A UNIQUE greenfields “grass-to-gate” combined dairy, creamery and tourist facility proposed for Northcliffe is destined to change WA’s dairy industry by putting its operations on public view.
A development application for the multi-million-dollar landmark proposal has been submitted on behalf of the Bannister Downs Dairy Company’s Sue and Mat Daubney who promote their enterprise as a leader in “ethical dairy”.
The proposed 5000m2 integrated building will showcase the entire Bannister Downs’ milking, processing, packaging and dispatch operations to visitors from an enclosed second-storey public viewing gallery.
The viewing gallery, exhibition space, café and public sampling area, along with corporate administration and marketing offices, boardroom, staff amenities and a general function area, will run along one side of the milking and processing plant.
“This will change the dairy industry for WA,” Bannister Downs managing director Sue Daubney said of the proposal.
She said the concept of combining the commercial dairy and milk processing operations with an integrated visitor viewing area had always been a part of the Bannister Downs’ masterplan.
The joint venture formed with Gina Rinehart’s Hope Dairies in December had enabled planning for the development to be brought forward, Ms Daubney confirmed.
“It (Hope Dairies joint venture) also gave us the opportunity to do it properly without having to cut any corners,” she said.
Ms Daubney declined to put a price on the development, but it is understood earlier published cost estimates of $20 million were well short of the expected ultimate cost.
“It is very early days yet, but we hope to have it up and running in early 2017,” she said.
“We didn’t want to put ourselves under too much pressure.
“It is important to us that we continue to work towards our aim of being a global leader in ethical dairy, but we also didn’t want to fall into the trap of being unable to properly deliver on our promises,” she said.
The development is proposed for a greenfields site adjacent to Muirillup Road, Boorara Brook, seven kilometres east of Northcliffe and about 1.8km closer to town by road than the existing Bannister Downs’ dairy and creamery.
A development concept submitted to Manjimup Shire council proposed that tourist and commercial traffic from Northcliffe will approach the site on different roads to keep them separate.
Tourist coaches and visitors will be encouraged to use Muirillup Road while milk tankers and delivery trucks will use a separate entrance off Flannagan Road from Middleton Road.
The development application prepared by Bosske Architects Pty Ltd in Perth described it as a “grass-to-gate facility” and “the only planned facility of its kind in the world”.
It is expected to “have a considerable impact for the town of Northcliffe, bringing in tourists, visitors, workers and new business”, the application stated.
Bannister Downs, started by Mat Daubney’s grandparents in 1924, currently milks about 1100 mixed-breed cows in a 90-stand rotary dairy.
The proposed new dairy would be set up to milk between 500 and 800 cows, Ms Daubney said, but it had not yet been decided whether it would supplement the current dairy and processing plant, which is undergoing some expansion works at present, or replace part of it.
“That’s something that still has to be established,” she said.
Ms Daubney said combining robotics with a rotary dairy would also be considered for the new facility.
“The software interface between the two (robotics and rotary) is the problem in Australia we’re told, but we don’t see why that can’t be overcome,” she said.
“There’s lots of experience overseas that we can call on.
“At this stage we’ve opted for a rotary dairy because of the visual experience it provides for visitors.”
Since it moved into marketing its own milk in 2005, Bannister Downs has a history of innovation, beginning with its distinctive biodegradable packaging.
The family farm produces about 80 per cent of the milk sold and the rest is purchased from trusted neighbours who uphold the same ethical dairy philosophy as the Daubneys.
Bannister Downs estab- lished an early foothold in the WA milk-producing and processing market by selling to Perth coffee shops.