Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Closure of the Inverell Supercoat Petcare facility - 168 jobs gone

Many New England regional centres have suffered from major job closures. Often these go unremarked by the metro media. I was reminded about this by a story from the Inverell Times reporting on the closure of the Supercoat Petcare facility.

The story is simple enough.

Nestle Purina Petcare has announced it is closing the Inverell Supercoat Petcare facility and moving it to Blayney, about 650km away in the state’s Central West.

Nestle Purina purchased the business in March 2007 and general manager David Grant said since then the company has conducted a review of its long-term manufacturing and sourcing needs for its Australian pet care business.

“Since purchasing the business we have run it largely as we found it and we have been very pleased with the factory’s performance,” Mr Grant said.

“It was a very difficult decision to make but when looking at the review, our Blayney factory can make all that we produce at the Inverell factory.

“To put all our product into Inverell, however, would require significant capital investment. The factory in Blayney is double the size of this place.”

Mr Grant said the review had been ongoing and the decision was made at the end of last week.
“We then advised staff and suppliers as soon as possible,” he said.

Closure of any facility is always a difficult issue, more so when it is located in a regional centre.

At least in this case another regional centre will benefit, while Nestlé Purina will provide redundancy payments and financial counselling, job-seek training and career counselling.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New England - Northern Tablelands Wine Region

I have drawn this map from the New England wine site. It shows the boundaries of the new GI area. The site contains a range of useful material on this re-emerging wine region.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New history of Inverell's Byron Arcade

Photo: Inverell Times. Inverell District family History Group Inc members Julie Regan, Joselyn Griffey and Muriel Resta talk about the new history of Inverell's Byron Arcade.

The Inverell Times reports that the Inverell District Family History Group Inc. has produced Our Place, a comprehensive and colourful account of the history of Byron Arcade on the corner of Otho and Evans Streets.

Construction of the magnificent building began in early 1902 and was built for George Cruickshank, MP for Gwydir.

Named after his property, Byron Station, the arcade cost 13,000 pounds Sterling to erect and included 32 shops. Over the years it has seen dentists, photographers, music teachers and a myriad of other businesses operate under its roof.

Our Place is available through the Inverell District Family History Group Inc at a cost of $30 and contains a full history of the building and every resident and business that has occupied it since its erection in 1902.

There are full colour pictures of the beautiful building and old black and white images taken around the time of its erection.

To obtain a copy of Our Place, contact the Inverell District Family History Group on (02) 6721 1487 or (02) 6722 1893.


For those interested in Inverell's history, Inverell On-line has a very useful local history page.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Newcastle's busy airport

Recently I have flown in and out of Newcastle a number of times. I have been meaning for a little while to record my impression of Newcastle's airport. In simple terms, I was amazed at just how busy it has become.

I have always felt that Newcastle should become more of a hub. Truncated at it is from its natural New England heartland, it is still a natural rival to Sydney.

Well, based on my recent experience it seems to be getting there. Obviously Kingsford Smith dwarfs Newcastle and how. But the place is still growing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Belshaw's obsession with New England sapphires

Photo: Australian sapphires

I have recently been on a bit of a sapphire trip.

Growing up in a gold and precious stones mining area, stories of prospecting and discovery were all around me.

Then I had a girlfriend who told me all about the gully on her place where raw sapphires could be found.

A little later I started buying sapphires in Armidale, getting Evan J Lewis (a local jeweller) to make them into rings. The cost wasn't too high, and they made a nice local present.

Then life changed and I forgot about all this. Now it's back!

So I have just put up a number of posts:

Never let it be said that I am not an obsessive!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fossicking in New England

Photo: Fossicking, Inverell

An update has been provided in a comment. 

 The guided tours from the Baptist church no longer operate and Boolabinda is also closed now. For up to date fossicking information in Glen Innes contact the Visitors Information Centre on 02 67302400.

Original Story Starts

Some time ago, I started a series of posts describing the Fossicker's Way, the New England road linking some of New England's best fossicking areas.
Google blogger is down just at present, so I cannot provide details of these posts. I will add links once the problem is sorted.

I did just the first two days in this series, leaving my travellers stranded at Nundle. Now the people from Big Sky Country have put together some useful material on fossicking in New England's Northern Tablelands' region that allows me to extend the series.

Moving from Nundle, visitors travel to Tamworth and then up the western edge of the Tablelands through to Inverell and Glen Innes. Here we come to some great fossicking country. The sapphires are plentiful but, they can also be really, really big.

A couple sifting through a pile of wash at Inverell’s 7 Oaks Fossicking Park, can attest to this fact, after discovering a 42.13 carat blue sapphire, the largest stone ever found by a fossicker on site.

According to 7 Oaks’ owner, Peter Black, the stone is “an absolute monster”.

While the size of this find was rare, unearthing gemstones in decent quantities from the region is not, say the resident fossicking experts of Big Sky Country.

Along with the royal blue sapphire, the region is prolific for its rich diversity of gems and minerals, such as aquamarine, emerald, fluorite, topaz, zircon, garnet and quartz.

Big Sky Country is the New England North West region of NSW, part of it intersected by the road known as – yes, The Fossicker’s Way. The best towns to stay in for a few good days of fossicking are Inverell and Glen Innes.

Inverell justifiably goes by the title of ‘The Sapphire City’ because 70 per cent of Australia’s sapphires come from here, while Glen Innes boasts Minerama, one of the biggest annual gem and mineral festivals in Australia.

Here’s a basic guide to some of the fossicking options provided by Big Sky Country.

7 Oaks Fossicking Park, Inverell
This 300 acre property on Frazer Creek is family operated and has been producing sapphires since the 1960's. You can fossick on the natural creek banks, but the easier and most popular option is to sift through the piles of wash supplied to you.

Peter Black had only just bought 7 Oaks in April 2008, when a few weeks later, a couple from Port Macquarie found a 42.13 carat sapphire – the biggest find ever by a fossicking visitor at the park. The stone is estimated to be worth $5,000 to a collector.

Situated 19kms from Inverell, 7 Oaks is open for basic bush camping, with bush toilets, picnic tables and wood fire barbecues. Cost is $20 per day for adults and $10 for children aged 8 to 14.
Phone 02 6725 1582

Billabong Blue Sapphire Fossicking Park, Inverell
This park, 16km from Inverell, makes fossicking relatively civilized. You get to sift through the wash on benches at waist height and the owners, Rhonda and Bill, offer their professional advice should you need it. There’s a cafĂ©, BBQ and picnic areas, water tanks and toilets.

Billabong Blue promotes itself as ideal for the first time fossicker or the seasoned expert, and guarantees every visitor will go home with some coloured gems in their pocket. Cost is $20 per day, or $40 for a family (two adults, two children).
Phone 02 6721 0500

Poolbrook Gems Fossicking Park, Inverell
Poolbrook is another private property where visitors can fossick for a day for a fee. Located at Frazer's Creek, 26 kilometres from Inverell, visitors must stop at Kottage Kiya Gallery, 8 km from Inverell on the Nullamanna-Emmaville Road, to pick up sieves and get directions from Louise Walburn, one of the park's owners. Louise also gives first-time fossickers some helpful hints. Cost is $10 per day, children under 12 free.
Phone 02 6722 2781

Free Fossicking Sites in Inverell
There are three free areas to fossick around Inverell: Pindaroi Lake, Bukkulla; Frazer Creek, Nullamanna and Swanbrook Creek, Swanbrook Road.

Stannifer Fossicking Area, Tingha
Many of Tingha’s streets are named after the gems found in the district. In this free fossicking area, you may find jellybeans (water worn quartz crystals) quartz and grass stone. Tingha is about 17km south of Inverell.

Glen Rest Tourist Park, Glen Innes
Resident caravanners and visitors to Glen Innes can enjoy the privilege of fossicking through a bucket or bag of soil, with equipment and tuition supplied, along with shaded picnic tables. Cost is from $10 per bucket.
Phone 02 6732 2413

Wellingrove Fossicking Reserve, Glen Innes
A peaceful and secluded spot for a fossick, Wellingrove is 19km north west of Glen Innes where you can hope to find sapphires and zircons.
A permit is required from the Visitor Information Centre and it costs from $5 per person a day but children under 12 are free.

Boolabinda Holiday Homestead, Glen Innes
Fossicking is just one of the activities available at this farmstay. You can search for sapphires and zircons in Reddestone Creek for $8 per day, plus $3 equipment hire.
http://www.boolabinda.com.au/ (closed June July & August)
Phone 02 6732 2215

Bullock Mountain Homestead
Bullock Mountain is also a farmstay, where you can fossick through buckets of wash from a disused mine or try your luck in Reddestone Creek. Fossicking park buckets costs $15.00 (includes sieves) while creek fossicking is $10.
Phone 02 6732 1599 – please book ahead.

Three Waters High Country Holidays, Glenn Innes
Fossicking for sapphires, zircons in Reddestone Creek at $8 per day, with equipment hire $3.
Phone 02 67 32 4863

Guided Field Tours – Baptist Church Fossicking Club, Glen Innes
This is a group visit to private land sites that occurs most Wednesdays. The group leaves at 9am from the Baptist Church, New England Highway and travels in convoy. A small charge per person.

Other areas to remember for free fossicking around Glen Innes Severn Council shire include Kookabookra, Glencoe, and Torrington State Conservation Area.

Three Creeks Gold Mine, Bingara
Three Creeks Gold Mine is a working mine that re-opened to the public in 2008 after a six-year closure. Owner Paul Myer guarantees that every visitor who pans will find some gold here, from a reef that has been mined since the 1800s. He provides full instruction on gold panning and equipment. Quartz crystals are also dominant here. Gold panning is $25 per day (this includes a mine tour), $15 for kids under 12 and under 5’s free.

There are a limited number of campsites available here as well as an on-site van.
Phone 02 6783 2224.

Iron Bark Creek and Woodsreef Fossicking Areas, Barraba
The Barraba area was known for its gold mines and mining villages in the late 1800s, and these areas are still most worthwhile for a fossick. You may find gold and other minerals such as copper, pyrites, jasper, garnets, zeolite, as well as opaque red, brown and yellow quartz. There are no facilities at Woodsreef Reserve but it is open for camping.
Phone 02 6782 1255

Further Information phone:
  • Inverell Tourism: 02 6728 8161
  • Glen Innes Tourism: 02 6730 2400
  • Bingara Visitor Centre: 02 6724 0066
Both Inverell and Glen Innes Visitors Centres have their own fossicking brochures, which provide detailed information and maps.
Entry point for the Fossickers Way series.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New England Sapphires - a note

Photo: Sapphires in the rough from Australian Sapphire.

Did you know that New England is the biggest producer of sapphires in the world? The estimates I have seen vary from 50 to 80 per per cent of world production.

I was digging around trying to find out some background information on New England sapphires. Then I had to stop. When I came back and tried to find the site I had been looking at on Google, I could no longer find it through search. Frustration!

To avoid this happening again, I decided to record some of the web sites relevant to sapphires in New England. I will update this from time to time.

I have also established two pages on New England's History, one to record historical material on sapphires, the second to create a working bibliography on the history of New England mining.

Turning now to web references.

Australian Sapphire is an industry wide site containing a range of useful material on Australian sapphires.

Aussie Sapphire is a family run enterprise involving Andrew and Leah Lane and their two young sons who have been mining sapphires on their property on the Reddestone Creek in New England for over 25 years. You can buy direct from them.

An abstract of Sapphires – Processing, Grading, Characteristics, Heat Treatment and Marketing of Sapphires by A.D. McIntyre and C.C. Sorrell from International Ceramic Monographs, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 826-34 contains some interesting industry discussion.

Gem fossicking provides some general information. The Gemmological Association of Australia site provides a useful overview of the New England and Central Queensland fields.

The 7 Oaks Fossicking Property is located 20kms from Inverell and has been producing sapphires since the 1960s.

The Inverell 0n-line site provides a range of general material on Inverell and includes some links through to sapphire attractions. The Glen Innes Tourism site also provides useful information, including links through to some of the fossicking/sapphire attractions.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Tourism and mining in New England - need for a new approach

This photograph by Gordon Smith shows one of the adits to Khan's mine in the gorge country to the east of Armidale.

In historical as well as present terms, New England is a major mining area. Yet we do very little to promote the history of mining activities as a tourism activity.

I think that this is a grave error at a time when New England as a whole is struggling to attract visitors in the face of competition from Sydney and other metro areas.

Tourism is all about experiences. This is one experience that other areas are selling, we are not.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

University of New England's Mary White College celebrates 50 years

Hard to believe, but in October, the University of New England’s Mary White College will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The College has already heard from about 250 of its alumni from Australia and overseas who are interested in attending the celebration.

The College extended its search for ‘lost’ alumni during reunion events in Canberra and Sydney at the end of May.

“At those functions, we appealed for people to help us find our lost alumni,” said the College Principal, Mrs Barb Shaw. “It’s amazing how many people are starting to contact us as a result. We’ve not only received e-mails about lost alumni, but bookings for the anniversary celebration, and offers of photographs and yearbooks for display over the celebration weekend, 4-6 October.”

About 40 alumni attended the reunion event in Canberra, held at the Australian Institute of Sport, and about 50 attended the Sydney event at Macquarie University’s Dunmore Lang College. “They represented every decade since the College was established,” Mrs Shaw said, “from the ’50s right through to the current decade.”

Each of the events took the form of a cocktail party followed by an illustrated talk on the history of Mary White College comparing photographs from the ’70s and the present day. Jill Spilsbury (who was Principal of Mary White College from 1985 to 1998), accompanied Mrs Shaw on both evenings, along with College staff member Carolyn Coman-Jeffries and UNE’s Alumni Relations Officer, Jennifer Miller.

The program for the 50th Anniversary Celebration will begin on the evening of Saturday 4 October with a cocktail party at Saumarez Homestead, the birthplace of Frances Mary Fletcher White (Mary White). The White family was instrumental in the establishment of the New England University College (NEUC), the fledgling institution that developed into the University of New England, and Mary White was a member of the NEUC Advisory Council.

On Sunday 5 October there will be tours of Armidale, the University, and Mary White College itself, followed by afternoon tea in the gardens of “Trevenna”, the Vice-Chancellor’s residence, and a formal dinner in the evening.

“Mary White is the first of UNE’s current residential colleges to celebrate the 50-year milestone,” Mrs Shaw said. “Listening to the alumni at the recent events in Canberra and Sydney, it was obvious that they still feel a connection to the College after all those years. They made lifelong friendships here and, as it was the first experience of living away from home for many of them, they speak fondly of the College as the place where they learnt to be independent.

“The 50th anniversary will be an opportunity to celebrate the many Mary White College traditions that continue today, such as the formal dinners and the Saumarez Gardening Day.”

For more information on the Mary White College 50th Anniversary Celebration and a list of ‘lost’ alumni go to: http://alumni.une.edu.au/events/event_details.asp?id=9056.