G Dumigan, WA Horne, E Homan, JW Watson, WR Bloomfield, P Fisher and G Fisher, signed personal guarantees to the Bank for 4000 pounds.
When negotiations for the sale were complete, the directors of the original company agreed to accept 650 fully paid-up shares in the new Co-operative as full settlement.
Its charter stated that it was to be owned by the 41 suppliers, who became shareholders, and was to be controlled by a board of directors, with staff to carry out the Co-operative’s policies. The first board of directors saw J.H. Hansen as chairman, and C.L. Petersen as manager/secretary.
Christie would go on to work in this position for the next 46 years.
The staff at this time consisted of the working manager, an engine driver, a young lad, and a part-time clerk to handle the office work.
The butter factory was making steady progress, so much so that the number of cream suppliers rose from the initial 41 to around the 400 mark.
It soon became obvious that the present factory site was too small and had to be abandoned for a larger one. Christie went about organising the building of a new modern brick factory which eventuated in 1928. He took great care to ensure that the factory was well laid out and had the best modern equipment necessary for producing high quality butter.
The Co-op was duly registered with 41 suppliers on October 22 1922. The first board of directors was made up of chairman Mr J.H. Hansen and directors Francis Grayson, W.J. Grayson, Egmont Homan, J.W. Watson, P. Bradford, K.P. Jensen and L.H. Wallace.
The opening of the new factory was a grand occasion and was attended by local and visiting dignitaries.
The equipment consisted of one coal and wood fired steam boiler, which was to provide a constant supply of hot water for washing equipment and the floors.
Steam was also used for pasteurising the cream and for the sterilising of cream cans before they were returned to the farmers. Water was provided for the boilers and general factory use, by pumping it from the nearby Condamine River and was stored in a number of large tanks perched on a high water tower that overlooked the factory.
The Co-operative continued to operate in the old butter factory in Ivy Street, on the site of the current Produce store, having sold their Tannymorel property in 1923.
The factory also produced ice for the insulated butter rail cars and also for domestic ice chests. Ice would regularly be delivered to the residents up until the time when ice chests were replaced with household refrigerators.
The railway line was eventually extended to the butter factory as production output increased and the solid ½ inch thick pine boxes containing 56 pounds of butter were loaded from the cold room directly onto the rail wagon. They were then transported to Brisbane from where they were loaded (again) onto sea transport bound for the English markets.
With the growth in suppliers, it was soon obvious that the present site was too small.
The board embarked on the ambitious project of building a new factory. Great care was taken with the design and layout with the result that Killarney had one of the best laid out and most modern Butter Factories from 1928 until its closure in 1974.
The factory also produced ice for the insulated butter rail cars and also for domestic ice chests. Ice was regularly delivered to households until ice chests were replaced with household refrigerators.
The opening of the new butter factory was reported as the largest gathering that had ever assembled in Killarney, with 400 guests entertained at a banquet at mid-day before the formal opening of the factory by Mr Forgan Smith, the Minister for Agriculture and Stock. Having moved into the new factory, the board sold the old building to Backhouse Ltd in 1928.
Such was the quality of Killarney butter that it eventually won prizes in the London Agricultural Shows and, in the words of former Chairman Frank McIvor “The town became well known for the quality of its butter, becoming the butter capital of Queensland, recognized for its fine quality”.
As far back as August 1923 the idea of Co-operative selling was discussed by the members and a committee was formed to investigate.
The idea of forming a store was deferred initially, with the committee focusing on the supply of farm equipment required by their dairymen. Each supplier to the factory required a milking machine, a cream separator and an engine to drive the apparatus.
These items were purchased by the Co-op and on-sold to the suppliers for a commission. Normally these items were sold on terms, with repayments taken from cream cheques.
As the Co-operative grew and the number of suppliers increased more products were added to this system including windmills and pumping equipment. These machines required replacements of rubberware and other spare parts, which the Co-op stocked in their head office. And so it began – trading for the convenience of the members. Petrol bowsers were installed at the old factory in 1926 in The Co-op was also purchasing produce and fodder in large quantities and reselling to their suppliers.
It was soon realized that the farmer required a much larger range of merchandise to be stocked.
In October 1936 the opportunity arose for the Co-op to repurchase their old premises in Ivy Street. A Co-op store was opened in the building, selling all sorts of farm supplies, seed grains, fertilisers, stockfeed, oils and fuel. Sale of grocery items such as bags of sugar, flour and tea saw the early beginning of grocery trading.
A new grain store with a basement and a ground floor was erected. The huge hole in the ground for the basement was dug by one man using nothing more than a horse and scoop. This basement exists today and is used for storage and archives.
The ground floor housed a seed grading plant which was in constant use grading both local and interstate grains for planting and bird seed. Seed grain surplus to local requirements was sold to other parts of the state and Northern Rivers. Likewise, grains grown by the local farmers were purchased by the Co-op and, if surplus to their requirements, would be sold off the other parts of the country for stockfeed, bird seed, or as grain suitable for seed.
Large quantities of high quality oats of different varieties would be purchased in central New South Wales and transported to Killarney by rail and road. It would then pass through the seed grader where the dust, straw, and other impurities would be removed. Oat seed generally had a long whisker on the end of it, so it was necessary to pass it through a slotted cylinder to be clipped. It was then placed in new bags and sold as seed oats locally and elsewhere.
The Co-op became the agent for a large breakfast cereal manufacturing company, purchasing grain in bags on the farm and loading it on rail for transport to Sydney. Because of the differences in rail gauges, it all had to be transhipped at Wallangarra- quite a job for the thousands of tons that were shipped each year.
The basement housed grain crushing machinery, where the grain would be crushed course or fine, sometimes have additives added, and bagged and sold for stockfeed. Like the butter factory, with the expansion of trading, further buildings and fixtures were necessary.
In 1947 further expansion of store trading took place, with the erection of a modern brick façade hardware store. This handled a full range of heavy and light hardware as well as variety and gift lines. This store was built adjacent to the produce store on land that used to be a rubbish dump and so required special foundations.
Truck sheds were added to house the growing fleet of trucks. A further shed was erected to house the 44 gallon drums of fuel, super and standard petrol, power kerosene, distillate and lighting kerosene, shellite, plus the various drums and tins of all types of oil.
The butter factory started to experience a downturn in the 1960s with the advent of a new product called margarine which could be produced for a much lower price than butter. Suppliers to the factory were being reduced from a peak number of around 450 to a mere fraction of that number.
Apart from this, the next generation of dairy farmers were reluctant to accept the strong seven day a week work ethic of their fathers. This caused an exodus of dairy farmers as they sold their land. Another factor was the incursion of beef cattle as a better option for cattle breeders as this did not require the same commitment as dairy farms. Drought did not help. By 1970, butter factories were either closing down or struggling to survive.
The Killarney Co-operative was now under the management of George Fielding as Christie Petersen had retired in 1966.
With the downturn in the dairy industry, the general manager and board were quick to realise that change was required in order to ensure the continued success of the Co-operative.
A survey was carried out among the remaining suppliers to see what the future held. It revealed that only 35 suppliers to the Killarney factory would be continuing in the industry in the next 12 months.
Under Mr Fielding’s management, great expansion of the Trading Section took place; a stockfeed manufacturing plant was erected at the rear of the produce store in 1968. It was the era of bulk handling, and grain was no exception.
Silos, complete with grain augers for the handling of grain were installed, along with a hammer mill and mixing machinery. A bulk grain truck was used to bring whole grain in from the farm, and a further truck was purchased to deliver bulk stockfeed to the farm.
The farmer required a small silo to receive the stockfeed and the steel fabrication department was expanded to manufacture and deliver these silos to where they were required. Farmers were able to purchase outright, or rent the grain tanks for 50c per week.
By supplement feeding stock, the farmer could increase the carrying capacity of his farm. Intensive piggeries began to spring up, requiring large quantities of high protein feed. It became necessary to purchase whole grain from further afield, and the stockfeed mill was soon working full time to keep up with demand.
After the devastating storm of 1968, the Co-operative was able to purchase allotments of land from Queensland Railways on the opposite side of the road. The rail line and track to the butter factor had previously closed down. The block of land contained a large wheat shed, used for many years by the Wheat Board in the storage and shipment of bagged grain by rail, but it had not been used for many years.
This same shed is in use today, with some modifications and an extension for the storage of bulk fertilisers.
The railway land was considered a good site for a Service Station which was soon erected with a service bay, hoist, and public toilets and showers for the trucks. Full service station facilities were provided with a motor mechanic to carry out light motor and lawnmower repairs, maintenance, and to give fill driveway service. The service station was supported by Golden Fleece, but carried the name “Co-op Service Station“. Up until that time the Co-operative had two kerbside bowsers at the front of the store, which were subsequently removed.
A grand opening was held in 1969, at which Golden Fleece officials and their well-known advertising publicity star “Stanley“ were in attendance.
With the advent of large semi-trailers and trucks, the only Public Weighbridge in town was condemned. The weighbridge was vital to the Co-op’s grain activity, so it was quickly decided to build a new one on a section of the railway land. The railway land was considered a good site for a Service Station, and plans were made.
Plans were then approved by the board in October 1969, with the service station commencing operation on 12 January 1970 – just shy of three months later. Full service station facilities were provided with a motor mechanic to carry out light motor and lawnmower repairs and maintenance.
In 1971 Kerry Woolacott, the current produce manager, proposed that the Co-op further increase their range of grocery lines. Plans were approved for a small Shop Rite self-service grocery store in the vacant office space between the produce and hardware stores. In order to modernise the appearance of the stores, a large glassed-in foyer was erected, linking all three stores together. A customer service counter opened from the office into the store foyer, which had glass sliding doors and seats inside for the convenience of customers, many of whom had travelled considerable distances.
Outside there were steps and a ramp leading to the glass door, with a rounded landscape area between. The additions and alterations made the store more inviting and linked the three departments together with the one entrance.
After only three months of trading internal changes were made to allow a full-sized supermarket within the hardware store and the association joined the Foodland group and the Home and Hardwares Key Group.
By the end of 1971 the original grocery section was utilized to set up a TV and Radio Repair and Sales Department and in September 1972 application for membership of Betta Stores was lodged.
The Co-op had already branched out into electrical contracting, employing an electrician and apprentice to work where required. With the advent of television, a TV technician was employed to install and service televisions and other electrical appliances.
Drought and falling butter productions was causing concerns for the butter factory.
The board resolved to close down the factory for the winter months of 1973, with cream supplies being sold to the Warwick Co-op Dairy during this time.
The Tenterfield and Boonah factories closed down around this time. At the annual meeting of shareholders on 6 September 1973 the recommendation of Directors to cease the manufacture of butter in the Killarney factory was carried unanimously.
The Co-operative continued to purchase the local cream to be processed at the Warwick factory until the end of 1975.
A five per cent cash discount for shareholders was introduced in March 1975, which continues, albiet in a modified form, still today.
The Co-op transferred from a Butter Manufacturing Co-operative to a full Trading Society for its income. The transition was successful and the board set about continuing to modernise the retail departments. In 1976 the head office (previously located at the top of Ivy Street) was combined with the store office.
It was a major benefit for customer management and was greatly appreciated by both customers and staff. In an endeavour to build up the trading activities, qualified technical staff were appointed to concentrate on after sales service.
In 1978 the Co-Op was a member of Betta Electrical, Key Group Homeware and Hardware, and Foodland Grocery buying groups; direct agencies of Ampol and Golden Fleece Fuels and Consolidated Fertiliser; and offered Co-operative Insurance. As banks were at this time not willing to assist the Co-op, a member’s loan fund was initiated and continues to run to this day.
A new seed grading plant was installed in 1978 to replace the slow and obsolete equipment, and a continuous grain drying plant was later added. An open day was held in 1979 to showcase the new equipment. The new high capacity plant fulfilled a need for the grain going members of the Co-operative.
The fabrication department was closed down in 1979 with the reduction of work in this area.
Mr George Fielding retired on 31 March 1980, after 40 years with the Co-operative, 13 of those in the position of general manager. Mr Kerry Woolacott, who had at this point been with the association for 11 years, was appointed general manager and set to work converting the Co-operative to a Trading Society.
Due to the closure of the Butter Factory, and the associations switch to trading, it no longer qualified to comply with registration under the Primary Producers Co-operative Act.
Many other former Dairy Co-operatives found themselves in the same situation and as a result the Government introduced legislation to enable these Co-operatives to successfully convert to a trading society under the Co-operative and Other Societies Act.
A meeting of Shareholder of the Killarney Co-operative Dairy Association was held at 7.30pm on the fifth day of November 1980 and confirmed the Board of Directors recommendation to take advantage of the recent amendments to Co-operative Legislation in Queensland to convert to a Co-operative Society. This was done and the registered trading name became “The Killarney Co-operative Society Limited”.
The store was refurbished in 1984 which included the installation of a suspended ceiling, modern shelving, and refrigeration. A shoe departments was added to the front of the produce store.
Bulk fertiliser facilities were installed in the old railway shed in 1987, with a grand opening at 4pm on Thursday 3 December. Such was the popularity of this facility, capacity was doubled in early 1990.
The rural community supported a move in 1988 to convert the shed purchased off the railway into a bulk fertiliser facility. Due to the need for further fruit and vegetable floor space, the hardware end of the store was extended and the kitchenware, gadgets and gardening sections were relocated to this end of the store.
The extension of the hardware enabled the Betta appliance department to be opened out at that end of the store, with the various kitchen and giftware lines complementing the small appliance section. With this upgrade, a washroom and toilet facilities for customers were added as well as a staff room.
The butter factory land and buildings were sold in 1988, ending an era in the Co-op’s history and freeing up capital to be used in the business.
A block of land to the west of the store, which now houses the customer carpark was purchased for future expansion.
At a special meeting of shareholders in 1988 shareholders voted to increase the minimum shareholding from 10 shares to the current 25 shares.
The Co-op faced some challenges in the later 80s and early 90s, with tough interest rates and taxes imposed by the Government.
A number of improvements were made in the early 90s, including the relocation of one of the Co-op’s residences and the sale of another to facilitate increased car parking services. The first automatic doors were also installed at the main entrance.
The Board was concerned about future expenses by the Government as the introduction of a one per cent training levy would add another $4,400 to operating expenses. They notes also that this would be further complicated when the Occupational Productivity Superannuation was due to rise to eight per cent on 1 October 1990.
1992 was not a spectacular year for the Co-operative but considering the bleak outlook for the future of the rural sector at the time, the performance was excellent. Sales of $5,298,037 were an all-time record, which indicated that support for the Society was being maintained. An operating profit of $25,381 for the year was very encouraging and with operating expenses kept down to only a 4.7 per cent increase, a fully franked dividend was paid to shareholders.
1992 marked the 70th anniversary of the Co-operative and on this occasion the chairman, Mr Frank McIvor said “the rural side of the business was where the big turnover was.
Buying and selling grain is one of the major business operations of the Co-operative…we buy grain locally if we can…we pride ourselves in servicing Killarney and district…we operate well into Northern New South Wales, delivering stock meal and grain as far south as Kyogle, Glen Innes and Urbenville. At time we have serviced farmers in the Rathdowney area.“
Later on, he would go on to comment on the future of the industry, stating that “with the future of the rural industry looking bleak through lack of support and understanding at both State and Federal level, I cannot say that the future will be any better than the past few years. Unless Governments at all levels realise there is no such thing as a ’level playing field’ then I feel there is little for rural Australia to be optimistic about regarding their future viability.“
The installation of reverse cycle air conditioning in the grocery and hardware sections in 1993 was well received by customers, resulting in increased sales in these areas. 1993 saw sales hit a new record high with $5,448,651 for the year. Frank McIvor cautioned against complacency. The Co-operative continued to create new sales records while facing droughts and other financial hurdles.
A closed circuit security system, new petrol bowsers, and a new Holden Rodeo utility were added in 1996, and the service station as given a facelift. Frank McIvor also retired in 1996 after 30 years of service as Director and 23 years as chairman.
Fresh meat was added to the grocery range in 1998, with a special fridge purchased to hold Killarney Butchery meat. An In-Store Branch of Westpac Bank was opened in 1998 for the convenience of customers. To make room for the bank, the show shop was relocated to a small area of the produce department.
The Electrical Service Department closed in 1999 after many years service to the township as the Board felt the Co-operative could no longer compensate for the losses made in this area.
A customer loyalty programme in the grocery store was launch on 10 October 2001, rewarding customers for shopping with the Co-op. This programme has since been extended into the Service Station. A new fast loading and unloading auger system for the grading and drying silos was also installed in 2001.
To assist with the growing grain delivery market, a second truck was purchased in 2002 and in 2003 a roller mill was installed and the feed mill upgraded.
Plans for a new department store to be built on the vacant land beside the existing complex were drawn up in 2002. The tender for construction of the building was won by Roulston Builders Pty Ltd, with a six month construction timeframe. The department store was opened on 27 April 2004, housing the In-Store Bank, Electrical, Supermarket, and Hardware. With the extension of the Hardware section a nursery was added between the new and old complexes.
The state of the art Supermarket features a full delicatessen and coffee shop. Changes of buying groups from Key Hardware to Thrifty Link and Foodstore to AUR Food/Rite also occurred with the opening of the new store. The supermarket has since changed banners to FoodWorks, following the merger of AUR and Foodworks in late 2004.
Renovations to the area of the store vacated by the groceries, hardware and electrical and the erection of a covered loading bay between the old store and stock feed mill, provided long overdue modern and more spacious premises for the rural merchandise department in 2005. The shop floor was concreted to create a forklift friendly rural merchandise showroom.
The area previously housing the produce department was converted to offices in 2007, with the old area later converted into a staff lunch area and training room. At the completion of the renovations in 2008 the entire “old building“ had undergone a total renovation.
A rural merchandise depot was opened in Urbenville on 1 July 2008 in conjunction with Scofield’s Transport. The depot houses many rural lines from our produce and hardware sections, as well as a range of work and rubber boots.
Bad weather conditions influenced the Co-op in the 2000s, with farmers expressing high hopes in 2010 when increased rainfall was predicted. This rising optimism was dampened when the closure of the Killarney Abattoirs caused an economic and social downturn in the town. This did affect the Co-operative, as sales were down by 8 per cent in 2010. This would continue to have an impact for years to come.
The increased rainfall came to fruition, with flooding experience in late 2010 and early 2011. This caused losses of both winter and summer crops for many shareholders. Thankfully, the Co-op did not experience much damage due to flooding.
Killarney had been without the services of a doctor since 2008 and members of the Co-op board, along with the Manager Pat Brosnan, had been working with the Killarney Medical Task Force to get a new medical centre in the town.
The Medical Task Force was an initiative of the Southern Downs Regional Council formed to apply for funding through the Rural and Remote Infrastructure Fund. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to secure funding, the morale in town was at an all-time low.
Businesses in town were feeling the burnt of the closure, as many residents who were forced to see medical attention out of town were also changing their spending habits and not shopping locally. The Co-op was no exception.
The board of directors made a decision in December 2010 to set aside a residence, with thoughts of renovating it into a medical building. At the time the Co-op owned two rental houses that were vacant and in need of renovation and he recently purchased house beside the department store was chosen as the most appropriate site for a medical building. A development application was lodged with the Southern Downs Regional Council, which was subsequently approved.
With council approval came the arduous task of researching the requirements necessary to convert the building into a useable facility.
Despite many hours of research the project did not begin to take shape until an approach was made in April 2011 by Dr and Mrs Walkden-Brown who wished to set up a practice in Killarney and were interested in renting the facility from the Co-op once complete.
Mrs Walkden-Brown, being an experienced practice manager, had invaluable knowledge about setting up a practice, and what was required. Plans were drawn up and tenders called in August 2011.
The chairman of the board of directors, Andrew Peterson, announced at the annual general meeting on 11 October 2011 that the Co-operative was to renovate their resident at 30 Ivy Street and turn it into a Medical Centre.
A trust was set up with the explicit purpose to aid in renovating and maintaining the building.
Ivy St Medical opened its doors to the public on 11 April 2012, servicing the communities of Killarney, Mt Colliery, Tannymorel, Yangan, Murray’s Bridge, Emu Vale, Spring Creek, Acacia Plateau, and Legume.
By 2012, the Killarney Co-operative had grown its trading section from the annual turnover of £825 in 1927 to over $17 million.
Killarney Co-op was recognised at the 2012 Heritage Bank Business Excellence Awards on 1 September, run by the Warwick Chamber of Commerce. After being nominated in six categories, the Co-op was a finalist in “Rural Achievement“ and won the “Presentation and Marketing“ award. This award, on top of the opening of Ivy St Medical and the celebration of 90 years of service to the community, marked 2012 as a highly successful year.
In 2013 a major redevelopment of the Service Station was completed, which included a 24-hour fuel facility. Following the closure of the Westpac Instore Branch, the Co-op was offered the opportunity to purchase the Post Office license and relocated the post office into the department store in March 2016. The Post Office offers locals post boxes, Bank@Post service, BillPay, and a great range of books and giftwares.