Origin of name

The origin of the name Kin Kin has two possible sources, either of the indigenous words King King or kauin kauin meaning small black ant or red soil respectively.

History of settlement

Kin Kin is a small, rural town snuggling in the countryside between Gympie to the north, Pomona to the south, Lake Cootharaba and the Great Sandy National Park to the east, and Woondum National Park to the west. It forms part of the Noosa Biosphere.

The first inhabitants of this rich soiled, densely forested area were members of the Dulingbara Aboriginal group, a sub group of the larger Kabi Kabi group. They utilised the heavy, hard timber of the Spearwood or Waddywood trees for weapons.

The first white person to arrive was escaped convict David Bracewell, in 1831. Foresters looking for cedar appeared in 1864 and, two years later, loggers based at Tewantin began harvesting the cedar, kauri, hoop pine and beech trees around Kin Kin creek. Logs were floated down river to Tewantin and taken by the steam ship, SS Culgoa, to Brisbane. Around 1870, a sawmill was established at nearby Elanda Point and a road was soon created to transport sawn Kin Kin timber overland to the gold miners in Gympie, traversing the present Wahpunga and Moran Group roads. Sawn timber destined for Brisbane was transported by flat bottomed paddle steamers across Lake Cootharaba and down the river to the SS Culgoa. This ship could carry 35,000 feet, equivalent to 10.76 kilometres, of timber, and made three trips to Brisbane each fortnight until she was wrecked in 1891. During this time, over 150 men, some with families, lived and were employed as timber cutters in the areas around Kin Kin and Cootharaba.

Apart from the river route, access remained difficult and delayed the settlement of Kin Kin. A petition to Government, in the late 1890s, by prospective dairymen requesting the release of a rich belt of scrub on Kin Kin Creek was denied due to lack of access. The Creek area, however, remained the busiest part of the region and was popular as a fly fishing destination. Timber harvesting continued as the major activity and Doyle’s sawmill was built by the creek in 1907. It was expected that a township would spring up and the area was surveyed, but this did not eventuate.

In 1901, government surveyors charted eight blocks on the Pinbarren/Kin Kin Range. John Turnbull became the first selector in 1902, clearing his property and planting grass for animal feed. The journey from Cooran railway station to the selections was arduous and the next arrivals, Carl Sorensen and John Hansen, struggled for 11 hours with their horse drawn carts to cover the 11 kilometres. Carl Sorenson introduced the first cattle to the area and become a major dairy farmer.

A request for a light rail branch line to link Kin Kin with the main railway line was refused due to the difficulties of crossing the Pinbarren Range. An overland track was eventually cleared in 1904. The improvement in transport facilities attracted more settlers. Successful dairying around Kin Kin was helped by groups of experienced communal settlers from northern NSW who were also skilled timber-fellers. The openings of the four original schools in the region trace the settlement pattern; Kin Kin Junction (near the Creek) in 1909, Moran Group and Wahpunga both in 1910, and Kin Kin State School, in the eventual township, six years later in 1916. Today, this is the sole surviving school and caters for primary students only with three multi age classes.

The properties around the current town centre were settled concurrently with the other areas, however the township emerged at a later date. The population in 1911 numbered 236 and in 1912 the only businesses were a general store and a butchers shop. Cream from the dairy farms was transported overland to Cooran, then by rail to Gympie for processing until the Kin Kin Butter Factory was established in 1912. By December 1914 a telephone exchange was operating and the Commonwealth Bank and Post Office conducted business out of a local shop. Amenities increased significantly and, in the mid-1920s, included the Kin Kin Dairy Co (1914-37), a store, ES&A Bank, motor garage, Kin Kin Hotel, blacksmith, sawmill, two churches, Church of England and Catholic, and the School of Arts which, among its uses, showed movies on Saturday nights. There were also 120 farms, with 35 being recorded as banana growers and 15 as dairy operations. That ratio was about the same in 1948, but fewer farms were recorded. Electricity arrived in 1948 and the Post Office gained its own building in 1954.

Until the mid-1970s, Kin Kin was predominantly a small crop and dairying community. From then on land and farm usage started to change and there was a decline in production farms. Small crops such as beans remain constant, but macadamias and ginger have overtaken the bananas and pineapples of the 1960s. Deregulation of the milk industry led to the exit of all but a handful of family dairy farms. Sadly, nine years after deregulation, the reversal of the decision in 2009 was too late for most families who had since sold their properties. Nowadays these same farms are small hobby farms, some growing fruit trees, and many carrying horses or beef cattle. Properties range in size from spacious town blocks 1,500-1,800 m2 through to many five to 30 acre blocks and large farms hundreds of acres in size.

The population remains fairly steady, although better access and the ability to work from home has produced a slow increase to 694 in the 2011 census, approximately 450 more inhabitants than 100 years earlier. Only 10% now work in agriculture, forestry or fishing. Among today’s businesses Kin Kin boasts health retreats, accommodation, various small professional offices, creative ventures, artists and bush foods. The hotel and monthly markets attract visitors.

Although far from the coast, weather conditions can be hazardous. In 1924, a cyclone blew the roof off the School of Arts, a tornado killed three people in the town in August 1971 and in April 2009, the Kin Kin Creek overflowed causing severe flooding.

Kin Kin has fought to retain its rural state. In 2007, a plan to develop a $400 million eco-tourism resort was rejected by the Queensland government on the grounds that the development was not part of the regional planning document.

Kin Kin’s proud heritage sites include the Masonic Lodge, Country Life Hotel, churches, schools and the old Post Office. A full list can be found at www.qldheritage.org.au/queensland-heritage.register.