Wool Excellence Award winner: Victorian producer Garry Meek

The phone call declaring the superfine wool grown on Garry Meek’s farm in western Victoria to be the best in the world came out of the blue.

Spinning out: Garry Meek in the woolshed on his property Elanora in western Victoria. Picture: David Geraghty

Spinning out: Garry Meek in the woolshed on his property Elanora in western Victoria. Picture: David Geraghty

All Mr Meek had done was to shear his flock of 3000 merino sheep last winter in his humble corrugated-iron shearing shed and sell the resulting 65 bales to the highest bidders, The Australian reports.

But the wool was found to be so good — and the suit fabric so fine when the wool was spun at one of the world’s most celebrated Italian weaving companies, Vitale Barberis Canonico — that the Meek family has been anointed 2016 winners of the global Wool Excellence Award.

Classing and pressing lambs’ wool into bales on his farm near Streatham, Mr Meek said he found it unbelievable his wool was now being used to produce $10,000 Armani and Zegna suits. “Vitale Barberis Canonico has bought some of our fleece wool off-and-on for many years because the style of our wool suits what they are looking for,” said Mr Meek, the third generation of superfine woolgrowers in his ­family.

“I select my sheep for a dense type of wool, which is bright and white and has a well-defined crimp, which bounces back after you compress it; it’s that high compression factor that Barberis really likes because it gives you a fabric that never crinkles or creases.”

Breeding fine-wool merinos is a family tradition; Elanora has been a specialist wool-growing property since it was first selected by Mr Meek’s grandfather in 1911.

Read more at The Australian

North Queensland artist exhibits recycled rubbish in rural Australia

North Queensland rubbish will be making its debut in a national touring art exhibition visiting rural and regional Australia.

Alison McDonald

Alison McDonald

Townsville artist Alison McDonald has transformed items such as plastic bottles and lids into works of art.

Reflected in her work and her choice of hair colour, the environmentally-conscious artist shares a fondness for bright colours, and from December, more than 20 vibrant artworks will travel to rural towns throughout Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

The exhibition called Wanton, Wild and Unimagined features one of her well-known works called Flow — a sizable piece consisting of 30,000 plastic lids, built to an impressive 12 metres by seven metres wide.

It is also the underlying reason why she made her artwork, Flow, to resemble a waterfall.

Ms McDonald hoped her exhibition would make people think more about consumerism and waste.

“People need to make choices not to buy all that excess stuff that we don’t need … like bottled water.”

Recycled art

Recycled art

Ms McDonald plans to run workshops as part of the touring exhibition, which is funded by Visions of Australia and Visual Arts Craft Strategy, to show people how they too can turn recycled rubbish into multi-coloured works of art.

The exhibition will first open on December 1 at the Moranbah Coalface Gallery, before travelling around the country until June 2019.

Read more.

Regional online shoppers drive Australia Post parcel boom

Regional and rural online shoppers are driving a parcel boom that is buoying the business of Australia Post.

Regional retail is evolving and people are buying more online, filling the regional delivery depots of Australia Post with everything from small cosmetics to car parts.

The high streets in many regional towns and cities are not the bustling centres of business they may have once been.

But in a mining region such as the WA Goldfields, even with a decline in population, online sales have increased.

Australia Post data, gathered by tracking what and where customers were buying items from, has revealed a 6.6 per cent growth in online shopping in Kalgoorlie. Popular shopping categories include: cosmetics and pharmacy items, which were up 38 per cent; media purchases, which consisted mainly of books, were up 32 per cent; and specialty food and liquor items were up 19 per cent.

Ben Franzi is the general manager of eCommerce and digital parcel services at Australia Post.

“If I’m living in Kalgoorlie, I probably don’t have as good an access to retailers as I might if I’m living in Perth,” he said.

“So that desire for products, for range and convenience and price, really lends to someone in Kalgoorlie buying a lot more online.”

Mr Franzi said the role of rural and regional communities in the future of Australia Post was “two-pronged”.

A career in the evolving postal depot

John Blake has worked for Australia Post for more than 20 years — he was once a postie and is now the manager at the Kalgoorlie delivery centre.

Mr Blake has seen the transition from letters to parcels first hand, and with branded packaging, he said he could actually see buying trends in action.

Depot manager John Blake has watched how post has changed over the past 20 years.

Depot manager John Blake has watched how post has changed over the past 20 years.

He said it was not uncommon to see items coming through the post that customers would once have bought locally.

“Motorcycle handlebars is one you see — you see wheels for cars, bikes,” he said.

Mr Blake said much had changed since the 1990s, when he worked as a postie.

“It was predominantly letters, you might have seven or eight items [requiring a signature] in a day — now they’ll have 30 or 40,” he said.

Australia Post has been experimenting with using drones to deliver parcels, particularly in more remote, rural parts of the country.

Instead of having to wind their way up a country road, where conditions might vary, in the future posties may launch a drone carrying a parcel, fly direct to the property, and lower the item to the customer.

Currently Australia Post was experimenting with drones that could fly for half an hour, and carry a two-kilogram parcel.

Mr Franzi said this technology was three to five years away.

Read more.

Ties to State Government remain a problem for regional commissions

wendy duncan regional commissionsA WA Nationals MP says ties to the State Government have ‘hamstrung’ the nine commissions responsible for developing regional Western Australia.

Kalgoorlie MP Wendy Duncan made the concession during this week’s Kalgoorlie Futures Forum, following an address from Geelong Region Alliance chief executive Elaine Carbines.

With Ms Carbines highlighting the organisation’s independence as a key factor in its success, Ms Duncan said it provided a solid example for WA to follow.

“At the moment, the commissions are a bit hamstrung, because they are answerable to the (Regional Development) Department and Minister,” Ms Duncan said.

“Instead of having a bit more independence, and the ability to thump the table.”

While officially listed as “independent partners” of the Department of Regional Development, the commissions for the state’s nine geographic regions are wholly funded by the State Government and answer to Regional Development Minister Terry Redman.

In contrast, the G21 group is an independent company representing the interests of the City of Greater Geelong and four surrounding councils.

Concerns at the convoluted nature of the application process prompted Mr Redman to boost the number of full-time staff when the blueprint was finally launched this year.

“My message to those organisations would be finding a way to work together,” Ms Carbines said.

“While you’ve got disparate groups who all have their own agenda, politicians like that because they don’t have to do anything — it’s just a fight at the local level.”

Ms Duncan said a state government review into regional development which she chaired in 2010 had previously identified the need for an overarching, independent body.

“There was huge backlash to that idea, because they thought it was centralising regional development,” she said.

“But that is what’s missing: an independent authority, bringing together and co-ordinating what the Regional Development Commissions are wanting to achieve.” To read more click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

To register for the conference CLICK HERE.

Regional Queenslanders are fed up with vanity parties

Townsvill refineryRegional Queenslanders are fed up with vanity parties and want to be looked after by traditional parties, a new poll reveals.

The findings are a slap in the face for Bob Katter, Clive Palmer and other independents but also serve as a warning to Labor and the LNP of a protest vote in north Queensland. To view the Sky News recording click here.

The Australian reported four days ago that Clive Palmer quietly told the Queensland government he doesn’t want a crucial licence he needs to legally run his cash-strapped nickel refinery, fuelling fears the plant will not reopen.

Mr Palmer yesterday visited the Townsville refinery for the first time since nearly 800 workers lost their jobs in two mass-sackings this year. He had lunch at a yum cha restaurant before dodging questions from journalists and angry ex-employees.

A spokesman told The Australian the federal MP for Fairfax had ventured north to “have a coffee with his nephew, Clive Mensink”.

Mr Mensink ran the plant before Queensland Nickel collapsed into voluntary administration in January, owing more than $100 million to trade creditors and $70m in employee entitlements.

Mr Palmer replaced QNI as refinery manager with another of his companies, Queensland Nickel Sales, earlier this month.

Voluntary administrator John Park yesterday said QNI looked destined for liquidation because neither Mr Palmer’s companies nor non-profit Sister City Partners had lodged promised rescue plans for the operation.

The 2016 Regional Development Conference will be held 5-6 September in Canberra. To express your interest in the 2016 Conference CLICK HERE.