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October 2015

The Hog Farm

"The National Capital's Greatest Industry"


Record Breaking Pigs

Despite the continuing issues with the water supply, Guthridge began producing pigs of the highest quality, winning numerous awards at the 1934, 1935 and 1936 Royal Easter Shows. The Hog Farm even rated a glowing review in the 1934 publication, 'Canberra : A City of Flowers ; Official Tourist Guide to Australia's National Capital':

"Ideally situated on Mount Ainslie's grassy lea, you will find demonstrated here the most modern and hygienic methods of open-air pig-raising, and can spend beneficially an hour or two studying Canberra's newest, and-what eventually will be-the National Capital's greatest industry."


Canberra : A City of Flowers ; Official Tourist Guide to Australia's National Capital - page 26

Canberra : A City of Flowers ; Official Tourist Guide to Australia's National Capital - page 26 (Source: ACT Heritage Library)


However, none of this was enough to save The Commonwealth Stud Farms Limited which had been running at a loss of around £500 per annum since 1932. It ultimately went into liquidation in 1940. David Watt Cargill leased the Hog Farm from 1938 until 1941 when Gerald Joseph (Gerry) Kilmartin took over the lease for £3000.

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"A Grotesque Gilbertian Farce"

A second file, 'UNREG-2286 - Advisory Council - Hog Farm', documents a simmering feud between the Department of the Interior and the Health Department over the Hog Farm. This feud came to a head in February 1944 when the Health Department ordered the closure of the Hog Farm. They had requested the Hog Farm's owner, the Department of the Interior, to carry out £4000 worth of improvements to the feed system and water supply. This included connecting the Hog Farm to mains water from Canberra.

Closure of the Hog Farm immediately created the problem of what to do with all the wet waste sent there for disposal. The Health Department estimated that the Department of the Interior had saved £50,000 over the previous 14 years through the lessee's collecting and disposal of this waste.

The ACT Advisory Council was unimpressed by this dispute. The 1st of March 1944, the Canberra Times reported council member Dr. L.W. Nott as stating:

"The ultimatum of the Director-General of Health to the present lessee of the Hog Farm marks the culmination of a disgraceful piece of bureaucratic make-believe that has been continued between the two departments for nearly 12 years. In no place in the British Empire but Canberra, with its present ludricous [sic], bureaucratic control, could such a grotesque Gilbertian farce be played to the end."

"The sorry aspect of it is, however, that while departmental heads finesse and spar for tactical advantages, a primary producer, who has produced thousands of pigs for the local and overseas market and who has saved the Department of the Interior thousands of pounds, is to be openly sacrificed."

Despite neither Department giving ground, the Hog Farm continued to remain in operation. In April 1946, the ACT Advisory Council recommended that the Department of Interior construct a new Hog Farm beside the Molonglo River close to the abattoirs. However, Dr Downes from the Health Department was opposed to this location due to the possible contamination of the river and the future Lake Burley Griffin. Downes also recommended, "...that pig raising in the Territory should be done by dry feed." While this would substantially increase the operational costs for the lessee and the Department of the Interior, it would greatly reduce the Hog Farm's water requirements.

Kilmartin surrendered his lease of the Hog Farm in 1951 and J.W. O'Sullivan and G.F. Cabbon took over the lease in May that year. This ultimately led to the creation of J.W. O'Sullivan & Sons, a waste collection company who operated waste collection services, initially in Canberra, then in Queanbeyan from 1972 until April 2015.

The Hog Farm ceased operation in 1956 when the Department of the Interior resumed the land for development of Watson. In January 1957, a new Canberra attraction opened on a section of the old Hog Farm - the 'Starlight Drive-In'.

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Links:

  • ArchivesACT Government Tenancy Registers - Gungahlin Block 66 (Hog Farm): (PDF Icon PDF 737Kb)
  • Geoscience Australia - Prospects of Obtaining Underground Water at the Hog Farm, Block 66, Gungahlin District, ACT (26th February 1945): (PDF Icon PDF 7.10Mb)
  • Mildenhall's Canberra: Photos of the Hog Farm


Links to Canberra Times Articles:

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