Work has begun on an ambitious plan to turn the Collie Roundhouse into a tourist attraction supported by co-op industries in the Collie region.
Roundhouse Pty Ltd received the lease to develop the building from the National Trust last year and chairman Neil Liddelow said the plan was to turn the roundhouse into a tourist venue that would bring people into Collie.
“Unfortunately Collie is not on the main thoroughfare … so we believe we need a new tourism triangle, with Mornington Road bringing people from Perth down into Collie,” he said.
”That will bring people in not only to the roundhouse, but to the motorplex and to use the trails and then they can take Mungalup Road down into the Ferguson Valley, which is already pretty popular … rather than bypassing Collie down the South Western Highway.”
Mr Liddelow said the group had received a state government grant to create a business plan for using the roundhouse building as a brewery and distillery, where people could come and experience locally-made products, but that wasn’t the only focus of the project.
“It’ll be like most of the venues you see these days, with the nice, shiny kit in the corner and you’ll be able to go there for brewing courses,” he said.
“We’d like to see non-alcoholic beverages and locally produced artisan products like breads and cheeses, so that when people come it’s not just for a beer and a parmi at the bar, they’re also coming to experience a bit of Collie.”
Mr Liddelow also it was also important to preserve the heritage of the roundhouse during the project.
“The roundhouse is one of the dozen in the world that’s still complete and while we wouldn’t use it as a roundhouse, we’ll make sure wherever you are on the site there’ll be no mistaking it’s a roundhouse,” he said.
Mr Liddelow said his understanding was that the decontamination of the roundhouse would begin in March and continue for the rest of the year.
He said while that was happening, the group would work to get the supporting industries and other businesses set up in and around Collie.
“We would like to see the reintroduction of cropping of hops in the region … and we’d like to be the catalyst for that,” Mr Liddelow said.
“This is a good region to grow them in, they’ve been grown here before.
“That would allow for anything from small-scale mums-and-dads places to commercial-size crops.”
Mr Liddelow said the plan was to create co-op style businesses, with the Roundhouse group providing the marketing, packaging and other expertise, while farmers grow the product.
“They’re co-op style businesses that are not for us, but for people out in the community that want to put their businesses in place and we’ll offer the infrastructure for them to do that,” he said.
Mr Liddelow also said they were looking beyond alcohol-production into other forms of farming that could happen in the region.
He identified the production of honey and ethanol as two areas of interest.
“There’s a demand for honey … that would mean planting strands of flowering trees in Collie to have hives here full-time,” he said.
Mr Liddelow said getting these supporting industries up and running was the current focus for the group, while the roundhouse side of the project was out of their hands.
He also said while the project was big and complicated, it would rely on the support of a number of government organisations as well as the Collie community.
Mr Liddelow said the shire, the state government and the Collie Menshed and Heritage Group, among other grouops, had been really supportive of the plan.