Anyone else notice electricity costs went up? We’ve just paid our three months of power consumption in Longreach to Ergon Energy and the bill was $1096.37. Our previous three-months’ bill (August-October) was $512.56. So … more than double.
The difference was air-conditioning, of course. As the weather heated up approaching and during Christmas and New Year, our air-conditioner use increased. Probably doubled, by the looks of it.
Here’s how Ergon charges people in the hot droughted Central Western region for power … take a look at Pages 15-17 (Section 5) … it makes interesting reading.
It’s based on the cost of supply and other considerations, especially in the Mt Isa region … basically electricity supply costs along the coast from Cairns to the Darling Downs “have a relatively low distribution cost to supply”, while anywhere else (except the Mt Isa region) “have a significantly higher distribution cost of supply than the East Zone”.
So if you live anywhere else than east of the Great Dividing Range, or in the Mt Isa region, expect to be slugged big time for your “lifestyle decision”. Hmmm, do we get a reduction in tax rates for the same “lifestyle decision” which results in lower service levels in everything else, including power reliability? Not likely! Let me know what you think …
Our friend and former Small Business Management student (now graduate!) grazier Julie Brown of Ilfracombe, has launched her new business (above) just in time for Christmas.
Coola Cozzies is Julie’s way of earning valuable off-farm income during the drought but this is no charity … have a look at these wow designs (all created by Julie).
Julie describes them as “Cool, colourful, comfortable women’s and men’s board shorts and UPF50+ rashies, swim shirts and sun shirts.”
Last Saturday we travelled 90 minutes south of Longreach to the little town of Stonehenge and cooked a few steaks and snags for the local Christmas Party on behalf of the Rotary Club. Desolate country at the moment but full of warm-hearted real Aussie people, kids and their parents. And out of this country has emerged our new hot Strictly Literary seller, Do You Believe in Dragons? by grazier Paul Currin. Paul and Julia Creek illustrator Maree Power have created a new world for young teens where horses, motorbikes, dogs, feral pigs and (well, there had to be …) dragons rule.
It’s a tale of fantasy based on the Currins’ real-life sheep property near Stonehenge. In the book, kids Ted and his younger brother Bill, along with their best friends Doug and Sarah, are on their school holidays enjoying everyday rural activities, including riding horses, motorbikes, going fishing and chasing feral pigs. Their holiday takes a strange turn when Sarah — the eldest, and only girl of the group — has an unlikely encounter with a magical dragon, which can’t be seen by anyone who doesn’t believe he is real. Excitement ensues, as one by one, the family members come to realise the existence of dragons. This awareness becomes increasingly important when a life-threatening situation unfolds involving the Ted and Bill’s father and a pack of dingoes.
Do You Believe in Dragons? is fine new Australian Outback fiction, professionally edited and produced at Strictly Literary and available for under $20 in paperback, or instantly for ePub, Kindle and for Android on Google Play. Perfect for the young jillaroo or jackaroo for Christmas!
Who would have thought that we could buy a major consumer durable item like a washing machine cheaper from a Longreach shop in drought-stricken Western Queensland than from a bigger town or a major capital city? But today we proved it and here’s how it went.
We needed a new front-loading washing machine because our old one (at least 10 years old) was showing strong and certain signs of conking out. As managing director Pip had pointed out during the old machine’s descent, the washing machine ranks alongside the oven and cooktop as the most important appliances in the modern home.
So up the main street of Longreach we went to Leading Appliances and they had two on offer: a Simpson and an LG. After dutifully inspecting the merchandise and the product guides, and quizzing the staff, we chose the LG and arranged delivery for this afternoon (it would be about 500 metres’ drive in their little truck). Total price: $799 + $20 delivery = $819.
Now, because I run this shopping blog, I couldn’t resist the urge to test the market and see how much more or less we might have paid shopping either online or in Brisbane. So here are the results, based on identical products, real-time online shopping and delivery prices tested today:
LG offered the machine we bought, the WD12021D6, on their website for $969, not including delivery. That was a pretty clear result.
Harvey Norman, $749 + $199 delivery (nearest shop is in Emerald, four hours east) = $948.
Good Guys, $698 + $550 delivery (looks like the nearest location is in Rockhampton, eight hours east) = $1,248
BiRite (nearest shop is in Blackall, two hours south-east), $798 + $49 delivery = $847.
So there you go, little old Longreach and Leading Appliances … score for you today! Now if only they sold wine? 😦
ON THIS Day of the Ponies (Melbourne Cup Day if you’re outside Australia!) here’s a yarn about mountains of hay.
One is moving east to west from the coast of Queensland, and another is about to start moving south to north from New South Wales, and both have as their targets the drought areas of Longreach and Aramac in the parched north-west.
The first, a mountain of freshly-mown north Queensland hay, is slowly making its way like a tide, from the wet tropics of the Pioneer Valley west to our drought-stricken savannahs.
In less than a year, 800kg bale after 800kg bale of pasture grasses from cattle properties along the Great Dividing Range have been cut, trussed and loaded on semi-trailers.
The latest count is 3250 bales, roughly 2.6 million kg or 2600 tonnes of cattle and sheep fodder.
Think of a mountain of hay like a pyramid 20 metres wide, 20 metres long and 150 metres high into the clear, blue Outback skies … that’s how much hay has been shipped so far, and there’s more on the way.
And at $50 a bale (before shipping) that’s a donation of over $160,000 from coastal farmers to Outback graziers.
The jaw-dropping beauty of this exercise is that the farmers in the east are the same ones struck by Cyclone Marcia around Rockhampton earlier this year, Cyclone Yazi in 2011 and Cyclone Larry in 2005.
“I guess they know a disaster when they see one,” said Longreach Rotary President and agricultural scientist, Dr David Phelps.
“Our friends in the Pioneer Valley Rotary Club came out west early last year and after one visit they decided to organise the great grass giveaway,” said Dr Phelps.
“Our local Rotary Club organises the transport and the State Government rebates the freight, freeing up Rotary funds to be redirected into other charitable uses-like helping school kids travel for sport, Scouts and dance, or for giving farming families Christmas hams and hot-cross buns at Easter”.
Dr Phelps, a friend of mine who is also known as “Dr Mitchell Grass” for his work researching how to improve the native grass pastures of western Queensland, calculates the 150 metre high grass pyramid as providing the same amount of feed for cattle and sheep as about 5,000 hectares in a good Longreach season.
“It amazing to think that 5-50ha paddocks up around Mackay are providing the same amount of feed as 5,000 ha out west — it’s enough to feed one property’s worth of cattle for a season!”
“It is being spread pretty thinly across the whole district, so it’s not perfect, but when we have what we call Hay Days at strategic points in the district everyone gets something and something is definitely better than nothing!”
The second mountain of hay, according to our friend and Aramac grazier Jenny Todd, is a result of the hard work of the NSW Burrumbuttock Hay Runners and looks like setting a world record with more than 100 trucks loaded with the stuff. It’s backed by Rotary too (disclaimer: Pip and I are both members too).
Look out if you’re on the road … Jenny says the Hay Runners are coming soon.
We’ve been invited to have our worldwide launch of Shopping News at the new Merino Markets at Longreach, so thanks Sue Smith for this honour. It’ll be in August and we’ll let you know details closer to the date. Copies will be on sale and you can also buy right here right now (click the book cover on the right –>).
UK journalism colleague Paul Bradshaw has also kindly devoted some of his popular blog space to a virtual launch and guest post about Shopping News … you’ll find loads of other interesting stories there too. Just click the image at the top of this post.
And we’ve announced the date for our first TAFE Small Business Solutions business improvement workshop, also in Longreach. We start at 5pm on August 11 and seats are strictly limited so please, if you want a booking, my advice is to get in now.
I walked into Leonie Huff’s little shop Nature’s Tonic just after Christmas and I have to say I was impressed. Packed shelves, fresh stock, friendly staff. It’s tucked away at the rear of the Merino arcade where our other retail mate, Sue Smith, runs Spinifex Collections (which we featured just before Christmas).
Six months later and Leonie has doubled her floor space by opening a juice bar across the arcade and filled it with tables and chairs. Now we hear that she’s become a magnet and other businesses are relocating to be close to this omen of success.
Sue, Leonie and other businesses in the arcade last month held a gala shopping night and the talk is there’ll be more.
Leonie might be the hot spot but Mike Lockrey’s “hydroponic fruit and vege factory” is also evidence of Longreach’s latest growth spurt.
This erstwhile pizza shop owner has branched out into hydroponic tomatoes, lettuce and cress and we’ve tasted them … they’re the best in town in our book.
If you’re a Grey Nomad or just a regular tourist who likes your veges fresh and not too expensive, he sells every weekend at the railway station but daily 10am-noon just on the north side of the Thomson River near the Golf Club at Cramsie. Here’s a map …
and his website
Don’t forget to buy my new book Shopping News online … where you can read lots of other ways to Shop Your Way to Success™ (soon to be a series of business seminars).
In the category of “you learn something new every day” … now I know how it feels to vacuum clean a Jumbo jet. Yes, a real one, at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach where I have worked part-time as a tour guide since October 2014. I can report it takes about an hour of pretty stiff effort in January’s summer heat, equipped with a 5kg RocketVac backpack vacuum and a very long power cord. Here I am (below) at the rear of economy class, looking forward. Like most things, there is an easy way and a hard way. I now know that it’s easier to start down the back because of the design of the seats (you can get under them more easily from the rear) and how difficult it is to vacuum a spiral staircase up to the old Captain Cook lounge (lower picture) … now that’s an interesting exercise. Oh yes, I’ve also feather-dusted the 1979-vintage airliner throughout, as well as its 1959 cousin 707 across the museum parking area. It’s a whole new world out here in Longreach.