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The Board regains control of the Mill

 

    Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

By 1905 Nambour's Moreton Central Sugar Mill had finished its tramway extension to Chairman of the Board George L. Bury's Finn settlement 'Finbury' at Image Flat, and the Dulong tramline was nearly completed.  Government control of the Mill had failed to make it as profitable as expected, and there were still outstanding debts. New cane growers had not been offered shares in the company, but they appreciated the Government's controlling hand. At the time, non-shareholders provided three-quarters of the cane crushed, and as a bloc they opposed the desire of the Board of Directors to regain control. They felt that the Board would give preference to shareholders in its dealings with farmers and even considered establishing their own sugar mill, independent of Moreton Central.

The Government wished to recoup its money and terminate its connection with the Moreton Mill, and so decided to force the issue by closing the Mill down, with the expectation that it could be immediately re-established as a co-operative between the existing shareholders and non-shareholders. With this in mind, a Notice of Foreclosure was served on the Company in August 1906. This action was reported in The Chronicle on the 17th of that month, the newspaper advising its readers that several other sugar mills, e.g. Proserpine, were being treated in a similar fashion, but expectations were that a local response to the government action would obviate 'any likelihood of the farmers having to suffer any undue hardships'.

The Board of Directors met on the 17th August to devise a way to return the Mill to their control and to circumvent the move towards a co-operative mill. At this meeting, G. L. Bury resigned as Chairman and was replaced by J. C. Reid.

Reid approached the London Bank of Australia for a loan of 40 000 pounds, to enable the Mill to redeem itself from Government control. After visiting the district to see conditions for himself, Mr H. Cupples, the Bank's Brisbane manager, approved the loan (later, James Cupples purchased a farm at  Kureelpa). This meant that the Mill, its property, lands, and tramways that had been mortgaged to the State Treasury would instead be mortgaged to the London Bank of Australia. Shareholders' property deeds which had been handed over to guarantee the government loans were now to be held by the London Bank. Management of the Mill would return to the shareholders through their Board of Directors, who would appoint staff to run it.

Many cane farmers did not support this action, and on 20th November a deputation presented the State Treasurer with a petition containing ninety signatures protesting against it. They strongly opposed control being returned to the directors of the 'old company' because they believed such a course was contrary to the welfare of the district and to the cane industry. They wanted Government control to continue and, in the case of some shareholders, to regain possession of their deeds free from 'further annoying agreements'. However, the majority of shareholders ratified the Board's actions at a meeting in Nambour, and the transfer of deeds from the Treasury to the London Bank of Australia took place on 31st December 1906.

Control of the Mill had now returned to the Board of Directors, and they hoped that their Company would become sufficiently profitable to enable the 40 000 pounds loan to be repaid. Not until this was accomplished would the local shareholders be able to reclaim the deeds to their properties. All non-essential expenditure was terminated at once, although the tramline to Dulong had been completed by then. It was obvious that the Company would have to generate extra income if it were to survive.

Mr Wilfred E. Desplace had been working as Mill Manager through these turbulent times since May 1904. In December 1906 the Board requested that he continue in the position, but he refused, having found a position with the Custom's Department in Maryborough.


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