News

Longreach: “The Noosa of the Outback”

James Nason, 07/06/2024

Cruising on the Thomson River. Picture: Outback Queensland

JAMES and Dan Walker make a compelling case that their hometown is a place not only worth travelling to, but also starting a business in and calling home.

James (left) and Dan (right) Walker with Agribusiness Australia Queensland branch chair Roger Desailly.,

James, who with brother Dan are part of a multi-generational Longreach grazing family, came up with the slogan “Longreach – the Noosa of the Outback” when he was trying to attract veterinarians to work at the Longreach Vet Clinic, which he purchased 18 months ago.

“It is a bit of an island in the stream,” he told an Agribusiness Australia breakfast gathering in BDO’s Brisbane CBD boardroom yesterday.

“When I was trying to attract vets it was very hard to cut through, because there is such a shortage of them, so I called Longreach ‘the Noosa of the Outback’.

“We got three or four based on that.

“They come out, there is a coffee culture with 13 or 14 barista outlets in Longreach, and restaurants and the Longreach river.

“It is a beautiful spot, everyone has got a boat, then you can drive 10 minutes and have uninterrupted views as the sun goes down, people just fall in love with it.”

The vet clinic now has three full-time vets and has doubled its EBIT in a year and a half, helping to secure what is a vital service for the local community and grazing sector.

James Walker

James, a Nuffield Scholar, has also developed internationally recognised software (Agrihive) to help Australian producers take control of their financial futures, and helped to pioneer one of the first large-scale solar farms in western Queensland

Dan, or “Outback Dan” as he is best known, is a well-known local champion of outback tourism in the region, developing the family property Camden Park Station into a popular agritourism and events destination.

Dan and his family are now breathing new life into the old Longreach Pastoral College, having repurposed it under new owners the Britton family as a facility to host school camps, rural tours, business gatherings and educational  events under the new brand “Longreach Station”.

Dan Walker

While building another agritourism business is no small undertaking, Dan says there is a strong motivation to throw everything at making it work to keep the Longreach college asset going for the community.

“We have already had great response and support,” he said.

“The old Pastoral College is open for business, it is ready to go, it can do the training,

“And we have got 150 rooms ready for events.”

Advocating for Longreach is in the brothers’ blood, a family tradition that has included their grandfather’s marathon contribution as Longreach shire chairman for 35 years.

In a Q&A with Agribusiness Australia Queensland chair Roger Desailly the brothers shared their thoughts on regional entrepreneurialism, and also spoke at length about the importance of helping school children to learn about agriculture by bringing them out to country areas like Longreach.

They also suggest that schools be encouraged to Adopt a Farmer.

“You have an adopt a cop in most schools, why can’t we have an adopt a farmer, and have that person who can help the teachers grow the student base to understand farming and agriculture a lot more, and in so doing that will benefit us as well because we are all working together,” James said.

James also added that there is much to be gained from landholders making use of their local veterinarians than they may realise.

While many are advocating the use of seaweed supplements to reduce cattle methane emissions, he says far more can be achieved simply by using a vet to improve herd performance and production efficiency.

“What I can tell you is that in a herd, if I throw a vet at it, we can improve the performance by 15 to 20pc in one calendar year,” he said.

“So the effective result of implementing better veterinary science into cattle production is far outweighing any technology we can see on the shelf at the moment.”.

As pioneers of an early solar farm the region, and with many more renewable energy projects being planned for inland areas, they also make the case for community funds to be developed that enable local people and business to invest in, and receive payback from, each project development.

James said it would give the community ‘buy-in’ and provide returns and ensure all of the money generated locally did not flow out of the region.

“Our project was set up by an Australian company, and was subsequently sold to a London-based fund, so all that income and revenue is going overseas,” he said.

“I think that would be great to have a community fund and to create more stability and resilience into the locals.”

Dan said that bringing money into the region is at the heart of what they are trying to achieve with Longreach Station.

“We are  100pc in for our community,” he said.

“We’re bringing the external dollar into town and spreading it throughout the community, that is what I see as the benefit.”

For more information on Longreach Station click here

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Comments

  1. Brad Cooper, 11/06/2024

    I was also at this event and was heartened to hear from James Walker that in his view conditions in the bush are as good as they’ve ever been – commodity prices up, seasons good, investment strong. Certainly when I was in Longreach in March the town looked prosperous – cafes full, new nightlife venue opening etc, which suggests there’s discretionary money around. This is not a narrative we hear enough of.

  2. Richard Martin, 10/06/2024

    Tick

  3. Bruce Pott, 09/06/2024

    Congratulations James and Dan on great vision
    It has been a frustrating several decades watching agricultural education slip behind in appropriate curriculum for present farming practices
    Keep up the good work

  4. Lianna Parker, 08/06/2024

    I very much enjoyed reading this article. We are about to start our RoadTrip and have booked 3 nights in Longreach. We are very much looking forward getting to know the area and, obviously, to drink coffee. 😉 We’ll see you soon!
    Lianna

    • Jason, 08/06/2024

      We just did it. Make sure you go to Smithys. It great. The Qantas museum tour is a definite as well.
      Enjoy.

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