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Making a living in the Great Western Tiers

posted 20 Jun 2013, 16:35 by Unknown user   [ updated 20 Jun 2013, 16:37 ]
Almost 60 very interested people attended this forum chaired by Councillor Deb White.  The program included special guest Professor Jonathan West (founding Director of the Australian Innovation Research Centre), David Bennett (Ashgrove Cheese), Lyn Haywood (Bendigo Bank), and Rosemary Norwood (Forest Walks Lodge).
Professor West spoke about the importance of keeping people employed in the community after a former industry had failed.  After drawing a parallel with a town of similar size to Deloraine in Japan, and the way the residents had addressed closures in car parts manufacture, he described the way in which Smithton, after experiencing the closure of vegetable growing businesses in the district, had changed its focus to dairying in order to establish new markets and keep the workforce going.
When questioned about revitalising the forestry industry in Meander Valley, he emphasised that the requirements of international markets had changed, and that the existing timber industry in Tasmania was no longer profitable, with a shortfall of 30-40% between the expenses involved in producing timber and woodchips and the income derived from it.  He said that Meander Valley should also look at what it was really good at doing and use this as the basis for new businesses.  Professor West used the example of Tasmanian excellence in sport to show that, when something in Tasmania is valued and supported, it was successful.  Excellence in education was clearly undervalued as the reported 55% functional illiteracy in Tasmania showed, but innovation requires education so that new directions can be imagined and followed up.
The other speakers showed how their personal visions had resulted in successful businesses.  David Bennet related the history of Ashgrove Cheese which has built up from a profitable dairy business, to become an extremely successful cheese and ice cream tourism business with links to other tourist ventures, as well as national and international exports.  Lyn Haywood spoke of the need for strong support in the development of a successful community bank, its connection and relationship with the district and the importance of vision and commitment.  Rosemary Norwood described her relationship with the amazing forest environment of the Great Western Tiers, the value of persistence in pursuing her vision of ecotourism and the time needed to develop a successful business.
The forum was organised by the Friends of the Great Western Tiers and stimulated discussion both during, and after the presentations while enjoying refreshments.