Meringa Sugar Experiment Station | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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Meringa Sugar Experiment Station

  • 602835
  • 71378 Bruce Highway Meringa, Gordonvale


Also known as
Meringa Sugar Research Station
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
18 July 2014
Education, research, scientific facility: Experimental station/farm
2.4 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Agricultural activities
2.7 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Experimenting, developing technologies and innovation
DB Goodsir & HJ Carlyle
Goodsir & Carlyle, Baker & Wilde
Queensland Department of Public Works
Queensland Department of Public Works
Construction periods
1917, Entomologist's residence (1917)
1935, Implement and Tractor shed (1935)
1957, Glasshouse (1957)
1962, 1962 Office and laboratory (1962)
1969, 1969 Office (1969)


71378 Bruce Highway Meringa, Gordonvale
Cairns Regional Council
-17.06833597, 145.7738569


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Meringa Sugar Experiment Station (SES), established in 1917 as the first and only entomological station of the Queensland Government's Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, is important in demonstrating the Queensland Government's efforts to support the state’s sugar industry, an important part of Queensland’s economy since the 1860s.

The surviving buildings from each phase of the Meringa SES’s development represent the evolution of the purpose of the facility, and the sugar industry’s priorities, over more than 100 years. The Entomologist's Residence (1917) is important evidence of the facility’s initial use as an entomological station; the Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building (1935), and the Glasshouse (1957) are products of the station’s expansion into cane variety research from the mid-1930s; while the Office and Laboratory Building (1962), and the Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969) are evidence of the increasingly scientific operations of the facility from the 1960s. The Crossing Facility (current buildings from 1977), and Photoperiod Facility (from 1986) are important functions on the site that reflect more recent technological advancements in its plant breeding program.

The Meringa SES is also the site of important scientific achievements and events in sugar cane agriculture, including breeding new cane varieties that became ubiquitous in Queensland; testing insecticides to control cane pests that became standard practice; and the introduction of cane toads into Queensland.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

Meringa SES is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a sugar experiment station in Queensland that has evolved over time. These include residential, office, and laboratory buildings; a glasshouse; implement and tractor shed and stables building; land for experimental crops; and other structures associated with breeding sugar cane, such as crossing and photoperiod facilities.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

Meringa SES has a long and special association (since 1917) with Queensland's Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations (BSES), and with the work of its notable research scientists, including Edmund Jarvis, James Franklin Illingworth, Edwin James Reuben Barke, Reginald William Mungomery, James Hardie Buzacott, Gilbert Bates, George Wilson, and Alan Parkhurst Dodd. Since 1900, the BSES has played a crucial role in the development of the Queensland and Australian sugar industry. Sugar Research Australia, formed in 2013, incorporates Queensland's BSES and continues this important association, with Meringa SES now the major breeding station for the whole Australian sugar industry.


Meringa Sugar Experiment Station (SES) was established near Meringa, south of Cairns, in 1917 and has made a strong contribution to the development of the Queensland sugar industry, first as an Entomological Station researching insect pests, and from the 1930s as a sugar cane breeding facility. One of a number of SES’s built in Queensland, Meringa was the most important. It became the regional centre of research for the Queensland Government’s Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations (BSES, established 1900) in the fields of agronomy, entomology, and mill technology. Still in use as a sugar research facility in 2022, the place retains early buildings from its Entomological Station operations and from its later, expanded activities.

Establishment of Meringa and Sugar Industry

Meringa is part of the traditional country of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people.[1] The area was first occupied by non-Indigenous people in the late 1870s, and the small locality of Meringa was subdivided into residential allotments (but not developed) in 1885 – by which time a Native Police camp had been established on the later site of Gordonvale, on the Mulgrave River about 2km to the southeast of Meringa.[2] A sugar mill, the Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill, was established on the Mulgrave River in 1896; the town of Nelson (later Gordonvale) was surveyed adjacent to the sugar mill that year, and the area developed as a sugar growing district.[3]

Sugar was an early, profitable, and government-encouraged industry in Queensland, particularly in the north. Sugar was first crushed in commercial quantities in Queensland in the early 1860s, near Cleveland, east of Brisbane. In 1878 the Queensland Government began selling Far North Queensland land along the Bloomfield, Daintree, Mossman, Barron, Mulgrave, and Johnstone rivers. Land was secured by small farmers and larger companies, and by 1884 the sugar industry was established in the region.[4] Initially, Queensland’s sugar plantations were worked using South Sea Islander indentured labour, and sugar was processed at plantation mills; but legislation from the mid-1880s, along with later Commonwealth legislation, led to the abolition of indentured South Sea Islander labour by 1904. The Sugar Works Guarantee Act 1893 also provided government loans for central mills that, when paid off, were handed to the growers as cooperative mills. As a result of such developments, a system of large plantations with their own sugar mills and a South Sea Islander workforce was replaced, by the early 20th century, with a system of smaller sugar farms and central sugar mills.[5]

Sugar continued to be important to Queensland’s economy. After Federation, the sugar industry was regarded as vital to Australia's economic priorities and as a means to occupy the north of Australia as part of the country’s defence strategy. From the 1910s, the Australian sugar industry became highly protected, regulated, and increasingly mechanised, receiving active support from both Queensland and Commonwealth governments through legislation. The number of small cane farms in Queensland grew from 359 in 1893 to 4,238 in 1911.[6] By the beginning of World War II, sugar was an important component of the Queensland economy, providing export earnings as Queensland's major crop and creating regional growth. As a proportion of primary production, sugar grew from less than 10% in 1910 to 18% in 1940.[7]

By the 20th Century, research into cane disease resistance, farming techniques, and technological innovation was considered important and was supported by the Queensland Government, leading to the establishment of SESs where this work would occur. The world’s first SESs were established in 1885 in Louisiana, USA, and Java, Indonesia; followed by Hawaii, USA (1895), and Saint Kitts, West Indies (1899). Queensland's first SES was established in late 1900 at ‘The Lagoons', a State Nursery in Mackay.[8] By the 1890s sugar growers wanted government research into soils and new cane varieties, and a laboratory had been added at Mackay in 1898. The next year it was announced that the Mackay facility would become a SES. Walter Maxwell, Director of the Hawaii SES, was invited to Queensland, visiting in December 1899. He later accepted a job as Director of the BSES, starting in November 1900.[9]

The BSES was established under The Sugar Experiment Stations Act 1900. Initially administered by Queensland's Department of Agriculture (later the Department of Agriculture and Stock), the BSES undertook research to assist growers and millers improve the breeding, planting, growing, harvesting, and milling of sugar cane. The work of the BSES was financed through a Sugar Fund, established by the 1900 Act.[10]

Maxwell, who headed the BSES until 1909, recommended a total of three SES be established in Queensland, but this did not occur immediately. Although a soils laboratory and director's headquarters operated in Bundaberg from August 1901 to 1910, an SES was not established in the area until a cane farm with two residences was acquired at East Bundaberg in 1913.[11] Prior to 1913, field experiments with sugar cane varieties were carried out at the Mackay SES. A third SES was established at South Johnstone (south of Innisfail) in 1917-18, located across the river from the sugar mill, and sugar cane was growing there by December 1919.[12]

Entomological research by the BSES began in 1911 with the appointment of the American Entomologist Alexandre Arsène Girault to work in Gordonvale (then still called Nelson) in a rented building. Alan Parkhurst Dodd was appointed assistant entomologist, and worked at Gordonvale, and later Meringa, between 1912 and 1921.[13] Girault was replaced by Edmund Jarvis in 1914. At that time the insect of most concern was the greyback cane grub, the larval stage of the native greyback cockchafer or cane beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum). Although the adult beetle ate cane leaves, the grub inflicted more damage by attacking the cane's roots.[14]

Establishment of Meringa Entomological Station (1917)

To further research into cane grubs, in 1916 the Department of Agriculture and Stock asked for 5 acres (2ha) of land near the Gordonvale State School for an Entomological Reserve for the BSES, but was instead offered 10 acres (4ha), thickly timbered and with good soil, of a large Camping Reserve on the east side of the North Coast Railway north of Meringa. This land was surveyed in June 1916 and gazetted a Reserve for Entomological Purposes in August 1916.[15]

Two residences, a laboratory, and an insectary were constructed during 1917 on the southern half of the reserve.[16] The Entomologist's Residence was a two-bedroom house and included a dining room and drawing room on the south side; an encircling verandah; and a semi-detached kitchen and maid's room off the north end of the rear (east) verandah. There was also a bathroom in the northeast corner of the rear verandah, adjacent to the kitchen. A wash house was included under part of the kitchen. Around 1949, a toilet enclosure was added adjacent to the bathroom, on the northern verandah, and a doorway existed between the two bedrooms by this time.[17]

The Entomologist’s Residence was first occupied by Dr James Franklin Illingworth, who replaced Jarvis as Entomologist in 1917. Illingworth began extensive field tests with lime, fertilizers, arsenic, and creosote as soil fumigants to see how they impacted on cane grub attacks. These experiments were not successful, but Illingworth did provide cane growers with advice on improved cultivation methods.[18]

The Assistant Entomologist’s residence was located south of the Entomologist’s Residence, facing south.[19] The Entomological Laboratory, shown east of the Entomologist’s Residence in a 1916 site plan, consisted of four rooms, with a verandah to three sides, and a small laboratory enclosed at the end of one verandah.[20] By 1928, the laboratory building contained a museum, holding displays of various insect pests for the education of sugar farmers.[21] A 1935 photograph shows the buildings arranged around a large looped driveway, which entered the site from the highway to the west.[22]

Entomology was only one aspect of the BSES’s operations. In the late 1920s the BSES was split into four divisions: Soils and Agriculture, Pathology, Entomology, and Mill Technology. When the Pathology Division was formed, Queensland had a greater number of sugar cane diseases than any other cane-growing country.[23] By 1931 the BSES had three SESs (Mackay, Bundaberg, and South Johnstone); one entomological station (Meringa); two entomological laboratories (Mackay and Bundaberg); as well as administrative offices and laboratories in Brisbane.[24] In 1933 the Advisory Committee (later Advisory Board) of the BSES was established and its first meeting was held in 1935.[25]

Expansion for Cane Variety Research (1930s-)

Although Meringa SES began as an entomological station, it commenced research into cane varieties in the 1930s. The BSES transferred cane breeding from South Johnstone to Meringa from 1934, concentrating the BSES’s entomological, cane breeding and agricultural work in the north at Meringa.[26] In 1934 the BSES’s Divisions of Pathology and Entomology were combined.[27]

After South Johnstone closed, seedlings were raised at Meringa, Mackay, and Bundaberg, and glasshouses were built at all three stations in the 1930s. Cross-breeding, previously conducted at a farm at Freshwater from 1930 (all crossing being conducted there by 1935), was eventually transferred to Meringa, where 300 varieties were in cultivation by 1950.[28] Meringa was the headquarters for all the BSES’s cane breeding and became the centre for pathology, agronomy, and mill technology in the north. It was also the point of origin for all ‘Q’ cane varieties, which by 2013 comprised 98% of the sugar cane grown in Queensland.[29]

To accommodate the cane breeding programme at Meringa, adjacent land was obtained. Land to the south was gazetted a Reserve for Experimental Farm on 27 August 1938. Two other reserves were added prior to 30 April 1953 (when all four of Meringa SES’s reserves were cancelled and replaced with a special lease).[30] Another block was obtained in 1959, east of the original station. After further acquisitions to the east and north, by 2014 Meringa SES covered 63 hectares.[31]

Prior to its official opening as an SES on 13 September 1935, by FW Bulcock, Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock, a burst of construction occurred at Meringa. This included building an Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building, which accommodated a large implement and tractor shed, fertiliser store and mixing room, and stables with four horse stalls and a feed and harness room. Also built at this time was a large timber-framed glasshouse, and a four-bedroom cottage on the block to the south (removed from site in 2003). The 1917 Assistant Entomologist’s residence was converted into a soils laboratory with a museum and library.[32]

Combatting the Cane Grub

At this time, a special enclosure for cane toads was being used at Meringa SES. Around 100 toads (Rhinella marina) were brought from Hawaii to Meringa, arriving June 1935, escorted by Assistant Entomologist R W Mungomery. It was hoped that they would eat cane beetles (even though Mungomery wrote in 1933 that the beetles did not spend enough time on the ground for the toads to be effective).[33] After being bred in the special enclosure, 2400 toads were released at sites around Gordonvale in August 1935.[34] The retired New South Wales Government Entomologist Walter Froggatt opposed the toad releases, and successfully lobbied the Commonwealth Department of Health to ban them in November 1935. In January 1936 Froggatt wrote ‘[t]his giant toad, immune from enemies, omnivorous in its habits, and breeding all year round, may become as great a pest as the rabbit or cactus’.[35] However, Minister Bulcock soon persuaded Queensland’s Premier William Forgan Smith to recommend to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons that the ban be overturned, and the releases continued from September 1936, creating a significant ecological hazard while also failing to control cane beetles.[36]

While Meringa SES was introducing the cane toad to Australia, in 1935 the Mackay SES moved to a better site, on the Peak Downs Highway at Te Kowai.[37] A fourth SES was officially opened west of Ayr in 1954, on 90 acres (36.4 hectares) of land purchased in 1948.[38] A fifth SES was built at Tully in the mid-1970s. The BSES also operated a Pathology farm at Eight Mile Plains from c1952 to 2001, after which it was relocated to Woodford.

Although the number of SESs increased, Meringa remained the most important. During the 1940s and 1950s, annual farmers’ field days were held at Meringa, where by this time all cross pollination for Queensland was carried out.[39] Experiments on greyback cane grubs with insecticide benzene hexachloride (BHC), also known as ‘gammexane’, began at Meringa in 1945 — and this was then allowed for use by farmers from 1947.[40] In 1957 a granite boulder with plaque was installed at the entrance to Meringa SES, within the island of the looped driveway. It was dedicated by the Queensland Cane Growers Association for: ‘the major service performed by the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations to the cane growers of Queensland in initiating and carrying to fruition the research which led to the successful control of the cane grub the industry’s worst pest’. However, due to its danger to human health and the environment, the use of BHC in Australian agriculture ended in the 1980s.

Autonomy and Formation of the Sugar Experiment Station Board (1940s-50s)

Sugar producers harboured concerns about the lack of autonomy of the BSES from the Queensland Government, and in the late 1940s made moves to rectify this. The Sugar Producers’ Association formed a committee to draft the constitution for a new sugar industry-funded and -controlled research institute, resulting in the formation of the private company Sugar Research Limited, incorporated 22 February 1949. Its inaugural board first met in March 1949 and decided to establish a Sugar Research Institute [QHR 602642] in Mackay. The institute, a complex accommodating offices, laboratories, workshops and the company’s administrative headquarters, was opened 22 August 1953 by the Federal Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden.[41]

While this was occurring, the Queensland Government took steps to separate the BSES from the public service. In 1951 the SES Advisory Board was replaced by the SES Board, a statutory corporation (body corporate created by statute) set up to administer the BSES. Its four board members were Queensland’s Minister for Primary Industries, the Under Secretary for Agriculture and Stock, a growers’ representative, and a manufacturers’ representative. All BSES property was transferred to the board.[42]

Building Expansion, Peak Staff Numbers (1960s)

Construction continued at Meringa in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956 the glasshouse was destroyed by Cyclone Agnes and was replaced in 1957 with a new Glasshouse, constructed just to its east.[43] In 1955 the original laboratory, which had been used as a residence for the previous 20 years, was remodelled as a plant breeding laboratory.[44] It was later removed from the site by 1983.[45] By 1957 a crossing facility building (not the buildings extant in 2022) existed on the northern portion of Meringa SES (across Hall Road).[46]

Further infrastructure was required at Meringa to accommodate its increasing staff as plant breeding activities expanded and Meringa became the regional centre for research in the fields of agronomy, entomology, and mill technology. In response, in 1962 a new one-storey brick Office and Laboratory Building was constructed southeast of the 1917 residence, to accommodate plant breeders, entomologists, and a mill technologist. It included offices and a large laboratory. This new building was constructed on the looped driveway, blocking the eastern side of it.[47]

In 1969 a two-storey brick Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969) was constructed to the south of the 1962 Office and Laboratory Building, on the site of the former Assistant Entomologist’s residence, which was sold for removal.[48] At this time, staff numbers were at a peak, comprising 20 officers and six field labourers. The 1969 Office Building included a soil grinding room, a lecture theatre, dark room, and workshops for plant breeding, agronomy, and entomology on the ground floor and offices for a Mill Technologist, Pathologist, Agronomist, and Technical and Field Assistants, as well as a library, on the first floor.

By 1979, the looped driveway had been reformed to allow the roadway to pass in front of the new office buildings and it was finished with bitumen.[49]

Crossing Facility (from 1977) and Photoperiod Facility (from 1986)

By 1973, cane varieties bred by BSES made up 61% of all varieties grown in Queensland.[50] In 1977-80, a new Crossing Facility was constructed on the northern portion of the site (across Hall Road).[51] It comprised large sheds surrounded by dense vegetation, which acted as a filter for windborne pollen from the surrounding cane fields. Inside the sheds, which functioned as agricultural laboratories, fabric ‘lanterns’ were hung from the ceiling and were lowered over flowering cane to provide a closed environment for cross-pollinating to create new varieties of cane.[52] 

In 1986, the first of three photoperiod houses was built, which was duplicated in 1998 and 2008, forming a Photoperiod Facility to the north of the earlier buildings.[53] A major technological advancement, the photoperiod houses were large sheds that created an environment to artificially initiate cane flowering.[54] They included tram rails extending out of the shed for trolleys holding trays of growing cane, which were moved in and out of the shed. The interior environment was created and controlled through mechanical and electrical services to simulate different optimal conditions for flowering. In 2009, a seed storage freezer room was built to the east of the photoperiod houses, and in 2012 a juice shed was built east of the freezer room.

These two facilities were designed to be practical workspaces, raising cane plants under scientific conditions, critical to the station’s operations. The facilities have been adapted and modernised over time to remain world-class agricultural laboratories.

An Industry-owned Operation (2003-)

In 2003, BSES Limited, an industry-owned company, replaced the BSES, taking over its assets and activities. In mid-2013 the assets and activities of BSES Limited were combined with those of the Sugar Research and Development Corporation (SRDC) and the milling research activities of Sugar Research Limited (SRL) to form Sugar Research Australia (SRA), a single-entity research management and research company formed to address national research, development, and experimentation priorities.

Headquartered in Indooroopilly, the SRA then controlled the SESs at Meringa, Tully, Ingham (established post 1975), Brandon (Ayr), Te Kowai (Mackay), and Kalkie (Bundaberg East), and a Pathology Farm at Woodford.[55]

Some alterations have occurred to Meringa SES over time. In c2015, the Office and Laboratory Building (1962) and Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969) were renovated, involving primarily internal changes. This included removing partitions, installing new partitions, and replacing windows.

In 2022, Meringa SES continues to operate from the site. It is the major plant breeding station for the Australian sugar industry and the only location where field crosses of sugar cane varieties are made.[56] During its operation, several scientists whose work has been of importance to the Queensland sugar industry have been associated with the place. These include Edmund Jarvis (1869-1935, entomologist), James Franklin Illingworth (American entomologist), Edwin James Reuben Barke (cane breeder), Reginald William Mungomery (1901-1972, entomologist), James Hardie Buzacott (1902-1984, plant breeder), Gilbert Bates (entomologist), George Wilson (entomologist), and Alan Parkhurst Dodd (entomologist).[57] The sugar industry continues to be important to Queensland’s economy, generating $3.8 billion in economic activity in 2020-21, with around 3700 Queenslanders directly employed in sugar manufacturing.[58]


Meringa SES is in a small locality south of Cairns in Far North Queensland. The place comprises a complex of sugar research buildings and experimental cane fields on two sites adjacent to the Bruce Highway and North Coast rail line. Surrounded by privately-owned cane fields, the two sites are separated on either side of the small rural Hall Road.

The site layout is determined by the cyclical operations of the place, and the scientific process of creating new cane varieties. The Photoperiod Facility initiates cane flowering, which leads to the Crossing Facility where flowering cane is cross-pollinated, pollinated cane seed is raised in the Glasshouse, and mature cane may be returned to the Photoperiod House to continue the cycle. Aspects of the process are tested in the laboratories along the way.

Features of the place of state-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • Main Complex: Commemorative Stone (1957); Entomologist’s Residence (1917); Office and Laboratory Building (1962); Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969); Glasshouse (1957); and Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building (1935)
  • Photoperiod Facility (from 1986)
  • Crossing Facility (from 1977).

Features of the place not of state-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • roadways throughout the place
  • all fabric of the Photoperiod Facility
  • all fabric of the Crossing Facility
  • the creek (running west-east across property just north of the Main Complex)
  • all vegetation, including sugar cane fields/plots, not otherwise mentioned
  • all structures and remnants not otherwise mentioned.

Main Complex

The Main Complex comprises two linked research buildings (the Office and Laboratory Building, and the Office Building) and the Entomologist’s Residence arranged around a looped driveway, set on flat terrain amongst mature trees and lawn. To the rear (east) of this are two early agricultural buildings – the Glasshouse, and the Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building.

Commemorative Stone (1957)

Standing near and facing the main entrance to the site from the highway is a Commemorative Stone, a granite boulder with plaque dedicated by the Queensland Cane Growers Association to the work of the Meringa SES.

Features of the Commemorative Stone of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • location aligned facing west to the historical main entrance to the site
  • concrete base, boulder, and plaque.

Features of the Commemorative Stone not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • nearby gravel garden bed and flagpole.

Entomologist’s Residence (1917)

Standing to the north and facing west to the highway is the Entomologist’s Residence. Highly intact, it is a highset, one-storey, timber-framed and -clad building comprising a central four-room core with short, central hall encircled by a wide verandah. A kitchen wing is attached to the rear verandah that has a laundry ‘washhouse’ enclosure in its understorey. The house has a fenced front yard and is surrounded by lawn and mature trees. Some of the verandah has been enclosed and some partitions in the kitchen wing have been removed. In 2022 it remains in use as a staff residence.

Features of the Entomologist’s Residence of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • location within site (front)
  • orientation facing west to the highway
  • symmetrical, highset square form of main core and attached rectangular kitchen wing at rear (east)
  • hip roof continuous over verandahs, and its small, louvred gablets venting the roof space; corrugated metal roof sheets
  • original layout comprising 4-room core with short front hall, surrounded by verandahs with a small verandah bathroom enclosure, and an attached rear kitchen wing
  • wide timber front stair with timber balustrade and timber back stair (excluding its balustrade, which his not original)
  • projecting central front entrance ‘porch’ to verandah with projecting gable roof and its decorative timber battening and post brackets, and timber verandah door with circular glazing panel
  • timber-framed verandah and its: timber board floor; timber two-rail and slat balustrade; raked, timber, v-jointed (VJ) board ceiling; and scalloped verandah frieze board (which has been removed from its original location between the posts and refixed to the balustrade at handrail height to form a shelf)
  • timber-framed structure; single-skin core walls with framing exposed to exterior
  • timber board floors
  • timber, single-skin, VJ board-lined interior partitions with chamfered belt rails
  • moulded timber skirtings, architraves, and plate rails
  • flat VJ timber board-lined ceilings and original central, square ceiling vents (closed over)
  • moulded timber cornices (living room) and rounded timber cornices (bedrooms)
  • wide timber arch in partition between drawing and dining rooms with decorative timber scrollwork
  • original timber windows and doors, including bay windows and their decorative timber work, double-hung windows, glazed and panelled front door, fan and side lights, glazed and panelled French doors, and panelled internal doors
  • opaque painted glazing with an etched border of doors, windows, and fanlights
  • original door and window hardware, including brass opening rods, bolts, catches, and rim locks, and original doorknobs
  • early electric light fitting and opaque glass shade (eastern end of southern verandah)
  • open understorey under main residence
  • kitchen wing and its: original partial enclosure of understorey for a washhouse; weatherboard cladding; small hip roof and its corrugated metal roof sheets; stove recess projecting from rear (east) wall; timber-framed double-hung windows; and timber member on ceiling remaining from removed partition
  • surrounding open space of yard with lawn, shrubs, and mature trees, although no vegetation or individual tree is of state-level cultural heritage significance.

Features of the Entomologist’s Residence not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • non-original (concrete) understorey posts and enclosures
  • non-original flat sheets lining eaves
  • non-original watergoods, including downpipes (round PVC)
  • non-original verandah enclosures (north, east, and part of west), excluding original bathroom corner enclosure (northeast corner)
  • non-original flat sheets over of ceiling vents
  • non-original doors and windows, including casement windows of non-original verandah enclosure
  • non-original linings of original bathroom enclosure (tiles and wall sheets), and non-original bathroom fixtures and fittings
  • non-original kitchen fit-out, including all cabinetry
  • non-original part-height partition in southern end of the eastern verandah lined with VJ timber boards
  • non-original flat sheet lining of stove recess
  • non-original services including electric fans and lights and air conditioning.

Office and Laboratory Building (1962)

Fronting west directly onto the looped driveway is the Office and Laboratory Building. It is a one-storey, slab-on-ground, cavity brick building with a steel-framed, gable roof. The exterior walls are red face brick, and the roof is clad with pan-and-rib metal sheets. It has a T-shaped floor plan of two perpendicular wings (originally offices in the front and laboratory behind) separated by a breezeway. The building has had many of its windows and doors replaced to new designs and its interior has been modernised with the demolition of original partitions and insertion of new ones, and new linings throughout. The interior of the building is not of State-level cultural heritage significance. In 2022 it remains in use as an office and research laboratory for the station.

Features of the Office and Laboratory Building of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • location within site (fronting onto the looped driveway, aligned with entrance from highway across grassed driveway island)
  • orientation facing west to the original main entrance from the highway
  • symmetrical, low-set T-shaped plan form of two one-storey wings joined by an open-sided breezeway
  • face brick walls with terracotta vents
  • steel-framed truss gable roof and its pan-and-rib metal roof sheet cladding, and flat sheet-lined eaves
  • symmetrical front elevation comprising low concrete-edged garden bed and freestanding, concrete breezeblock screening wall with broad central entrance, opening into a narrow front verandah
  • two signs mounted to the front breezeblocks: ‘SUGAR EXPERIMENT STATION’ in large letters and a bronze plaque dedicated to the building’s opening
  • front verandah behind screen and open breezeway and their grey and white striped concrete floors, flat sheet-clad ceilings with square timber cover strips, and original square, electric ceiling lights.

Features of the Office and Laboratory Building not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • non-original metal gate at entrance to front verandah
  • non-original verandah wall linings (flat sheet linings and timber members) including timber batten screens and windows and doors in this wall (replacements not to original configuration or sizes)
  • non-original stainless steel gutters and downpipes
  • non-original windows and doors and aluminium window and door awnings
  • all internal fit-outs, including: partitions; floor, wall, and ceiling linings; furniture; fixtures; and fittings
  • air conditioning and other services.

Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969)

The Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building stands to the south of the Office and Laboratory Building (1962). It faces north and comprises a two-storey concrete and brick building with former workshops and lecture theatre on the ground floor and former offices and library on the first floor. It includes a ground level, open-sided covered way extending north off its front entrance to meet the breezeway of the earlier Office and Laboratory Building. The building remains externally intact; however, its interior has been modernised with the demolition of original partitions and insertion of new ones, and new linings and uses throughout. Excluding the northern porch, the interior of the building is not of State-level cultural heritage significance. In 2022 it remains in use as an office building for the station.

Features of the Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969) of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • orientation (north) to Office and Laboratory Building (1962)
  • two-storey, slab-on-ground form and its one-storey, open-sided covered way
  • concrete-frame, slab-on-ground structure, face brick walls with areas of decorative projecting bricks, and concrete window hoods
  • timber-framed, shallow-pitched hip roof and its metal sheet cladding, flat sheet-lined eaves with ventilation slots
  • wide, recessed entrance porch on northern side (partly double-height), enclosed with a metal grille and hit-and-miss brickwork, and its concrete floor
  • original windows (aluminium-framed sliding, some with spandrel panels of aluminium louvres) and doors (timber, some with glazed panels)
  • terracotta tiled window sills
  • original steel-framed stair with concrete treads, steel balustrade, and timber handrail in foyer
  • covered way: concrete floor slab, face brick pillars, flat steel-framed roof clad with metal sheets, flat sheet-lined ceiling with slot vents and square timber cover strips.

Features of the Office, Workshop, and Lecture Building (1969) not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • non-original external awning and concrete pad (adjacent to entrance porch)
  • covered way: metal security fence between pillars
  • non-original stainless steel gutters and downpipes
  • non-original windows and doors and aluminium window and door awnings
  • all internal fit-outs, including: partitions; floor, wall, and ceiling linings; furniture; fixtures; and fittings
  • air conditioning and other services.

Glasshouse (1957)

The Glasshouse stands to the east of the main complex. It comprises a one-storey, steel-framed, glazed structure supported on concrete half-height wall upstands and slab. It stands near other agricultural structures, none of which are of State-level cultural heritage significance. Minor changes have been made to the original fabric, including replacing the glazing with polycarbonate sheets. In 2022 it remains in use as a glasshouse.

Features of the Glasshouse of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • open space around Glasshouse on its east, north, and west sides to allow abundant uninterrupted daylight to its interior
  • one-storey, slab-on-ground, gable-roofed form
  • concrete ground slab and its perimeter drains, concrete half-height side walls, and steel-framed glazing enclosure, incorporating open-web trusses and other complex, articulated trusses
  • steel frame outside the glazing to support external removable shade cloth
  • operable ridge ventilation and louvres at sill level, and square openings in half-height concrete walls, closed with metal flaps on the exterior
  • internal partition comprising concrete part-height wall and steel-framed, glazing dividing the Glasshouse into two rooms and its connecting, glazed sliding double doors.

Features of the Glasshouse not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • non-original polycarbonate sheet ‘glazing’
  • mechanical ventilation systems
  • watering systems
  • plant stands or other internal fixtures
  • shade cloth.

Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building (1935)

The Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building stands east of the Glasshouse. It is a one-storey, timber-framed, slab-on-ground structure with a gable roof, and its walls and roof are clad with corrugated metal sheets. A short section of tram rails, used to move equipment and plants, runs along the north side of the building. There have been some alterations to the layout, including removing the horse stalls and replacing some doors and windows. Extensions have been made to its east and south sides, which are not of State-level cultural heritage significance. In 2022 it remains in use as an agricultural shed.

Features of the Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • location to the rear (east) of the site near the cane fields
  • original timber-framed walls and roof and its corrugated metal sheet cladding
  • original doors and windows and original door, window, and horse stall openings, including original timber-framed and board-lined ledged-and-braced double doors (some high-set) and timber-framed double-hung windows
  • original concrete ground slabs in the western parts of the building (Former Harness & Feed Room, Store, Fertiliser Store, and Passage between former horse stalls), concrete threshold at entrance to Implement and Tractor Shed room, and concrete upstands surrounding former horse stalls (excludes later slabs over original compacted dirt floors)
  • original timber-framed single-skin timber, VJ board-lined partitions and their chamfered timber belt rails
  • remnant of original timber VJ board-lined ceiling in Store
  • early timber joinery including shelves (former Feed and Harness Room), fertiliser bag benches (Fertiliser Store and Mixing Room), early timber desks
  • tram rails in concrete bed running along north side.

Features of the Implement and Tractor Shed and Stables Building not of State-level cultural heritage significance include:

  • non-original extensions to building
  • non-original gutters and watergoods
  • non-original sheeting over of original door, window, and former stall and openings
  • non-original doors and windows including large metal garage doors on the north side, metal double doors on the east side, metal mesh doors on the south side, and high-level, steel-framed, glass louvre windows into former stall (although opening is original)
  • non-original concrete floors in former stalls, and Implement and Tractor Shed room (originally compacted dirt floors)
  • non-original flat sheet-lined ceiling of former Harness and feed room (in 2022 a lunchroom).

Photoperiod Facility (from 1986)

The Photoperiod Facility is a complex of sugar cane research buildings (including three large Photoperiod Houses: 1986, c1998, and 2008) and cane growing plots standing on a flat area of open land north of the Main Complex, across a small creek that runs through the site. The use and work of the Photoperiod Facility is of State-level cultural heritage significance, but no physical fabric of the facility (buildings, structures, fields, etc) is of State-level cultural heritage significance. 

Crossing Facility (from 1977)

The Crossing Facility is a small group of sugar cane variety crossing sheds surrounded by thick vegetation, standing to the north of the Photoperiod Facility, north of Hall Road. The complex includes two large open-sided sheds used for cane variety crossing. The surrounding vegetation acts as a filter for windborne cane pollen from nearby fields, preventing it from contaminating the facility. The use and work of the Crossing Facility is of State-level cultural heritage significance, but no physical fabric of the facility (buildings, vegetation, etc) is of State-level cultural heritage significance. 


[1] Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Cultural Heritage Database and Register, (accessed 22 February 2022).
[2] Queensland Heritage Register 601141, ‘Alley Family Graves’; T Teske and P Lawie, 2012, From Plain Camp to Gordonvale: incorporating early days of Gordonvale by RS Jamieson. Gordonvale, Mulgrave Shire Historical Society, p.2 (Native Police camp); Department of Resources Survey Plan RP704087, 1885. Meringa (meaning ‘red soil’) had a railway station by 1914 (‘Sketcher. Queensland Railway nomenclature’, The Queenslander, 11 April 1914, p.8.
[3] Teske and Lawie, From Plain Camp to Gordonvale, pp.2, 50 (central sugar mill). The town of Nelson (formerly the village of Mulgrave, formerly ‘Police Camp’) was surveyed near the Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill in 1896 and 1899 and was renamed Gordonvale in 1914 (Department of Resources, Survey Plans G4781 (1896) and G4782 (1899); Teske and Lawie, From Plain Camp to Gordonvale, pp.2-4).
[4] ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station', Cairns Regional Council Heritage Survey, 2012. Nine sugar plantations were established in Far North Queensland from 1878-1891. The sugar mill of the Pyramid plantation, located south of Gordonvale, operated between 1885 and 1890 (P. Griggs, August 2007, ‘A concise history of the Far North Queensland sugar industry, 1860-2000’, for the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, pp.3, 12-13).
[5] H Davies, 2007, ‘Sugar in the Wide Bay Region'. Report for the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, pp.3-4; QHR 601141 ‘Alley Family Graves’.
[6] Davies, H. ‘Sugar in the Wide Bay Region'. p.5; Griggs, ‘A concise history of the Far North Queensland sugar industry’, p.6.
[7] Davies, H. ‘Sugar in the Wide Bay Region'. p.7.
[8] The Lagoons had been a State Nursery since 1889, experimenting with various introduced crops, and another State Nursery was established at Kamerunga, northwest of Cairns, the same year. ‘Cairns Nursery', Cairns Post, 20 November 1889, p.2; ‘State Nursery at Kamerunga', Cairns Post, 30 November 1889, p.2 The Kamerunga Nursery was located west of Harley Street, south of the Cairns Western Arterial Road.
[9] Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, 1950, 50 years of scientific progress: a historical review of the half century since the foundation of the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations. Brisbane, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, pp.5, 6.
[10] The fund levied one penny on every ton of sugar cane received at sugar mills, with the cost split between the sugar mill owners and growers, and the government matching the total raised.
[11] In the mid-1920s the East Bundaberg SES obtained a combined office and juice laboratory (extended in 1954 and 1966). A glasshouse was built in the mid-1930s, a new residence in 1939, and a new two-storey office was opened in 1972 (Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, 1975, 75 years of scientific progress, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations 1900-1975, p.3.
[12] ‘Innisfail Notes', The Northern Miner, 26 May 1917, p.3; ‘The Sugar Industry, Experiment Stations', Cairns Post, 15 December 1919, p.3; ‘South Johnstone, Minister's visit', Cairns Post, 9 March 1933, p.3.
[13] Apart from three and a half years serving with the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. The son of the ‘Butterfly Man of Kuranda', Frederick Parkhurst Dodd, Alan Dodd later went on to play a major role in the defeat of prickly pear infestation by the Cactoblastis moth (McFadyen, RE. ‘Dodd, Alan Parkhurst (1896-1981)', (accessed July 2014)).
[14] ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station', Cairns Regional Council Heritage Survey, 2012.
[15] Queensland State Archives Item ID145818, File - reserve (1544) 1916-1953; Resources, Survey Plan NR1074, June 1916.
[16] QSA Item 585091, ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station Entomologist’s Laboratory’, 18 December 1916 (site plan of reserve showing the location of the four buildings). By 30 June 1917, all approved funds had been expended on the construction of the laboratory and insectary, and 60% of the funds for the Assistant Entomologist's residence; but only 12% for the Entomologist's residence (from an approved total of £1184/12/5 for the latter) (QSA Item 601171, ‘Entomological Station Meringa (Gordonvale)’, 1917-1926. (Letter 13 July 1917, with attached statement).
[17] QSA Item 582450, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Residence for assistant [sic] Entomologist’, 13 January 1917 (actually a plan of Entomologist’s Residence); QSA Item 129829, ‘Meringa (Gordonvale), Sugar Experiment Station’ 1929-1953 (Batch File, includes an undated plan for addition of a toilet and new septic system next to bathroom. Bedrooms’ interconnecting door extant). The January 1917 plan for the Entomologist’s residence (annotated in 1949 regarding the new septic system for the toilet next to the bathroom), were signed by Andrew Irving for the Deputy Government Architect, and by AB Brady, the Government Architect. The central hallway of this residence was likely not built according to the plan prepared by the DPW (extending the length of the core), but only as long as the front two rooms, with the dining room given extra width to the north where the hall would have been. This is similar to the hall/dining room layout shown on the design for the Assistant Entomologist’s Residence (QSA Item 582449, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Residence for assistant entomologist’, 5 August 1916). In 2015, the hall is only between the two front rooms and does not extend to the back verandah. There is no evidence shown in the fabric that a partition has been removed to shorten the hall. The cornices, skirting boards, plate rails, and wall and floorboards do not bear marks of a removed partition and the ceiling vent in the dining room is centred on the room being its existing width.
[18] ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station', Cairns Regional Council Heritage Survey, 2012. Prior to 1975 the Meringa facility was administered by Illingworth (1917-1921); Edmund Jarvis (1921-1934); Edwin JR Barke (1934-1938); Reginald William Mungomery (1938-1945) (Leverington, KC. ‘Mungomery, Reginald William (Reg) (1901-1972)', (accessed July 2014)); James Hardie Buzacott (1945-1947, 1966-1970), Gilbert Bates (1947-1966) and JC Skinner (from 1970).
[19] This had two bedrooms on the west; a short central hall from the front door (south) leading into a large dining room, with a sitting room east of the hall; verandahs to four sides; a bathroom in the west corner of the rear (north) verandah; and a kitchen and pantry in the east corner of the rear verandah, off the dining room (QSA Item 582449, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Residence for assistant entomologist’, 5 August 1916; QSA Item 582455 ‘Department of Agriculture and Stock, Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, Converting residence to laboratory’, 19 January 1935 (shows front of assistant entomologist’s residence originally faced south, with bedrooms on the west side, before its conversion to a laboratory in 1935)).
[20] QSA Item 585091, ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station Entomologist’s Laboratory’, 18 December 1916 (site plan); QSA Item 582454, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Entomological Laboratory’, 16 November 1916.
[21] ‘Fighting Cane Pests. Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, Cairns’, The Queenslander, 29 November 1928, p.15.
[22] Queensland State Archives, Item 1083868, ‘Sugar Experiment Station Meringa near Cairns c 1935’ (photograph). In this photograph, as well as later aerial photographs, the laboratory, located east of the looped driveway, is located further north on the site than is indicated on the 1916 site plan.
[23] BSES, 50 years of scientific progress, p.14.
[24] BSES, 50 years of scientific progress, p.10.
[25] The board included two representatives from the Queensland Cane Growers' Council, one from the Australian Sugar Producers' Association, one from Queensland Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, plus the Director of the BSES and the Minister for Agriculture and Stock (BSES, 50 years of scientific progress, p. 15; BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.8, 13.
[26] Prior to the opening of the South Johnstone SES, the BSES was unable to obtain seedlings from arrows (the inflorescence containing the cane’s flowers) picked at the Mackay SES; but seedlings were raised from local fuzz (seed) at the South Johnstone SES in 1921, and controlled pollination was conducted there from 1926 (BSES, 50 years of scientific progress). However, the BSES decided that South Johnstone was not the best site for cane breeding, and this work was transferred from South Johnstone to Meringa – while the South Johnstone site was taken over by the Bureau of Tropical Agriculture (‘Site chosen. Tropical Bureau. Committee approves'. Brisbane Courier, 28 July 1933, p.13; ‘Agriculture in the North. State Estimates'. Cairns Post, 29 June 1934, p.7).
[27] ‘Experiment Stations. Director’s Report’, Townsville Daily Bulletin, 12 January 1935, p.10.
[28] BSES, 50 years of scientific progress, pp.63-66.
[29] ‘Historical Notes’, c1970s, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, pp. 62-63 (source of Q varieties); ‘About the Australian Sugarcane Industry' (Accessed June 2013) (98% of cane grown).
[30] QSA Item 145818, ‘Reserve Files’ (1544) 1916-1953. The three blocks of land added to the original Meringa SES by 1953 included Portion 78 (R.483) to the south, gazetted on 27 August 1938; Portion 133 (R.867), gazetted on 14 January 1939; and Portion 134 (R.1003), gazetted on 20 January 1951.
[31] Total size of accumulated portions calculated from Smartmap, Department of Resources.
[32] QSA Item 129829, ‘Meringa (Gordonvale), Sugar Experiment Station’, 1929-1953. See also: QSA Item 582455, ‘Department of Agriculture and Stock, Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, Converting residence to laboratory’, 19 January 1935; QSA Item 582453, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Glass House’ 14 May 1934; QSA Item 582456, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Implement and tractor shed, fertiliser store and stables’ 6 June 1934; and QSA Item 582452, ‘Meringa via Gordonvale, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Sugar Experiment Station, Cottage for workmen’ 15 August 1934. In 1947-48 the workers cottage was altered and extended for use by J H Buzacott, who was appointed as Senior Plant Breeder in 1947 (QSA Item 129829, ‘Meringa (Gordonvale), Sugar Experiment Station’, 1929-1953; QSA Item 585094, ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, Married men's Quarters’, 16 March 1949). Around the same time a three-car garage was built. A garage is located north of the original Laboratory in a c.1950 aerial (BSES, 50 years of scientific progress, p.11).
[33] Turvey, ND, ‘The Toad's Tale', Hot Topics from the Tropics, Vol 1 2009. (accessed May 2013) p.3.
[34] Keogh, L. ‘Introducing the cane toad'. Queensland Historical Atlas, (accessed May 2013).
[35] Froggatt W 1936, ‘The introduction of the Giant American Toad, Bufo marinus, into Australia'. The Australian Naturalist, January 1936 Vol 9 Part 7, cited by Turvey, ND, ‘The Toad's Tale', p.5.
[36] Keogh, L. ‘Introducing the cane toad'; ‘The giant toad can roam again', The Courier-Mail, 16 September 1936, p.23. The toads' poison kills native predators, and their numbers and voracious, unfussy appetite reduces the availability of food for native species.
[37] Its buildings were transferred, and two residences, a dorm for rat studies, and a glasshouse (1938) were constructed. A brick office and soils laboratory complex was added in 1951, and extended in 1971 (BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.3).
[38] The first plantings and construction of a residence and implement shed occurred in 1950, and an office/laboratory and glasshouse were built in 1952 (BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.4).
[39] ‘Field Day at Meringa. Work of Sugar Experiment Station Inspected'. Cairns Post, 13 May 1949, p.1.
[40] ‘Grub damage. Widespread in North Queensland. Address by entomologist at field day', Cairns Post, 23 June 1947, p.4; ‘Pest control saves Queensland sugar crop', Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 September 1950, p.2.
[41] QHR 602642, ‘Sugar Research Institute and Residence’ (Mackay). This facility closed in 2006.
[42] BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.9.
[43] BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.4. A 1957 aerial photograph shows the foundation of the current (wider) glasshouse, east of the remnants of the 1930s glasshouse (Resources, QAP712-45, 20 May 1957).
[44] BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.4.
[45] Resources, aerial photograph QAP4195074, 15 September 1983.
[46] Resources, aerial photograph QAP712-45, 20 May 1957.
[47] BSES Library drawing ‘New Office and Laboratory At Meringa For The Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations’, drawing No 694/3, March 1961, Goodsir and Carlyle, 1961. Construction was not just limited to the Meringa SES. Between the early 1950s and the early 1970s new office-laboratory complexes were built at all four BSES experimental stations (BSES, 75 years of scientific progress, p.15).
[48] BSES Library drawing ‘New Office Building At Meringa For The Bureau Of Sugar Experiment Stations Working Drawings Foundation Plan And Site Plan’, drawing No 1207/5, Nov 1968, Goodsir & Carlyle, Baker & Wilde Architects, 1968.
[49] BSES Library drawing ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, Plan Of Building Area As At 6th March, 1979’, no other labels, undated. The original laboratory is still on site in this plan.
[50] ‘Meringa Sugar Experiment Station', Cairns Regional Council Heritage Survey, 2012.
[51] Pers. Comm, Jeff Smith, SRA, 31 March 2014.
[52] C Jackson, ‘Sugar cane research in the heart of Meringa’, 13 April 2016, (accessed 24 March 2022).
[53] Information provided by Felicity Atkin, SRA, March 2014.
[54] accessed 8 Mar 2022; accessed 8 Mar 2022.
[55] ‘Experimental Stations', accessed May 2013.
[56] ‘Welcome to BSES Limited Meringa Sugar Experiment Station' Accessed June 2013.
[57] ‘Historical Notes’, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, p.63.
[58] ‘Sugar sweetens economic contribution to Queensland’, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities

The Honourable Mark Furner, 18 March 2022. (accessed 23 March 2022).

Image gallery


Location of Meringa Sugar Experiment Station within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 January 2016
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