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Eyre Freshener

En Route Issue 8 Spotlight Eyre Peninsula

Roderick Eime

Named for Edward John Eyre who nearly died several times on his crossing to Albany in 1841, he and his Aboriginal companion, Wylie, were the last of a party of five to make it alive. From these harsh and foreboding beginnings, the Eyre Peninsula has quietly flourished. Port Lincoln has grown exponentially since the Japanese caught on to the excellent tuna caught and farmed there. Whyalla has always been an iron ore, steel and shipbuilding city and is the third most populous in the state behind Adelaide and Mount Gambier, while Ceduna and Port Augusta form the “bookends” east and west.

Swim With the Locals

For a an ultra close-up of the Port Lincoln tuna, jump aboard with Matt Waller of Adventure Bay Charters and you can dive into his net full of baby (20kg) Southern Blue Fin tuna and even hand feed them if you’re game. Matt can also offer relaxing day cruises on Boston Bay to visit the local sealions.

Local Taste Temptations

You’ll be as surprised as I was at the culinary delights of Coffin Bay. Sit back and enjoy a feed of their famous oysters at The Oysterbeds Seafood Restaurant, grown in the ideal waters just across the road. Pour one of the excellent local wines to match. Ask for a Lincoln Estates Sauvignon Blanc or a Boston Bay Shiraz.

Adventure with Real Bite

If adrenalin experiences are your go, then you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more exciting than a quick dip with the wild Great White Sharks. Calypso Star Charters are in high demand for their shark cruises to Neptune Island, off Port Lincoln. When you’re done with the man-eaters, take a dip with the local sea lions that delight in a game of underwater tag.

For Cruise Lovers

Cruise lovers can take their pick from North Star Cruises’ annual Southern Safari, a luxury food, wine and fun cruise from Adelaide to Ceduna via Kangaroo Island or Classic International Cruises 3- or 4-night “sojourns at sea” aboard the Athena. North Star Cruises visit the remote and uninhabited Investigator Group off the west coast, where you can wander (carefully) among the stunning rock formations and see the rare endemic rock wallaby.

Surprise yourself, rediscover the pleasures and treasures of the Eyre Peninsula. I did.

Did You Know?

  • The coastline of the Peninsula was first mapped by rival explorers Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1801-02.
  • Coffin Bay was not named for a sea burial but after Flinders’ naval buddy, Sir Isaac Coffin.

Further research:

Rest Your Head [Best Western]

Best Western Alexander Motel
99 Playford Avenue WHYALLA 5600
Telephone: 08 8645 9488

Best Western Ceduna Foreshore Hotel Motel
32 O’Loughlin Terrace CEDUNA 5690
Telephone: 08 8625 2008

Best Western Standpipe Golf Motor Inn
Corner Eyre & Stuart Highways PORT AUGUSTA 5700
Telephone: 08 8642 4033

Battle for Australia

Battle for Australia

Few Australians realise the vast extent of tangible WWII history still visible today. But as the dust settles from the release of Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia, with the bombing of Darwin forming its dramatic centrepiece, AT sets out to separate fact from fiction, while providing you with your own key to the living remnants of this global conflict on Australian soil. By Rod Eime

Canterbury Tales – The revival of Otahuna

For Queensland Homes – Gold Edition

There’s no second chance to make a first impression and at Otahuna Lodge, tucked discreetly away in the backblocks of outer Christchurch, one certainly knows when one has arrived.

Jack, our taxi driver and Christchurch native, turned off the meter as we poked about the Tai Tapu hedgerows in search of this mysterious mansion. “That looks like a pretty fancy one over there,” he says excitedly, indicating a substantial modern home of about six bedrooms.

“I don’t think so,” I replied kindly, remembering the image from the website, “That’s it over there.”

I’d just caught a glimpse of a gabled roofline beyond some magnificent, semi-wild woodland trees. A remote controlled gate was our only clue. After a rudimentary introduction via the intercom, it swung open to reveal a winding track through imposing gardens. “Oh, my!” said Jack as if plunging into some Lewis Carroll scenario. Eyes like saucers, he drives carefully up the oak and acacia-lined carriageway until we arrive in the forecourt where Head Guest Host, Belinda was waiting. With an enormous smile, we’re met with a simple but effective; “Welcome to Otahuna!”

Seeing Jack struggle with our excess baggage, Belinda announces, “I might just get Jeremy to help with this one.” Sous-chef Jeremy Scheiblauer is filling in for executive chef, Jimmy McIntyre, famed for his wondrous five-course degustation menus. Jeremy’s about the right size to handle our portly port, and it’s up the hand-carved kauri staircase – with rimu detail – and into the luxurious Rhodes suite before you can say “Scallop Ceviche”.

Maybe I’m easily impressed, but to call Otahuna a ‘lodge’, is akin to calling a Bentley a ‘sedan’. To me at least, it’s every bit the manor house, with a history to match.

Built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a wealthy and influential Canterbury businessman, long-term parliamentarian, military officer, stockbreeder and keen horticulturist. The name “Otahuna” is Maori and popularly translates as “little hill among the hills.” The homestead, again excuse the understatement, sits atop a small hill, between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula, with expansive views of the gardens and across the plains to the distant Southern Alps.

Following their wedding in 1891, Sir Heaton Rhodes and his wife Jessie honeymooned in Japan, perhaps the first New Zealanders to visit Japan as tourists. They took in exotic sights including Shinto shrines and Sumo wrestling.

Taken with the architecture of Japan, Jessie persuaded Heaton to incorporate a subtle Japanese influence when they built Otahuna four years later. This octagonally-shaped structure adjacent to the Drawing Room and now serves as one of the Lodge’s several private dining areas.

After the venerable Sir Heaton passed away in 1956 at the ripe old age of 95, a bonfire raged on the lawns for the next week as his personal records and books were burned. There’s some mystery as to whether this was an instruction in his final will or some act of spite by his last housekeeper, Olive Nicholas, who would withhold Sir Heaton’s nightly whiskey if the mischievous, fun-loving old gent misbehaved. She was apparently left empty-handed in the final accounting while all other employees, relatives and charities received generous payouts.

Now heritage-listed, Otahuna became a monastery then a hippy colony in ‘70s with over 40 residents, half of whom were children.

Current owners, Miles Refo and Hall Cannon, discovered Otahuna while investigating an escape from Manhattan where they’d lived and worked for eight years. Barely in their 30s, the young lords fell under Otahuna’s spell after their first sighting in May 2005.

“When we first saw Otahuna, we both thought ‘wow, what an amazing house’,” recalls Hall, “but it just needed so much work. Daunted by the task, we just kept driving – all the way to Canada!”

“We came back in January 2006 and decided we’d live here in New Zealand, somewhere on the South Island and came back to see the house to cross it off our list once and for all. But it had us under its spell and by August, we owned it.”

Despite extensive structural renovations over the preceding five years, the property still needed much internal refinement. The duo hired Auckland-based interior designer, Stephen Cashmore, known for his sympathetic treatment of historic properties. New colour palates, fabrics, furnishings and bathroom enhancements were added. Several lost treasures were recovered and returned to their rightful place, like the antique mantle clock now in the ballroom.

Hall relished the opportunity to exercise his love of art and worked closely with Queenstown-based consultant Pauline Giles. Works from noted artists Peter Beadle and Anna Caselberg were added along with several from as yet unknowns.

The imposing portrait of Maori war hero, Ngati Maniapoto, takes pride of place in the entrance hall.

But beyond the Queen Anne-style home itself, 30 acres of botanical gardens were subject to their own extensive restoration and remain as a lasting legacy from Sir Heaton. 19 acres are devoted to natural produce including an orchard, potager and Dutch garden. In a touching gesture, Hall and Miles have revived the three acre paddock of daffodils, opening it up to the public each September just as Sir Heaton did, using the proceeds to fund local initiatives like libraries, schools and hospitals.

With a house of such character, I’m tempted to ask the obvious question, “What about ghosts?”

“You know,” says Hall with a curious squint, “I’ve heard stories of ghosts, but no-one has ever reported anything to me since we’ve taken over. Certainly I’ve never sensed anything.”

With Otahuna, arguably the most significant private residence in New Zealand restored to a glory even beyond Sir Heaton’s lavish tastes and appetite for fine living, perhaps his ghost is just quietly enjoying a spectral whiskey in the billiard room finally freed from the disapproving gaze of wicked Nurse Nicholas?

On Wandjina Time

Roderick Eime traces the path of Australia’s forthcoming epic motion picture through some of the oldest landscapes on Earth.

He stares down on me as if from the heavens, mute and limbless, his power over the elements is total. The Wandjina are the spirit gods of the Kimberley who control the weather and their images abound throughout the caves and craggy overhangs of this rugged and foreboding corner of Australia.

For countless thousands of years the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, with such evocative names as the Ngarinyin, Umida, Wunambul and Unggarangi, kept watch over the Wandjina figures, just as their spirits kept watch over them. Today, privileged visitors can still see these images in all their mysterious glory gazing imperiously down from their cave ceiling frescos.

The landscape of the Kimberley is among the oldest formations in the world, dating back some 1.8 billion years.

“Where are the fossils?” I innocently enquire of Carly, my naturalist guide at the El Questro Wilderness Park.

“There are none,” comes the matter-of-fact reply, “these rocks were formed before there was any life to fossilise.”

It takes a moment for me to compute that data and I return my gaze to the deep orange hues of the ultra-hard sandstone cliffs along Chamberlain Gorge. The namesake river, replete with fresh, crystal clear water is home to a seemingly endless supply of mighty Barramundi, guarded by a permanent squad of freshwater crocodiles.

Just over one hundred years ago, white Europeans brought cattle to the Kimberley from the east in search of new pastures. Pioneering drover, the Irish-born Patrick Durack, established Argyle Station in 1886 after bringing 7000 head from Queensland and arriving with about half of them. If ever a harsh and unforgiving land epitomised the bush spirit of early European settlement, it is the Kimberley. Blessed with clean, permanent water, but cursed with oppressive heat and humidity, the Kimberley tolerates man’s presence, but offers no comfort.

The sprawling, 400,000 ha El Questro Wilderness Park is still a working cattle station and provides a range of accommodation options for intrepid visitors. From humble, riverside camping plots to the iconic, ultra-chic El Questro Homestead, visitors can indulge their outback passion no matter what their budget.

In 2006, the rumour mill erupted with word that acclaimed film producer, Baz Luhrmann would be filming an epic Australian film in the region and for several months in mid-2007, the area was swarming with cast and crew filming key scenes for the forthcoming production.

Now the secret is out and the film, ‘Australia’, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman is set for release in November. The movie traces Kidman’s character, Lady Sarah Ashley, as she arrives from England in the 1930s in search of her renegade husband and his cattle station. The movie culminates with the dramatic bombing of Darwin some ten years hence.

A few kilometres south of Wyndham along the King River is the unassuming Diggers Rest, a knockabout homestead that was home to 90 crew during two months of filming. Now reverted to its regular persona of quaint fishing camp and simple lodge, the tiny bar and games room still bears the evidence – dozens of autographs scrawled on the wall above the flat screen TV.

“We had some pretty wild nights here,” confesses Alida Woodland, who runs the property with husband Roderick, “we put almost one hundred tents out the back and built that new ablution block. It looked like an army camp here for about two months!”

A few kilometres down the Karunjie Road are the wide mud flats used to film some of the stock mustering scenes. With the ample Pentecost River to the west and the vast Cockburn Ranges to the east, the scene will contrast the harsh territory and stark beauty of the Kimberley.

At the other end of the rough track is Home Valley Station, another site frequented by the cast and crew both on and off duty.

“Baz just loved the view across the (Pentecost) river toward the Cockburn Ranges,” says Nicolle Fenech who manages the station with husband Chris, “so he spent a lot of time filming the vistas and sunset panoramas you’ll see in the movie.”

Home Valley Station is a recently refurbished destination property offering visitors quality accommodation, food and even conference facilities. Owned by the Indigenous Land Council (ILC) on behalf of the Balanggarra people of the East Kimberley, Home Valley is an accredited TAFE training college where locals learn the art of hospitality as well as pastoral skills.

There’s a lot riding on Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’, including a major international marketing offensive for Tourism Australia designed to re-route the wayward “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign.

Meanwhile, the Wandjina cast their hollow eyes down impassively on those below, their task long pre-defined in the Dreamtime, their destiny beyond our reach and comprehension.

Fact File:

Regional activities: Fishing, 4WDing, trekking, flight-seeing, camping

El Questro Wilderness Park (Google Map: -16.01, 127.98)
08 9169 1777
110 kilometres west of Kununurra by road

Home Valley Station (Google Map: -15.722, 127.82)
120 kilometres west of Kununurra by road
Phone: +61 (8) 9161 4322

Diggers Rest Station (Google Map: -15.64, 128.08)
(08) 9161 1029
37 kilometres south of Wyndam

Nearest Airport: Kununurra (KNX)
Serviced by Qantas, Skywest, Airnorth

Tom Butler: Mountain Man

The rugged high country of New Zealand’s Southern Alps is no place for lightweights. The weather can be ferocious; windy and icy cold in winter and baking hot in the summer months. But none of that was going to stop mountain man, Tom Butler, from fulfilling his dream of a picture perfect guest lodge amid the stunning, blockbuster scenery.

Still in short pants, young Tom helped family friend and then owner, Oliver Newbegin, create his vision of an ideal rural retreat near the foreboding Arthurs Pass, 160 kilometres west up the steep glacial ranges from Christchurch. After school, Tom would head up to the site where the historic homestead was being painstakingly restored. His duties were modest; digging, shovelling and carting material from site to site.

Dating from the 1870s, the original structure was built by Arthur Hawdon, one of the Canterbury region’s pioneer settlers. The house and the landholding passed through a century of convoluted transactions to Oliver in 1988. Over the years, the property had bred beef cattle, fine merino wool and deer for venison and continues to do so today with the working portion of the land leased out.

Despite the inauspicious beginnings, Tom was already well familiar and deeply fond of the area around the tiny, former fettlers’ village of Cass, one stop before Arthurs Pass on the famous TranzAlpine Railway that cheerfully lugs tourists between both sides of the South Island to Greymouth on the West (wet) Coast.

With obvious affection, Tom shows lodge guests around what’s left of Cass, pointing out the ‘batch’ (shack) his family regularly visited while he was growing up.

“Mum and Dad would bring the whole family up for weekends of tramping (hiking), fishing and later, hunting,” recalls Tom, still an enthusiastic and expert hiker, climber and kayaker.

After the bulk of the work was finished and the homestead began welcoming its first guests, Tom set off for the UK and later returned to finish his university studies. Proudly clutching his new degree, Tom was quickly back at the lodge to exercise his new management qualifications. Things went well and Oliver gracefully faded into retirement, leaving the running and ownership of the lodge with Tom and another local business partner.

All staff, including Tom, live fulltime on the property attending to guests whims around the clock. The lodge is continually being added to and improved with the original homestead rooms converted to spa treatment, dining and relaxation areas. Accommodation for the maximum of twenty guests is now in brand new suites, a cottage and chalet that attract the highest echelon of luxury and affluent travellers from all over the world. Tom is not a name-dropper like some, but with a little prompting will divulge some of his celebrity visitors.

“I’ll always remember Billy Crystal as a regular, down-to-earth guy who mixed with the other guests and was gracious and uncomplicated,” says Tom, “he and his wife did like to dine alone in the cottage, but otherwise he was another guest enjoying the experience.”

The much-revered and anonymous luxury arbiter, Andrew Harper, rates Tom’s lodge as one of his favourites in New Zealand, describing it “a sensationally sited high-country hideaway that luxuriates beneath some of New Zealand’s most awesome alpine scenery “

“Mr Harper has been here three times now,” says Tom with a curious twist, “but I’ve never met him. He always books under a pseudonym and keeps a very low profile.”

Then there’s the story of the Texas oil baron who, obviously charmed by Tom and his ranch, bought two acres from a sub-division on the property after dinner one night.

Now, if you’ve followed the story so far you are probably wondering what the name of this esteemed lodge is. A member of both Select Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels, it consistently rates among the top luxury properties in Australia and New Zealand, gathering awards and accolades each year.

The retreat is Grasmere Lodge and its overwhelming success is the result of a bloke who displays vision and foresight beyond his years. Girls take note, Tom Butler, athletic outdoorsman, entrepreneur and lover of life is still in his early 30s and very single.

Living on Gwion Time

Expedition cruiser, Roderick Eime, comes face-to-face with an ancient hunter born before the ice age.


Blank faced and expressionless, he stood there staring at me. His slender arms adorned with intricate tassels hold a clutch of boomerangs as if inviting me to hunt with him. Literally frozen in time, this ancient gent has held this pose for perhaps 20,000 years.

I sat there staring back with the sort of spine-tingling sensation one experiences when confronted by the alien and inexplicable. He was not alone. Surrounding him were lesser, fainter figures, some dancing, some apparently paying homage, others plain and nude. What does this gathering mean? What is their message?

The Gwion Gwion people of Australia’s Kimberley are long gone, but their art remains in abundance, decorating sheltered rock caves and overhangs, lookouts and frescos throughout an area twice the size of Victoria. Often referred to as ‘Bradshaw Art’, these finely detailed and intricate figures remain a mystery to researchers and academics, fuelling vigorous debate about their origins and meaning.

Some explain them simply as the earliest examples of Australian Aboriginal art, transitioning through several periods over tens of thousands of years. Others, like lifelong researcher Grahame Walsh, believe they belong to a race long since vanished from our shores, even pre-dating current Aboriginal settlement. He draws comparisons with art and cultures as far afield as Papua New Guinea and Africa, but carefully stops short of making the claim as to their origins.

Beyond debate is their obvious contrast to the more modern ‘Wandjina’ art typified by the mouthless, ethereal figures representing the Aboriginal creators and controllers of all earthly things. At many sites the two art forms collide in an uncomfortable jostle that clearly demonstrates the contempt modern Aboriginals held for the Gwion Gwion. Heads of the delicate tasselled men are hammered and defaced in some cases, while elsewhere they are painted over by sprawling murals of the omnipotent Wandjinas.

The pigment used to create the beautiful Gwion Gwion is extremely resilient, so much so that C14 radiocarbon and other scientific dating methods cannot differentiate between it and the rock canvas. An indicator of their age was determined by a fossilised wasp nest built by the insects on top of a Bradshaw figure. It was reckoned to be at least 17,000 years old, placing the art beneath an indeterminate age beyond.

A shrill whistle from Gavin, our guide, interrupted my stupor and signalled time for an urgent return to the tender before the rapidly falling tide stranded us all. I scrambled down the escarpment and across the greedy mud bank, my feet disappearing beyond my knees in my haste to meet the outstretched arms frantically beckoning me aboard. Gavin engaged the outboard and immediately threw up a ‘rooster tail’ of grey-brown muck in an attempt to extricate the struggling craft. Kimberley tides are notoriously treacherous, rising and falling at the rate of over a metre an hour and swinging between ten metre extremes.

Man-handled back aboard, puffing and wheezing from the combined effects of excitement and exertion, Gavin smiles benevolently down on me from the pulpit of the centre-console runabout. “How was that?” he asks plainly as we make our way back to our 1000 tonne mother ship, True North, across the choppy Prince Regent River. “Lost for words?” For once, I was.

Gavin is the chief mate and expedition leader aboard the 36-passenger luxury adventure yacht and has spent most of his working life amongst the billion year old landscape of the Kimberleys. An expert fisherman, boat handler and unrepentant conservationist, Gavin rarely shares his most coveted Bradshaw art sites with guests.

“If people show a genuine interest in seeing some Braddies,” says Gavin, “we can usually find something on short notice. You and a handful of others are the only ones who’ve ever seen that site.” Yet his extensive catalogue of cave art sites is not recorded anywhere, instead the locations are closely guarded secrets entrusted to a few of the North Star Cruises masters and senior guides alone. “They’re up here,” he replies, pointing a finger purposefully to his temple.

I glance back across the wake of the dinghy trying to spot the high outcrop I had just scaled for my teasing glimpse of the most ancient Australians, but it’s quickly consumed by the enormity of my surroundings. The ship’s Bell jet helicopter races above us, ferrying goggle-eyed passengers back from a swim and frolic in a crystal clear, spring-fed water hole miles inland. Precipitous, golden-hued sandstone cliffs, vast mud banks and mangrove forests typify the landscape that has remained unchanged since before the time of the dinosaurs. Our brief incursion is but a minute speck of time in this geological calendar.

Regardless of your stance on the Bradshaw/Gwion Gwion debate, it’s abundantly clear that my handsome, lithesome hunter, having survived at least two ice ages, will be around long after my entire generation has departed. Perhaps his cryptic code will only be revealed by the next civilisation – if they can even find him again.

Fact File:

North Star Cruises operate the 50 metre, 36-passenger luxury expedition vessel, True North II on six and 12 night itineraries throughout the Kimberley region. Their twenty-plus year experience and intimate knowledge of the largely uncharted river and inlet system sets them apart from other similar operators in Australia’s remote North West.

Prices start from $8995 per person twin share for the six night expedition and $13,995 for twelve nights. Includes all meals, transfers and water-based excursions. Helicopter excursions separate.

For further information contact North Star Cruises on 08 9192 1829 or visit

Checking into the Ivory Tower

as published in Hong Kong Business

Beyond mere five-star, there exists a level of luxury that transcends any hotel rating system. A rarefied statusphere where the experience is valued and remembered long after the account is settled. Roderick Eime rose briefly above his station to glimpse life at the very top.

Long envied for their premium cachet and set amid dramatic, blockbuster locations, New Zealand’s ultra exclusive ‘Super Lodges’ continue to earn the praise of luxury travellers and hard-nosed critics alike. Not to be outdone, Australia has launched a counterattack and brought the battle right up to their transTasman cousins. We compare the “front row” from each side.

Grasmere Lodge Cass, South Island NZ

Playing heavily on their dramatic location near Arthurs Pass, Grasmere Lodge will always command the attention of those looking for quiet and comfort in a nostalgic colonial style. Set amidst the spectacular Southern Alps, you’ll be wondering which Hollywood epic you’re in.

The original homestead harks back to 1858 and, with gradual and tasteful modernisation, now presents the perfect complement to the natural grandeur of its surroundings.

Every guest room at Grasmere Lodge has one king or two single beds, two armchairs and a coffee table, CD player, minibar, a work desk with a modem plug and chair. Each private patio or deck has two outdoor chairs for enjoying the views and fresh mountain air.

A Lake View Deluxe Room is $NZ435.00 per person (dbl occupancy) and includes pre-dinner cocktail hour, a five-course table d’hôte gourmet dinner, and full cooked or continental breakfast. [ ]

Huka Lodge Taupo NZ

Widely considered the top lodge in New Zealand despite fierce competition, Huka continues to garner awards from the most prestigious judges including Travel + Leisure, Condé Naste, Andrew Harper and the Robb Report.

Ideally positioned in a private hideaway adjacent the sublime Waikato River and surrounded by virtual botanic gardens, Huka Lodge was originally a private fishing lodge in the 1920s, but its reputation for fine food and natural serenity spread far and wide.

Executive chef, John Allred, enjoys a substantial reputation thanks to his international schooling courtesy of lodge owner and multimillionaire banker and investor Alex van Heeren.

Instead of grandeur and opulence, the lodge is compact and snug and gives the impression of embracing its guests. Apart from the famed Owners Cottage, Huka Lodge provides 20 guest suites, all decorated in keeping with the main lodge.

Tariffs begin at NZ$730.00 per person, fully inclusive. [ ]

Maungatautari Lodge Lake Karapiro NZ

Unlike many of its contemporaries throughout the country, Maungatautari Lodge is a relatively recent construction, built by its owner-hosts, Peter and Christine Scoular, to their own personal design. This same personal touch extends to their exemplary hospitality, which makes guests feel like old friends visiting for an extended dinner.

Set on 30ha of park-like gardens, there are stud horses and sheep just beyond the colourful expanses of lavender, organic vegetable gardens and citrus orchards. The property is also part of an ambitious wildlife conservation program that aims to preserve and protect the many threatened NZ species such as kiwi, kereru, tui, korimako (bellbirds), kokako, kaka, kakariki, hihi (stitchbirds), toutouwai (robins), skinks, geckos, giant weta and tuatara.

The lodge itself is roomy, bright and airy assisted by broad picture windows with views all the way to Lake Karapiro. Christine does most of the cooking and even occasionally invites guests into the kitchen to share in the culinary experience.

A double occupancy suite is NZ$970 and includes dinner, bed and breakfast. [ ]

Also in the pack; Treetops Luxury Lodge, Rotorua; Peppers on the Point, Rotorua; Kawaha Point Lodge, Rotorua; Otahuna Lodge, Christchurch; Select Braemar Lodge & Spa, Hanmer Springs; Blanket Bay Lodge, Queenstown.

From Lord Howe – A…

Arajilla Retreat, Lord Howe Island

Discretely tucked away amid luxuriant kentia palms and banyan trees on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, Arajilla Retreat is perfectly placed to deliver relaxation and rejuvenation.

Owned and operated by the Shead family, Arajilla is one of only two such premium properties on the tiny and remote island, in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. Resurrected from a tumbledown knick-knack and snack store over twenty years ago, Arajilla now offers international standard accommodation and cuisine along with Ayurvedic spa therapy and massage.

Despite its comfort and welcoming air, guests are more likely to find themselves cycling the few quiet roads, swimming in the turquoise waters of the lagoon or hiking the magnificent landscapes.

Rates begin at AU$470 per person and includes all activities, full breakfast, light lunch, selected pre-dinner drinks, three course dinner with menu changing daily, mountain bikes and return airport transfers on the island. [ ]

Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge Scenic Rim, Queensland

Perched imperiously atop its namesake mountain, Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge is one of the very few such regal properties on the Australian mainland that can match the reputation of the kiwi counterparts.

Built by travel industry entrepreneur and environmental advocate, Graham Turner and his wife Jude, the multi-award-winning, architecturally exquisite property regularly attracts the highest echelon of Australian and international business executives and celebrities seeking a brief, but intense dose of relaxation and sensory pampering. While some choose to explore the glorious bush environs by mountain bike or on foot, most are content to recline in the all-embracing lounge with a good book and a fine wine, just within earshot of the next dinner bell.

Rates begin at A$445.00 per person and includes full breakfast daily, morning and afternoon tea. Your choice of al fresco style lunch or gourmet picnic hamper on the day of arrival. Seven course degustation dinner. All beverages throughout your stay including wines with dinner. [ ]

qualia, Great Barrier Reef

Part of a new wave of Australian ‘ultra lodges’, qualia is located on Hamilton Island amongst the heavenly Whitsunday Group on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and creates a new stratum of premium accommodation.

An unabashed hedonistic resort, qualia claims to “immerse you in a relaxed atmosphere, offering personalised and intuitive service”. It’s open, breezy suites were designed by Australian architect Chris Beckingham for billionaire owner Bob Oatley with the objective of harmony with the delicate natural surroundings. Choose from Leeward or Windward Suites, or for that special occasion, grab the two-couple Beach House.

Rates begin at A$725 per person for a minimum two night stay and includes all on-island transfers, meals in both restaurants within qualia, non-alcoholic beverages, plus your own electric golf buggy. The Beach House? A$3100.00 per night. [ ]

Also in the pack: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island; Bloomfield Lodge, Cape Tribulation; Cape Lodge, Margaret River; Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa; Voyages Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef; The Byron at Byron, Byron Bay

Elevate yourself – Watch this Space

Select Hotels
Small Luxury Hotels

Exchange rate:

HK$10 = A$1.30 = NZ$1.66
(as at 17 July 08)

Greening Hotels – Saving the Planet or the just the Bottom Line?


for HM Magazine


The rush for ‘green’ credentials and kudos has many people asking questions – and none more so than the travelling public.

The travel industry as a whole is drawing both praise and criticism for its impact on the environment. Carbon-burners like airlines, road transport and cruise ships are under scrutiny for their obvious greenhouse gas emissions, but hotels and resorts are not immune either.

Luxury travel is seen, with some justification, as indulgent and pampering with scant regard paid to the consequences of such hedonistic and selfish actions. Golf courses suck fresh water from precious reserves while locals gather drinking water in leaky buckets. Outdoor floodlights illuminate empty tennis courts as nearby barefooted villagers cook over smoky stoves and candlelight. We’ve all seen it.

As probing and questioning eyes fall upon the hospitality industry, the industry is responding with various mechanisms and programs, some genuinely practical and effective – others less so.

Accor recently announced a new twist to the ‘hang your towel for re-use’ practice common in most hotels around the world. Touted by some as a ‘save the planet’ action, most guests quickly see through this request as simply a means to save the hotel money and boost profit rather than as some altruistic gesture.

Acknowledging this, Accor has introduced a formula to determine how much savings can be made through towel re-use and pledged to donate these funds to UNEP’s reforestation programme.

According to their media statement, to prepare for the full-scale introduction, Accor is offering special training for housekeepers and is planning a campaign to build awareness among guests, who will be personally encouraged to take part in the program through a message posted in their bathrooms informing them that “Here, your towels plant trees.”

“The project should enable us to finance the planting of three million trees by 2012,” said Gilles Pélisson, Accor Chief Executive Officer. “I am very proud that the Group is actively supporting the United Nations Environment Programme in this reforestation project, which involves operators and customers of all our hotel brands, from economy to luxury.”

Accor’s program also receives the glowing endorsement of the UNEP.

“All countries are concerned by deforestation,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP. “With this reforestation project, Accor is also helping to combat global warming, restore ecosystems, wipe out epidemics and preserve the planet’s fresh water.”

Even if the money were not going to replant trees, the reduction in waste water and chemical use is a small but real gesture any hotel or motel can make.

Although reforestation is a critical activity in many areas, trees planted today will take at least twenty years to reach maturity. The critics will argue that attention needs to be directed at “now” schemes. What can we do to reduce and offset emissions today?

Marriott, a US$13 billion-a-year company has pledged to donate $2 million over the next three years to encourage Brazilian natives not to chop down trees. Through the Sustainable Amazon Foundation, a newly-formed non-profit organization, Marriott will also solicit contributions from its employees and hotel guests who want to offset their carbon footprint and help save the Amazon.

A novel mechanism employed by the historic Badrutt’s Hotel in St. Moritz was to install a massive heat pump plant utilising the vast water reserves of the lake. When it came time to replace the hotel’s aging oil-fired heaters, it was calculated that by harnessing the heat reserves from the lake water, 475000 litres of heating oil would be saved annually. Additionally, St. Moritz has also installed an extensive array of solar panels around the town leading them to claim the town makes renewable energy not only sensible, but “chic and sexy.”

Hilton Hotels, on a ‘save energy’ drive for over a decade, says it has delivered savings of over 10 per cent last year across more than 80 hotels in Europe as well as cutting water consumption by five percent. The ‘we care!’ initiative, which involves a suite of global actions and targets, has saved the company almost $10 million and instilled a new environmental culture targeting waste, chemicals, energy and water.

Frank Hubbard is the Director of Sustainability, InterContinental Hotels Group ANZSP and says that part of IHG’s philosophy, and an essential component of implementing sound environmental practices, is to provide relevant training and resources.

All these schemes and claims sound great, but who is out there to ‘keep the blighters honest.” What accreditation program or benchmarking exists?

AAA Tourism, the STAR raters, make the refreshingly candid assertion that “recent research has confirmed that consumers have a keen interest in properties that are environmentally friendly. Two out of three say a Green endorsement would positively impact their decision on which accommodation to choose.” So ‘Green Star’ is born, encouraging members to self-assess their property and get a $225 marketing pack with tips on how to promote their new ‘environmentally friendly’ status.

AAA Tourism go on to point out that their Green Star is not an alternative to the better known Green Globe standard, merely a stepping stone to the internationally recognised travel and tourism certification system.

“Green STAR Accreditation is an entry level program for all accommodation operators who wish to reduce the environmental impact of their business; particularly those running small businesses that don’t have vast sums of money to implement costly initiatives. Green STAR is by no means as demanding as Green Globe’s Certification; however a number of practical standards must be met to alleviate pressure on the environment. Put simply, 1000 Green STAR Accredited properties is a far better outcome for the environment than only handful of properties meeting the most rigorous standards,” says Paul Baumgartner, National Manager of STAR Ratings.

Green Globe, according to their website, “aims to deliver the best travel and tourism benchmarking and certification products and services in the world, which facilitate sustainable travel and tourism for companies, communities, ecotourism operations and precincts.” Note keywords; “products” and “deliver”, so Green Globe recognise that green is good business.

Despite the onerous compliance, Heritage Hotels in eco-conscious New Zealand have tackled this head-on and achieved Green Globe benchmarking since 2002. (see break out for their eco-tips)

Another benchmarking program with a respected profile is the home-grown Eco Certification Program from Ecotourism Australia. More rigorous than even Green Globe’s strict criteria, Ecotourism Australia were recently awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council’s “Tourism for Tomorrow” Award for Conservation at the World Tourism Summit in Dubai.

“Ecotourism Australia’s Chairman, Mr Alastair McCracken, said the comprehensive ECO Certification program was a world first when it was introduced in 1995 and the Australian ecotourism industry can be proud of the way it embraced this initiative with its many stringently audited criteria to ensure environmental, economic and cultural sustainability.”

program is now an inspiration worldwide as governments and tourism operators seek to measure and manage the environmental impact of human activity,” Mr McCracken said.

Realistically, very few small accommodation operators will be able to achieve Ecotourism Australia standards.

The danger with moving reactively to pressure from environmental criticism is to adopt measures that appear green but have little real impact, with the imperative to be seen to be green more important than implementing actual reductions in emissions or waste.

At a recent ANTOR seminar in Sydney, media spokesman for Choice Magazine, Christopher Zinn, warned the travel industry not to fall into the trap that attracts the attention of his ferociously impartial magazine, namely to make unsubstantiated and unsupported claims.

“In the UK recently, the giant Shell oil company was taken to task by the advertising watchdog for a series of advertisements that pictured flowers sprouting from oil refineries,” said Zinn, “and they found that this was likely to mislead the public.”

The consequences of being ‘outed’ for misleading advertising are many; negative public relations, damaged credibility and big fines to name the obvious ones.

Kris Madden of the Eco Media Group, is a consultant to government and industry on strategic communication as well as eco- and sustainable tourism, has the same warning.

“Although I acknowledge the contribution of the travel industry to global warming, I’m still more than a little suspicious of all these carbon offset schemes popping up,” warns Madden, “there is no framework of operation, no benchmarks and no real checks and balances under which these schemes operate. One has to wonder whether there is a real environmental benefit from some of them, or whether it’s just ‘greenwash’.”

In the fierce competition for consumer sentiment, true carbon consciousness and fuzzy green schemes will be difficult to isolate as more and more businesses fly the “carbon neutral” flag and put green stickers on their windows.

“Sure, it’s better than doing nothing and it certainly raises awareness of the problem, but I fear it is more important for some of the worst offenders to be seen to be reacting to the climate change issue than actually making a difference.”

There is the danger that the cost of offsetting carbon consumption will simply disappear into the cost structure of business and the true intention of greenhouse gas reduction at source will be lost. Carbon trading is big business and getting bigger. According to carbon trader Guy Oilan of Cleaner Climate, the global carbon “market” is worth US$92 billion and growing and is currently valuing one tonne of carbon emission at A$40. So where does the money go?

“Cleaner Climate only develops and supports projects with independently certified and measured emission reductions,” says Oilan, “Our projects adhere to the standards, processes and requirements of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism and The Voluntary Carbon Standard. An example is the WISE wind farm in Karnataka, India, eliminating 2,532 tonnes of CO2 annually.”

To simply and cynically view ‘green’ as the new ‘black’ without moderating our habits and behaviour at both macro- and micro- level is to trivialise the climate change issue.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today and how we respond will shape the lives of future generations,” says IHG CEO, Andy Cosslett.

HM will continue to monitor develops in this field and report regularly on green initiatives and climate change abatement in the hospitality industry.

– ENDS –

Breakout or pull-quote:

“Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”. – definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today and how we respond will shape the lives of future generations.” – IHG CEO, Andy Cosslett


Eco-Tips from Heritage Hotels – Green Globe benchmarked since 2002.

The Heritage Hotel group is committed to creating an environmentally safe working place and as such have been members of Green Globe since 2002. The group has the largest commitment of hotel inventory Green Globe benchmarked for sustainability in the country.

This commitment has been reflected in the implementation of a number of power-saving and sustainability initiatives such as:

* Using energy-saving lamps
* Installing water saving devices such as different showerheads throughout the hotel
* Encouraging guests to re-use towels in order to use less water and reduce detergents
* Introducing glass and plastic bottle recycling program
* Using fire extinguishers that are not CFC based
* Using live plants within the hotel
* Ensuring our suppliers deliver as many items as possible in reusable plastic crates
* Encouraging staff to utilise energy efficiently
* Reusing paper where appropriate within each department

As a result of their involvement, Heritage Auckland has saved 44.5% on energy consumption, 38% on electricity consumption and 44% on water consumption since original benchmarking in 2002. All of this directly impacts positively on the environment.

Expertise to Go – The Great Outsourcing Debate

It’s no longer headline news that many hotels, chains and even humble guest houses are outsourcing many of their non-core activities.

Sometimes it’s as simple as house-keeping and maintenance, in some cases entire hotels are sold with the management company simply retaining operating rights under an agreement with the new owners, usually a large funds management company.

Regardless, it’s a long, sometimes hard, self-analysis that requires identification of core competencies and a commitment to performing those to optimum efficiency.

The criticisms of outsourcing are many, especially when they involve job losses to overseas contractors; airline maintenance and call centres being just two that spring to mind. The overriding issues here are loss of employment opportunities to locals and questions about service quality and control. That said, there are times when outsourcing makes good sense and creates winners all around.

Here at HM Magazine, outsourced public relations is one of the commonest disciplines we encounter. Luke Starr of Starr PR is one of dozens of independent practitioners serving the hospitality industry.

“My clients hire me because I’m a specialist,” says Starr, “my contacts and expertise extend beyond their company and they rightly expect those contacts to yield opportunities that they may not otherwise encounter as a large hotel brand.”

Another simple and obvious example is housekeeping. For many years AHS Hospitality has provided outsourced housekeeping services to the accommodation industry.

However, AHS work in partnership with hotels to provide more than just housekeeping services. Apart from temporary and permanent staff placement, AHS provide linen and laundry management, manage and design OHS systems within the hotel, provide hotel safety checks, train staff in service and procedures plus conduct departmental assessments. Third party assessments have obvious benefits in being able to compare industry-wide standards isolated from any internal culture.

Additionally, the selection of staff and their suitability to a particular property is crucial. AHS recognise this and have proven it to be achievable.

“Outsourcing is fundamental to our business and has been for many years. Our guests are extremely demanding and we need to maintain the highest standards possible,” says Sarah Henderson General Manager, The Como Hotel, Melbourne, “Our housekeeping department is an important part of keeping our guests satisfied. Recently we had a change of senior personnel in our housekeeping operation and AHS handled this with utmost care and professionalism. They have retained top talent in our hotel and we see the benefits of this every day. I very much treat the team like I would if they were employed by me, we are all one team with a common goal.”
Just when you think it’s all getting you down, recruitment, training, human resources, and OHS tasks can be handled by AHS in a timely, sympathetic and efficient manner.

“I outsourced the housekeeping department over 12 months ago to AHS, “ says Tish Nyar, General Manager at Rydges World Square. “We needed to make substantial change – both cultural and operational – and partnering with AHS meant I was able to focus on my revenue generating departments during a particularly challenging time. The benefits for my team have included the additional support from the AHS operational team. With the recently improved quality process AHS has in place we are seeing a continuous lift in standards.”

‘Quality’, to state the obvious, is a fundamental factor in the running of any hotel and from the front desk to the humblest housekeeping tasks, can make or break a property’s reputation.

[ Steve Tochner Quote ]

An area commonly sought for outsourcing is HR. Sydney-based Hostec was formed in 1997 and specialises in executive search, training, and Australian traineeships targeted at international hotels, resorts and associated premier tourism, hospitality and leisure service providers.

“At Hostec, there are plenty of benefits in outsourcing training and recruitment services. People are our business and hospitality and tourism is our passion,” says Ian Wilson, CEO.

“Critically important is understanding people culture and business needs; What is the company looking to achieve in the next three to five years? What strategies to achieve maximum results for shareholders? How do you maintain successful and positive people culture with longevity to the business and brand? After all, it’s our business to be leaders in benchmarking global trends in identifying, developing and retaining better people.”

Wilson says Hostec’s outsourcing success is based on long-term, strategic relationships with growing world-class tourism, hospitality and leisure groups. Critical innovations include technology, workforce efficiencies, consistency and risk minimisation for shareholders. Other benefits include a strategic approach in maximising the Australian Government incentives nationally.

Hostec’s clients include Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt, Jumeirah, Mirvac, Peninsula, Sofitel and Shangri-la.

If your hotel or chain is considering outsourcing any of your current in-house services, a simple, no-obligation call to any of the qualified hospitality operators will help you decide – one way or the other.


Reasons for outsourcing. Are you ready?

Organisations that outsource are seeking to realise benefits or address the following issues:

* Cost savings. The lowering of the overall cost of the service to the business. This will involve reducing the scope, defining quality levels, re-pricing, re-negotiation, cost re-structuring. Access to lower cost economies through offshoring called “labor arbitrage” generated by the wage gap between industrialised and developing nations.
* Cost restructuring. Operating leverage is a measure that compares fixed costs to variable costs. Outsourcing changes the balance of this ratio by offering a move from fixed to variable cost and also by making variable costs more predictable.
* Improve quality. Achieve a step change in quality through contracting out the service with a new service level agreement.
* Knowledge. Access to intellectual property and wider experience and knowledge.
* Contract. Services will be provided to a legally binding contract with financial penalties and legal redress. This is not the case with internal services.
* Operational expertise. Access to operational best practice that would be too difficult or time consuming to develop in-house.
* Staffing issues. Access to a larger talent pool and a sustainable source of skills.
* Capacity management. An improved method of capacity management of services and technology where the risk in providing the excess capacity is borne by the supplier.
* Catalyst for change. An organisation can use an outsourcing agreement as a catalyst for major step change that can not be achieved alone. The outsourcer becomes a Change agent in the process.
* Reduce time to market. The acceleration of the development or production of a product through the additional capability brought by the supplier.
* Commodification. The trend of standardising business processes, IT Services and application services enabling businesses to intelligently buy at the right price. Allows a wide range of businesses access to services previously only available to large corporations.
* Risk management. An approach to risk management for some types of risks is to partner with an outsourcer who is better able to p
rovide the mitigation.
* Time zone. A sequential task can be done during normal day shift in different time zones – to make it seamlessly available 24×7. Same/similar can be done on a longer term between earth’s hemispheres of summer/winter.
* Customer Pressure. Customers may see benefits in dealing with your company, but are not happy with the performance of certain elements of the business, which they may not see a solution to except through outsourcing.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Melbourne – Intriguing City Precincts

Just as the great sporting nations enjoy a healthy rivalry, so too does Melbourne enjoy a respect among the great city destinations of the world.

With her annual Formula One Grand Prix engaging many millions of television viewers from around the globe, the fast-paced, cosmopolitan face of Melbourne is front-and-centre on the world stage. However, so much of what Melbourne has to offer will always remain hidden from cable channel surfers and TV sports fans. Even Melbournians themselves are only now beginning to uncover some of the secret nooks and crannies of their own city.

To get an idea of this unseen urban terrain, hold your breath as you dangle almost 300 metres above the streetscape from Skydeck on Level 88 of the awe-inspiring Eureka Tower. It’s the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere and the Edge Experience, where visitors enter a glass-floored chamber, is one of the Melbourne’s home-grown heartstoppers.

Almost straight down and to the immediate north and northwest, you’ll see one of the oldest and least-developed parts of the city starting across from busy Flinders Street Station. Ornate 19th Century Victorian buildings, old warehouses and little shopfronts call back to a time before the growth of the mighty glass and marble monoliths just up the street in the big end of town.

Fiona Sweetman

Fiona Sweetman

To properly explore this historic sandstone-walled, mini-jungle, you can pop into any of the information centres and collect a Melbourne Walks No.4 leaflet. Take a 90-minute self-guided tour into the narrow back-alleys of Degraves Street and into the myriad lanes and arcades, or join the popular Hidden Secrets Tour for a full four hour exposé.

Born-and-bred Melbournian, Fiona Sweetman, is your stylish and vivacious guide. Follow her as she swirls and glides along the narrow courtyards and alleys pointing out the history and significant architectural features of the old buildings and shops now transformed into trendy boutiques and irresistible cafés.

“This started a few years ago as a shopping tour for the girls,” says Fiona, “but it’s just grown as people want more. I also do an Art and Design tour that attracts couples and a few single guys too. Everyone seems to have great fun.”

The tour group assembles at the Melbourne Visitor Centre in Federation Square, the new arts and entertainment hub across from Flinders Street station. Anything but secret, Federation Square was completed in 2002 to celebrate the Australia’s “coming of age” in 1901. It houses the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, the state-of-the-art Australian Centre for the Moving Image plus 20 bars, restaurants and cafes centred around the city’s most vibrant public space.

But we’re about to go underground with Fiona, figuratively and literally. She guides us down a set of stairs that takes us below the pavement of busy Flinders Street. Once virtually abandoned, this pedestrian tunnel is part art-space, part funky retail.

“After languishing for many years, these shops have been reclaimed by some innovative designers and retailers,“ says Fiona pointing to racks of racy vintage wear in the memorably named boutique, Lola von Lixx.

We surface in Degraves Street proper, a typically rejuvenated alleyway, now overflowing with cool chic and the unmistakable aroma of freshly ground coffee. A healthy throng of patrons fills the seats, engaged in animated chatter and obviously enjoying the ambiance. Melbourne is a social city, where people eat out, promenade and engage with a sense of community not so common anymore. Fiona throws waves, kisses and greetings to the shopkeepers and staff like a flower girl throws confetti at a wedding.

Our group ogles shoes, handbags and frocks; many are totally unique creations, handmade by the budding designers and fashionistas that make Melbourne famous. Il Papiro, on the other hand, sells an exquisite assortment of stationery and specialty paper products. This delightful store could be just as much at home in the lanes of Venice.

Beyond Degraves is Union Lane. Upon first inspection, you may recoil at the vast graffiti murals, but in this lane at least, the spraycan artform is celebrated. Artists tag their vivid, oversize and abstract portraiture with their street personas: EFC, FT, Trance, SWB TGC, ID Boys, Siloe, Na, Sub rock and Deb.

Homegrown stores with such evocative names as Aesop, Manvious, Shag and Fat perfectly capture the ingenious and irreverent style that gives their products unique flair. Be sure to stroll through elegant Block Place and Arcade for style and grace, then cross over to the elegant 19th Century Royal Arcade – Australia’s oldest. In the ceiling are Gog and Magog, two giant mythological Britons who have struck their gongs every hour since 1892.

Morning tea is a special event in Melbourne. Rest your tired feet and put down those shopping bags, you’ve earned a treat. We’re heading for Koko Black in the Royal Arcade for a hot chocolate that transcends the senses. Want something to talk about? Try the Chilli Hot Chocolate, perfect for a cold winter’s day. Or true ‘chocophiles’ can indulge themselves with the Traditional Belgian Blend. Those on a diet can watch resident chocolatier, Kim Linssen, through the window as she sculpts her latest creamy creations.

Fiona’s tours culminate in a gourmet lunch at Caboose in City Square. Choose a scrumptious tortellini or risotto, or if you’ve really worked up an appetite, go the 300g Angus sirloin with caramelised onions and pink peppercorn jus. There’s a glass of great Aussie wine on offer too. Oh, my!

[More information: and ]

Melbourne rejoices in its many cosmopolitan flavours as much as it does its “dinkum” Aussie fare. There’s a lively Chinatown in Little Bourke Street and a little Athens in Lonsdale Street, while a distinctly Parisian feel pervades the designer boutiques of Collins Street.

Café culture is another highlight of Melbourne and its inner suburbs. With strong Italian and Greek influences throughout the city, great coffee was always a part of life.

Maria Paoli, an accredited barista, coffee judge and trainer, runs The Historical Coffee Trek through central Melbourne, visiting the premium coffee houses and cafés. What’s a perfect extraction? How do you tell a top crema? Spend two hours with Maria and you’ll never drink instant coffee again.

[More information: ]