Home » Forest Lake History – Part 11 – Development of Forest Lake

Forest Lake History – Part 11 – Development of Forest Lake

Corin Mackay    September 23, 2023    9 min read   

From “Before Forest Lake” by Vicki Mynott

Adapted for print by Jamie Furness

Homestead Park in the north of Forest Lake is the site of the earliest settlement in the suburb, and was home to Archerfield House. The Archerfield Estate included all of Forest Lake and much more. For the full history of the area, purchase a copy of “Before Forest Lake” by Vicki Mynott, or find parts 1-10 published in former monthly editions of The Lake News.

Hancock Brothers, Timber Merchants.

From the 1870s, Hancock and Sons had developed sawmills in Ipswich. After brothers Josias and Thomas Hancock Junior fell out in the 1880s, Josias formed Hancock and Gore – the Brisbane-based timber company – and Thomas Junior kept the Ipswich area mills as Hancock Brothers. It was his Ipswich company that bought Archerfield Station. Both Hancock companies began manufacturing plywood in the 1930s and they were at their height in the 1940s, when both were among the largest companies in the state.

CV Hancock bought Archerfield Station at an auction in 1940 and received the titles to the Archerfield properties in 1943. Ownership of portion 47, including Forest Lake, was later transferred to Hancock Brothers companies (Northern Veneer in 1952, Hanbro Estates in 1975). Though the government had resumed the land in 1942 for the Darra Ordnance Depot, which ran until 1947, Hancocks were able to on-sell some portions of the perimeter of the property.

These sales brought in additional funds for Hancock Brothers. They had bought Archerfield for the timber potential, however after a disappointing pine plantation trial, they did little with the property for over 40 years. They tried further subdivisions over the years. Several development proposals came to nothing, and by 1980 – like other owners before them – the company needed to sell Archerfield for financial reasons. 

They advertised the remaining property as a whole (2335a, 945ha) but were unable to find a buyer. Determination and further concert planning by fifth-generation Hancock brothers Murray and Lloyd finally led to the sale of Archerfield in 1988. The Forest Lake development started soon after.

Aerial ad. Source: Financial Review, March 14 1980.
Aerial ad. Source: Financial Review, March 14 1980.

Hancocks and Archerfield station 

Brothers Murray and Lloyd Hancock were closely involved with Archerfield Station in the time leading up to the sale of the property to the developers of Forest Lake. In 2016 Lloyd remembered the significance of Archerfield to the family and the business:

“My grandfather, Vivian Hancock, acquired the 4000 acre Archerfield property for Hancock Brothers in February 1940. He had realised that the timber industry had to move to planting as well as simply harvesting trees, and that Queensland slash pine was the most commercial plantation crop for the region. They trialled a pine plot on Archerfield, but it was not very successful. So the land sat there while they established plantations elsewhere.

“In the late 1940s, Pop was unwell and dad (Viv) and his brother John took over Hancock Brothers. By the 1960s they needed to get a return on the Archerfield property. Archerfield was well known as the largest single undeveloped block in the Brisbane metropolitan area – in any metropolitan area in Australia. The problems of piecemeal subdivision and of servicing small acreages were becoming apparent – and the notion of integrated urban communities was becoming recognised as a better approach. Canberra had done it in 1912. But there was a little more until Hooker Rex did the Centenary suburbs in the early 1960s. However, this was essentially a residential development – it lacked the integrated environment and employment elements of a holistic community. 

“In the mid 1960s, dad and Sir Peter Abeles held lengthy discussions about using Archerfield for such a development – both were enthusiastic about better planned urban communities. But eventually Abeles shifted his focus to establish the Kooralbyn resort (opened in 1973). However, Dad saw the potential and persisted with the idea. Hancocks funded meetings with Lendlease, the top think-tank of the day, workshopping visions and ideas. They formed a partnership agreement – again founded by Hancocks. But after some years of exploration, Lendlease decided the project was not viable – the sewerage and water costs were so high, the front-end costs were prohibitive, so they withdrew.

“The late 1970s saw an economic downturn – ageing timber plant, plus growing competition from cheap imported veneers – and by the early 1980s Hancock Brothers was going broke. My brother Murray (Hancock’s CEO) asked me to come in and help (I was working with Price Waterhouse and had done project management in greenfield development). We had to reduce debt, update equipment, and consolidate operations, but after three years of hard work the company was viable again.


“When I came on board, my brief included selling the Archerfield property to reduce debt, but I couldn’t sell it. I approached the biggest developers all over the world, but even those who were interested found the front-end costs too high, and we had no serious offer. We had no money to go into a joint venture – Murray and I were reporting into the ANZ bank every week. The only option was to start planning and rely on the vision to sell it. And eventually it did. Murray (a merchant banker) got us refinancing, which gave us some time, and I did the envisioning and marketing bit. 

“Our vision – we called it “Woodlands” – gained support in principle from the three tiers of government. Brisbane City Council was supportive of the proposal all through. The idea of a big integrated development was heavily endorsed by the Lord Mayor – Sallyanne Atkinson.  We received premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s support through a claim that came out of left field in mid to late 1986.

“In the midst of the stress of developing and promoting the vision for Archerfield, we had a government official come to our office with a bombshell:

“We are resuming your land for prisons. It was a Cabinet decision made last Tuesday – there will be no negotiation.”

“The unimproved land value would not be worth much. This would’ve been [a] disaster for us – the end of the company. A lawyer friend got us an interview in Joh’s office. I showed them the plans, and then asked “do you want a prison or a community?” The decision was reversed overnight.

“We had a hiccup with the federal support too. I was a consultant in tourism and environment, and I had become interested in “extended stay tourism” – for early retirees who want to experience actually living in a country – that were no house swap sites then. I included a resort village in the vision for Archerfield/Woodlands. it was an innovative idea to target inbound tourists – and the Immigration Minister (Chris Hurford) was prepared to change the Visa laws to accommodate this new concept. In the 1980s, Japanese interests for bankrolling tourism ventures across Australia – in fact they were investing across the board. In early 1987, Joh had discussions with the Japanese about development options in Queensland. Our property was of interest. But it was misreported, as it often happens. Then the RSL head, Bruce Ruxton, grabbed and twisted the retirees aspect of the total plan for Archerfield and roared his opposition in the media. I was advised that if I kept my head down it would blow over in a week. It did, and it raised the profile of the property for us.

“When we sold Archerfield in 1988, I had been living and breathing Woodlands for three years. I gladly handed over everything, and I didn’t keep copies of anything. Girvan brought the land (and the concept) which certainly reduced our debt and made Hancock Bros viable again. But they went broke – in the boom period, they had other projects go wrong.

“Lendlease – with Delfin – have ended up with Archerfield, and they were the best possible people to take on the development. The later owners of course put their own stamp on it, but the Forest Lake vision is essentially the “Woodlands” vision – and I feel very privileged to have been involved in initiating the project. The Hancocks owned Archerfield for almost 50 years – far longer than anyone else. We recognise that it presented a great opportunity for a Master Planned Community – and finally it happened. 

The “Woodlands” vision. 

“Our family was in timber, so we got to know and appreciate the forests and the wilderness. In the timber industry we knew our livelihood depended on sustainable harvesting, so we embraced ecological thinking before many others. I became particularly interested in greenfield development during my environmental studies at Griffith, and I applied those principles to planning several big sites – and ultimately, to our own “Woodlands” for Archerfield.

“My focus was the notion of the lake and the trees. I planned the lake as the hub – everyone loves water, and a lake gives a sense of place and space. I mapped the contours and worked with the notion of using them for drainage, and to collect water for the lake. This has worked extremely well. The natural stormwater lines effectively defined the villages, and the contours allowed an interlocking network of hike and bike tracks. These separated a series of clusters of homes and land uses – which can be seen today. I wanted to leave half the land as forest so people were living in a real environment – that was perhaps a bit ambitious. I always planned to keep a heritage section including the side of the old Homestead. The developers retained a smaller area, but it is still there today – Homestead Park.

Forest Lake Beginnings


  • The Archerfield property and the “Woodlands” vision were bought by developers in 1988.
  • The name “Forest Lake” first appeared in a concept plan in 1989.
  • Work on infrastructure for Forest Lake was in progress by 1990.
  • The Forest Lake project was officially opened by premier Wayne Goss in April 1991.
  • Homestead Park was officially opened in November 1991.

The Lake News thanks the Richlands-Inala History Group for providing this article. 

The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month (except in January) from 9.30 am for a 10am meeting at the BCC Inala Library Meeting Room, Corsair Ave, Inala. For enquiries contact secretary@rihghistory.org.au

Corin Mackay