1939 – 1989 – Another war looms. Geelong booms

June 8, 2023 BY

The freezing works and the first bulk-loading what ship. Photo: Geelong Heritage Centre

Before World War II, important industrial developments had already taken place in Geelong. International Harvester committed to setting up a factory at North Shore and Pilkingtons opened operations in North Geelong – both in 1937.

Geelong’s transformation was even more dramatic during the years of war and in their aftermath. In succession, factories were converted to support the military effort, being modernised in the process, then reconverted to peace-time purposes.

In 1944, the Chamber called for a master plan for redevelopment of the city and the expansion of industry. The Chamber took
the initiative and the city authorities followed.

Deakin University was established at Waurn Ponds. Photo: Deakin University.


The Chamber was active in encouraging developments in a number of areas. The Textile College and Conditioning House at the Gordon Institute was opened in 1944. The mayor was asked to call a conference on the subject of an airport for Geelong. Proposals for a dry dock for Geelong, initially raised in 1943, were pursued at the end of the war. The Chamber sponsored a meeting to examine the amalgamation of the municipal councils of Geelong, Geelong West, and Newtown and Chilwell.

The Chamber was convinced that a single local council was essential for the health of the district and the Greater Geelong League was formed.

Major industrial changes continued in the post-war years. New manufacturing plants were established in Corio and North Shore. The State Electricity Commission announced plans for a new power station. Pelaco opened a plant in Lara and then moved into Geelong. Existing plants were expanded, with International Harvester and Ford increasing capacity.

Shell, which had been involved in Geelong from the turn of the 20th century, now committed to building a refinery. Production started in 1954, requiring a new pier to be constructed in the port. Meanwhile, King’s Wharf was developed and, in 1957, the dredging of the channel to 36 feet was completed.

By the latter part of the 1950s, however, there were signs that the local economy was slowing. Nevertheless, demand for housing continued to grow, a new wool warehouse was built, the duplication of Melbourne Road continued and the switch from trams to buses
was completed.