The North West Qld region is vast. Its diverse plant communities stretch from the Mitchell Grass Downs in the south to the pandanus and mangroves of the Gulf. There are stunning wildflower displays in spring in the beautiful White Mountains National Park and rare and threatened plants in pockets on properties across the region. This is also one of the country’s largest river systems.
There is only a limited choice for gardeners in these towns. Plants are mainly sourced from Townsville or Mt Isa (e.g. Bunnings). Gardening in this region is tough – temperatures in summer regularly top 40 degrees and severe cyclones can come down from the Gulf with little warning. There is currently a grasshopper plague in all towns – the first time the older residents can remember seeing all four species of these marauding pests at the same time.
Nevertheless, SORT believe that there is good potential for sales of plants and nursery products, in three markets:
There is strong civic pride in the towns and the local gardens and landscaping work is well-tended. SORT plan to engage the local gardeners, create a buzz around gardening by developing inspiring Nursery spaces and encourage other locals to build their own gardens.
The Councils are supportive and are likely to buy their plant material through us. Southern Gulf Catchments (the Natural Resource Management Agency) will use us to propagate plants for the Bush Regeneration projects they conduct with Landcare groups across the region.
This will need affordable plants, sun-hardened and fit for local conditions.
Carolyn Page, SORT Area Manager for the Wivenhoe Area Qld, has already sounded out the Tamborine Mt Sustainable Gardens Club, which includes a number of people who are well versed on collection and propagation of rare and threatened species, and they are keen to research, source and propagate plants from this region.
She has also canvassed the “Grey Nomads” in the group. The towns are keen to “slow down” these travellers so that they spend more time and money in the local economy. The people Carolyn has spoken with are very interested in breaking their journey to volunteer in the gardens, especially the SORT Nurseries.
There is particular interest in visiting the famous gardens of the properties of the area. Owners are interested – a small fee could greatly assist to maintain gardens under stress from the drought. We are exploring the possibility of the World’s Largest (in area) Open Garden Scheme!
Traditional Owners of the area - the Wanamara people - have now had their traditional lands around Middle Park Station returned to them. This was the centre of a 19th century gold rush and many of the structures and mining equipment left by the largely Chinese community of miners still exists. A recent survey found a large colony of Koalas also resides there.
The Wanamara people are keen to incorporate visits to the natural gardenscapes of this beautiful area into our scheme.
Of course, these towns are also on the main thoroughfare for many other visitors to the Outback and Darwin, and SORT has an opportunity to present visitors with plants from across the region that they would find hard to source elsewhere.
We now have a chain of potential outlets – MakerStores and SORT sites – in all states except WA. This provides the opportunity for promoting sales of North West Qld seeds and even plants through our outlets across Australia and through our online stores. Branding and innovative marketing strategies are key here.