Brief History of the Peel Valley Group
Peel Valley Machinery Service (PVM) commenced operations in September, 1965, at 91
Kable Avenue, Tamworth. The business started as sub dealers for NSW state John Deere
agricultural machinery distributors, W & J Farm Equipment. Peel Valley Machinery Service
was started by Dungowan farmers and harvesting contractors David John and his brother
David & Barry John’s father, Allan, came to the Tamworth district from Newcastle in 1938 to
take up a position as General Manager of T J Treloar and Co, the Tamworth retailers, who at
the time were also involved in farm machinery with the J I Case franchise. Allan’s wife was a
Kennedy from the Bithramere area so the family already had many relatives in the
David and Barry, who both attended Farrer Agricultural High School in Tamworth, operated
two family farms at Loomberah and Dungowan, producing lambs, wheat, corn and lucerne
hay. They were also involved in contract harvesting. Both were very interested in farm
machinery, and in particular the John Deere brand. When the opportunity came up to act as
sub dealers for the NSW state distributor, they took it and acquired premises in Kable
Avenue, Tamworth. In 1968 Peel Valley was appointed a direct dealer to John Deere
Limited, Wynyard House, Sydney as the first direct dealer for the John Deere company in
NSW. The John brothers continued to operate the Dungowan and Loomberah properties
and the contract harvesting business, and in fact became large‐scale contractors for the
In October 1970 John Deere, a Moline, Illinois (USA) company which was started by a
blacksmith named John Deere in 1837, bought out most of the assets of Chamberlain
Holdings of Perth, WA, and a new Australian subsidiary, Chamberlain John Deere, was born.
Peel Valley Machinery became direct dealers for the new company, and in 1972 expanded
into Quirindi with a new purpose built facility in Loder Street. At this time the wheat
industry, although having some difficulties with the quota system, was going through a huge
growth spurt. John Deere combine harvesters were in such short supply that Peel Valley
Machinery turned to Sperry New Holland as an alternative combine harvesters supplier.
Through the next few years the company would sell on average around fifty five combine
harvesters a year. The harvester operating skills of the John brothers, plus the emphasis on
product support which had characterised their company since its early days, led to a virtual
domination of the combine harvester market in Northern NSW and generated the revenue
that financed the company’s expansion.
Chamberlain John Deere (CJD) had continued to operate company stores that it inherited
from Waugh & Josephson in Gunnedah and Wee Waa. An old existing Chamberlain dealer,
Amos Smith & Sons, was the dealer for Narrabri. CJD realised in 1976 that as manufacturers
they had no place in the retail market – their company stores were performing very poorly.
So the stores at Gunnedah and Wee Waa were offered to Peel Valley Machinery Service to
buy and operate, and in June 1976 Peel Valley Machinery effectively doubled its size in one
go. The entry into the Wee Waa market coincided with the beginning of the cotton boom in
that town – cotton had been grown commercially in the area since the late 1960’s. John
Deere manufactured a range of cotton pickers as well as its row crop tractors, and was in a
very good position with product to service the growing cotton industry.
Peel Valley Machinery continued to grow. Highlights around this time included the purchase
of an IBM System 34 computer in 1979. This computer system had terminals in each branch
of the company linked by Datel lines, which had been installed by Telecom specifically to
carry computer data. Peel Valley Machinery were the first multi outlet John Deere dealers in
Australia to install such a computer. The company also had in place a two way radio network
that linked all of its branches and vehicles. It had also started to operate a fleet of trucks to
pick up new machinery from Sydney or Brisbane, and to deliver and pick up machinery from
The 1982 drought slowed the farm equipment industry down, but it expanded strongly
again in 1983 and 1984. 1982 also saw the first of David & Barry John’s children, David’s
eldest son Steve, start work for the company. Steve’s brother Andrew started in 1983, and
their sister Libby, a chartered accountant, returned from working in Sydney to become
Administration Manager in 1985.
In 1984 Peel Valley Machinery bought the Narrabri John Deere dealership, Amos Smith &
Sons, which also included the Subaru franchise – this represented PVM’s first entry into the
motor vehicle market.
During 1984 construction of a new headquarters, showroom and Tamworth dealership
building took place at 501 Peel Street Tamworth. At this time the company numbered
around 125 employees. The building was completed in 1985.
In 1986 the beginning of what would be an eight year general recession in agriculture
started. PVM, like many other rural companies, had to slash expenditure and try to ride out
the recession. At its worst the company was reduced to 54 employees. One thing the
company did was to make an entry into the truck market, with the Mercedes‐Benz truck
franchise in 1986, plus the car franchise for the Narrabri dealership. The Subaru franchise
was added to the Quirindi dealership in 1987 – these were the years when the Subaru
Brumby, a tough 4WD utility, was to prove a runaway success in the bush. The company
added to its line up with International Trucks in Tamworth in 1987, and in the late 1980’s
was selling around 30 new trucks a year. In 1990 the company was awarded the Mercedes‐
Benz car franchise for the Tamworth area, and was immediately successful.
Grain and cotton started to re‐emerge in the early 1990’s, as the massive restructuring of
the rural economy began to take effect. Cotton started a run of golden years from 1993. In
1994 the Peel Street, Tamworth holdings of Peel Valley Machinery were sold to retire debt,
and the company had a purpose built dealership erected on the outskirts of Tamworth at 97
Gunnedah Road which opened for business in August 1995.
The last large scale capital expenditure by the company was on a showroom in 1995 – this
time it was on a workshop. The Tamworth workshop incorporated a full length overhead
gantry crane, eight tonne truck hoist, separate car workshop, full length truck service pit
with power, water, air, light, oil and grease. The oil and grease digital dispensary systems for
both workshops was state of the art.
1994 also saw the retirement of the company’s generation 2 IBM System 36 computer
network. This system, purchased in 1984 for $ 250,000, was taken to the Tamworth rubbish
dump in 1994, completely outmoded. A new system built around a Pentium server, with a
mix of Personal Computers and VDU terminals and running on Telstra’s new ISDN lines, took
its place. ISDN connections were also obtained to link with John Deere in Brisbane.
1994 also saw the first of Barry John’s children, Tony, start to work for the company. The
years from 1995 to 1998 were boom years for the agricultural machinery industry, and PVM
used those years to consolidate, and to expand its service capabilites in Wee Waa, with
nearly $ 1 Million spent on a huge new workshop there in 1998. Like the Tamworth
workshop it is state of the art, with a travelling craneway, digital oil and grease dispensary
systems, hoists, electric roller doors etc.
In May 1999 PVM shot a television commercial based on its product support (service and
parts) core business ethic. Of the 109 employees in the shot, 82 were either parts or service
personnel, with more than sixty mechanics and apprentices. There were 37 service vehicles,
Toyota Landcruisers & Hi Luxes, Subaru Brumby’s etc, and two semi trailers with low
loaders. There were also nine members of the John family.
In November 1999 the company was awarded the Subaru franchise for Tamworth and the
region, after purchasing the business of the existing Tamworth dealer. The business name
“Peel Valley Motors” was registered to facilitate the motor vehicle trading in Tamworth.
In August 2000 David John’s youngest son, Philip, started with the company as manager of
the Narrabri operation.
A parts and service outlet was established in Walgett, west of Wee Waa in September 2000.
A new motor vehicle showroom for the Tamworth operation was opened in late October,
2000, to house Mercedes and Subaru product.
In November, 2000, flooding rains destroyed much of the ripe wheat crop, of which harvest
had just commenced. Whilst the floods throughout the Namoi Valley caused some
destruction of irrigation crops and infrastructure, the damage to the dryland crop was by far
the most severe. The crop in general lost 50% of its yield, and a further 50% of its quality.
This calamity was followed by an extensive irrigation water reform process throughout the
Namoi Valley, and then the one in one hundred year drought that was in full cry from early
2002. These events had a major impact on farmers and machinery suppliers over the period,
and the Peel Valley Group was no exception. In 2003 it was forced to withdraw from the
drought ravaged Walgett district, and shut down much of its Narrabri operation.
In 2001 Barry John retired from active duty at the Peel Valley Group, leaving David John to
continue to operate the company.
An expansion into the truck industry was made in 2003 with the acquisition of the leading
Isuzu franchise. This was followed by the DaimlerChrysler Sterling brand of heavy trucks in
In September 2003 Phil John became the General Manager of the Group’s Liverpool Plains
dealerships at Gunnedah and Quirindi, with his brother Andrew managing the group’s Wee
Waa dealership and Narrabri parts store.
The company had been early adopters of John Deere’s Precision Farming products and sales
of these products grew dramatically from 2004. Phil John established four precision farming
base stations on the Liverpool Plains from 2006 to 2009 with further coverage planned.
In 2004 John Deere introduced a new entry‐level line of ride‐on mowers that represented
excellent value, and the company’s mower sales rose steeply as a result. Since then more
than three thousand of that entry‐level line have been sold by the company, along with
many other models and types of John Deere mowers. Side‐by‐side utility vehicles, which
John Deere started producing in the 1980’s, have also grown in popularity.
After ownership by a partnership of nearly 44 years between David and Barbara John and
Barry & Margaret John, the Peel Valley group of companies transitioned to new ownership
from the 1st July, 2009. David John and his family purchased the interests of Barry John and
his family, and as from July 1, 2009 the business has operated as Peel Valley Group Pty Ltd,
trading under the business names Peel Valley Machinery Service, Peel Valley Motors, Peel
Valley Trucks, Peel Valley Isuzu, and Peel Valley Mowers (inactive at present).
The members of the David John family in senior management positions have all had
extensive experience in dealership management.
– David John and his family have been managing the business since Barry John retired
in 2001, so the transition is seamless in terms of management.
– David’s eldest son Steve John, who has a degree in Financial Administration from the
University of New England, started in the industry working for Deere & Co in the US
in 1981, and joined Peel Valley as company bookkeeper in 1982.
– Steve was closely followed by his younger brother Andrew in sales in 1983.
– Their sister Libby Khan, who has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University
of New South Wales, worked in the accounting industry in Sydney for several years
before returning home to Tamworth to take over the role of Administration
Manager in 1984.
– Steve John moved to Quirindi to manage the branch in 1985, and Andrew John took
up the role of salesman at the Narrabri/Wee Waa operation the following year.
– Steve returned to Tamworth in 1988 and then took on the role as Sales & Marketing
Manager for the Group.
– Andrew was appointed General Manager of the group’s western operations at
Narrabri and Wee Waa in 1993.
– David’s youngest son, Phil John, who has a degree in Business Management from
Charles Sturt University and had spent twelve years working as a rigging inspector
and trainer for mining giant BHP, took on the management of the Narrabri branch in
2000, and on its partial closure in 2003 moved to Gunnedah to manage the two
Liverpool Plains dealerships, at Quirindi and Gunnedah.
David John continued to operate as the Managing Director of the family company until his
retirement in 2014.
On September 15, 2015, Peel Valley Machinery Service celebrated 50 years of existence.
One of the foundation stones of that existence has been the company’s dedication to
training apprentices, and those apprentices over the years have numbered in the hundreds.
The company has also used the School Based Trainee initiative extensively since it started in
2004, and by January 2017 had employed more than 50 of these pre‐apprenticeship
David John was elected to Tamworth City Council in 1974, and continued to serve on that
Council until 1995. He was elected Deputy Mayor in 1979, and served as Mayor of the City
of Tamworth from 1987 to 1995. In recognition of his service to local government, he was
awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1996. David Phillip John, OAM, JP, Paul Harris
Fellow, Emeritus Mayor, and Freeman of the City of Tamworth passed away peacefully at his
home on April 9, 2017.
On May 1, 2017 the car business Peel Valley Motors was sold to Tamworth car dealers
Woodleys Motor Group. Peel Valley Group’s Directors had decided to exit the car industry
and focus more on the core business of John Deere farm equipment throughout the greater
Namoi Valley, plus Isuzu, Mercedes‐Benz and Freightliner trucks in Tamworth. The company
sees a very bright future for agriculture and transport in Australia. Agriculture is booming, as
a growing middle class in Asia seeks higher quality food and fibre, and Australia is perfectly
positioned to take advantage of that. The transport industry is also expanding, turbocharged
by on‐line shopping, but also with a vital part to play in the surge of agriculture in
regional areas, and Tamworth is the regional transport hub.
(Updated December 1st 2017)