Couple capitalise on tourism attraction

22 Dec, 2005 07:00 PM

IF the future at Hamelin Pool station does not include sheep or goats then owners Brian and Mary Wake are still well placed to survive.

More than 100,000 cars a year pass their front gate of which 70-80pc stop at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatalites and cochina mine a mere 800m from the homestead.

"We have known about the tourism potential for years but with traditional sheep and goats pursuits still offering a good lifestyle there has been no need to change," Brian said.

But changes are happening and a possible future away from livestock is a new and exciting era.

The old corrugated shearers' quarters have been left in the original rustic condition on the outside but inside they have been totally renovated.

The bedrooms have been tiled, the kitchen renovated and new toilets and showers are being built.

Alongside is a self-contained unit for a manager or tourist groups.

The complex will accommodate 22 people and be suitable for conferences and meetings and there is room to grow visitor numbers by offering camping and caravan sites.

It is being funded from normal station cashflow, accounting for the slow progress and while Mary said they could have borrowed money and finished it quicker it wouldn't have evolved the way it has.

It started out as an idea to line and paint the shearers' quarters and build a simple ablution block but it has grown in size and vision.

Their Irish-born builder, Paul Richardson, who recently bought Narloo station further north, has been an inspiration, encouraging them to grow the project and his touches of stonework and rustic qualities combined with modern sophistication give the complex a style of its own.

There were times when Paul was staying there that he would climb onto the roof to watch the sun sink over Shark Bay.

Paul insisted they put on a viewing platform.

They hope the project will be finished in April and then they will consider the next stage.

Unlike most stations there is no generator thudding distantly in the background.

Electricity is generated by the pressure of artesian water harnessed and discharged into an open lake.

The power it generates supplies three houses through the summer and runs 24-hours-a-day ensuring backup batteries are almost always fully charged.

The unusual form of power was modelled on similar systems widely used in South Australia and needed approval from a range of environmental, world heritage and local agencies.

Under the approval plan they plugged two bores that flowed into a natural wetland area.

Several years earlier, while there had been a bulldozer in the area, Brian deepened the wetland into an artificial lake and it is now a stopping point for migratory birds.

The crystal clear water flows at an even 32-degrees all year round.

They only use a fraction of the water - less than 10pc - that previously ran freely and have seen the artesian pressure increase.

While some of the water is used in aquaculture tanks the rest flows freely to the lake through a short channel.

There is scope around the lake's perimeter to build chalets and bird hides to watch the splendid wrens, chiming hornbills, water waders and ducks or offer a place to perhaps hook a barramundi.

The water resource, albeit slightly saline and totally lacking in oxygen, has been used to set up an aquaculture project.

After experimenting with barramundi they found good metropolitan markets for aquarium fish that preferred locally grown fish over imported stock that had to be quarantined before they could be sold.

They produce a range of livebearers from the 10 large and four small tanks in a seasonal turnoff that has potential to expand considerably.

As Brian and Mary draw the threads of diversification together they are looking to the future when they can either employ more staff to run and manage the different ventures or provide an opportunity for their children.

With four children - Amelia, 21, Thomas, 19, Martin, 17, and Stuart, 15 - away from home either studying or working, the station offers a diverse opportunity for them to work together as a family in the future.

As a family that is rural at heart Brian and Mary are certain if their children don't come back to the station, being bush kids, they will still want to do something rural.



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