More filming

A VACANT building on Albany’s Stead Road has been transformed into a production office for London film production company Komixx Entertainment.

On Tuesday, cast and crew were at the building for a read-through of the 10-part live-action children series Itch.

They have occupied the building since early this month.

Itch, written for print by UK author and radio presenter Simon Mayo, follows the story of science-obsessed Itchingham Lofte who discovers a new element in the periodic table and is forced to go on the run to protect it.

The project was awarded a share of $7.5 million from Screen Australia last Monday.

Itch will air in 10 24-minute episodes.

On the crew list is producers Amanda Morrison and Tania Chambers, and writers Ron Elliot, Heather Wilson, Roger Monk, Jessica Brookman and Craig Irvin.

The announcement of Itch being filmed in the South Coast follows Komixx Entertainment opening an office in Perth in June 2017.

Komixx Entertainment is responsible for films such as The Kissing Booth, which premiered on Netflix last year.

The Stead Road building occupied by the film production company is the same that was used by Cyan Films for the production of H is for Happiness, which was shot around Albany late last year.

The production of Itch follows a run of screen productions that have set up in the Great Southern including the film adaptation of author Tim Winton’s book Breath and Rams, which was based in Mount Barker and starred Michael Caton and Sam Neill.

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Big move for Boston

INNER PERTH is salivating at the prospect of Denmark’s Boston Brewing Co opening a boutique outlet on Albany Highway in Victoria Park.

Victoria Park Councillor Brian Oliver told The Weekender he looked forward to the venue opening soon.

The new micro-brewery is located on the north-west side of a distinctive kidney-shaped roundabout at the corner of Kent Street.

“The fact we’re going to have a new venue to attract visitors to the area will be good,” Cr Oliver said.

“We have so many pubs along the strip so it cements us as a great strip to go for a variety of venues and drinking places.”

His councillor colleague Bronwyn Ife said the Victoria Park community was “pretty excited” about the brewery.

Boston will occupy the corner, ground floor shop-front of a new 106-apartment building slated for completion in August.

Tom Letherbarrow, project architect for Hillam Architects, which designed the building, said Boston was “keen to make headway in Perth”.

He said he believed a boutique brewery on the corner would be “very successful”.

Renders for the building clearly show the Boston logo on a sign out front.

On Monday, on Boston’s Facebook Page, a photograph of the building under construction was posted above the question: “Who is looking forward to seeing us in Vic Park later in the year?”.

Close to The Weekender’s deadline, Boston General Manager Glen Daniel was contacted for comment.

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Albany charm offensive

ALMOST 200 Labor and Liberal heavyweights will hit Albany in a fortnight to impress voters in the electorate of ALP stalwart Peter Watson who will not confirm if he will run again in 2021.

The Weekender can reveal that Premier Mark McGowan and most of his ministers will press the flesh at events and media conferences across Western Australia’s original port city on February 5 and 6.

On February 4, at the Brunswick Road house of Ports and Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, Mr McGowan will headline a fundraising night for Mr Watson.

Remaining coy on whether he will run in 2021, the former Olympian would smash Leonard Hill’s two-decade record as Albany’s longest serving MP if he did contest, win, and remain in office for just 20 days.

Slated to attend the $100-a-head ($75 concession) bash are Treasurer Ben Wyatt, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti and Tourism Minister Paul Papalia.

A planning day for State Cabinet, held an- nually, will also occur while the ministers are in town.

Several announcements – about creating jobs and keeping 2017 election promises – will also be made.

One announcement that is due is the winner of the right to host an $18 million State bushfire centre of excellence.

If a non-Perth location is chosen, the centre will be a decentralisation and regional jobs milestone for the McGowan government.

Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet have lodged a joint bid for the centre.

The Government has declined to reveal which locations have been shortlisted, citing Cabinet-in-confidence constraints, but it is understood the Great Southern bid was highly regarded.

With most Cabinet ministers in Albany, announcing the Great Southern had secured the high profile centre would secure maximum political capital for the Government.

Not to be outdone by Labor’s charm offensive, Opposition Leader Mike Nahan will spearhead a 150-strong contingent of Liberals set to hit town on February 7, 8 and 9.

Dr Nahan’s Shadow Ministry, Federal heavy-weights including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and a phalanx of political staffers will be in Albany for the State Parliamentary Liberal Party Summer Conference.

Dr Nahan said holding the conference in Albany reflected the city’s importance to the “State’s future and the Liberal Party”.

Liberals’ State Director Sam Calabrese said the annual conference for the federal electorate of O’Connor would also occur.

“Party members will participate in a variety of functions and events, including our first State Council meeting for 2019, which will include an address from Mr Ron Nehring, an American expert on cyber security and former member of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection,” he said.

Mr Nehring, a former chair of the Californian Republican Party, worked on Ted Cruz’s bitter primaries campaign against Donald Trump in the lead-up to Mr Trump’s victory in the 2016 US Presidential election.

The Liberals believe a 2021 election sans Mr Watson would be a once-in-20-year opportunity to secure the prized regional seat.

They see victory in the electorate as key to ensuring Labor, which took office in a landslide in 2017, does not stay in power for three terms.

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Alive and well

RETIREMENT holds no allure for Wakes Music and Sewing Centre owner Eric Wake, despite being in the industry for more than half a century and having two close encounters with death.

Mr Wake opened the doors to his music store on Albany Highway in July 1967 but said he was operating a business well before then.

He said he helped his father run a BP service station in Katanning from age 12 and was in charge of ordering fuel, chocolates and cigarettes.

“I’d get on the train to Albany and pick up the order,” the Albany business stalwart told The Weekender.

“I’d go and have a milkshake and share the chocolates with some of the other passengers on the train.”

When an apprenticeship opportunity arose at a Katanning electronics shop, teenage Wake jumped at the chance to gain more work experience.

“It was called TS Young and Co and we sold everything,” he said.

“Records, electronics, guns, lawnmowers…

“Then one day, a rep’ from Elna came in and asked if we sold sewing machines, so my boss asked me to do demonstrations.”

Mr Wake surprised himself and said he found sewing “quite interesting.”

So much so that he decided to take it upon himself to open an Elna store in Albany when the Elna represesntative expressed interest in migrating the brand down south.

“They really needed someone in Albany, so I moved down and started selling LPs and sewing machines,” Mr Wake said.

“One day, I got a letter with a plane ticket to Switzerland to visit the Elna factory.

“Switzerland’s beautiful.”

Mr Wake continued to run his Albany store in conjunction with an East Perth music shop and a Katanning sewing shop in the 1970s.

But committing to three stores – and the associated travel up and down the highway– nearly ended in disaster for him in the early 1980s.

“I was spreading myself too thin,” he said.

“And I didn’t like the travel.

“I had a head-on collision near Mount Barker where the other driver came onto the wrong side of the road.

“Then a couple of years later, I was involved in another crash and the bones in the lower half of my body were all broken.”

Mr Wake was told he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and would never walk again.

“I actually died on the table,” he said.

“I felt myself leave my body.”

Three years of rehabilitation got Mr Wake back on his feet.

“I was in a wheelchair but I didn’t like that, so I was on crutches for a while and then I was hobbling around on a cane,” he said.

“I gave Poptronics [the Katanning store] to my brother and closed the Perth shop.”

But nothing was, or is, going to stand between Mr Wake and his beloved Albany shop.

“If I retire, I’d only talk to the dog and do the gardening,” he said.

“I’d miss the wonderful relationships with the lovely people who come here.

“The older I get, the more I want to help people, so when people come here as a stress reliever, it gives me a buzz.

“Music is love, warmth and friendship.”

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Woolsheds overhaul

THE defunct woolsheds on the corner of Melville and Festing Streets in central Albany could become a site for self-sustaining houses if a group of university architecture students have anything to do with it.

University of Western Australia students Sarah Brooke, Grace Kocsis and Alex Negri were three of 23 budding architects who visited Albany from Perth this week to re-design unused spaces around town.

Ms Brooke focused on the historic woolshed ruins, Ms Kocsis on a concentrate pad beside Mount Clarence and Mr Negri on a vacant area near the port terminal.

Ms Brooke said her houses would have low environmental impact and that people would be able to adapt her designs to suit themselves.

“I’m looking at how to create a transient community that can be self sufficient,” she said.

“It would be awesome if they could be completely off the grid.

“There would be an opportunity for community gardens too, and potentially using the woolshed structure as a marketplace, maybe once a week.”

Ms Kocsis said she wanted to create a communal space for residents and visitors on Mount Clarence that could be moved to different locations.

“We’re looking at structures that aren’t locked down in a spot, very transparent and fluid,” she said.

“One idea is a seed bank, for collecting plant specimens from the area.

“It will be a place where people can teach and learn through caretaking and collecting the specimens that might not be there in the future.”

Mr Negri said his side of the project would kickstart the others.

“The port facility would be designed to construct the other two projects,” he said.

“The idea is that the dwellings will be constructed here and taken to the wool sheds site in shipping containers.”

He said the port facility was difficult to design, as it relied on the other two projects.

He hoped his design would provide people with knowledge about how industry works.

“I’ve designed the current footpath to wrap around the building and to have the building see-through, so people walking past can see the factory workers at work,” he said.

Architecture lecturer Mark Jecks said the visit marked the first studio unit to be held in Albany.

“If the landowner likes the initiative, they could potentially come to an agreement with the student,” Mr Jecks said of the wool sheds dwelling idea.

He said the final projects would be exhibited at UWA Crawley in coming weeks.

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Short-stay say

THE Albany and Denmark chambers of commerce are preparing a joint submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation.

Denmark Chamber of Commerce CEO Liz Jack said her group conducted a survey of Denmark business owners, residents and short-stay accommodation providers.

“Airbnb is a part of the disruptive economy we live in,” she said.

“It’s not as black and white as saying Airbnb is good or bad for the economy.”

Ms Jack said there were arguments on both sides of the industry to regulate and to not regulate online services such as AirBnb.

“We need to open the debate on how to level the playing field for commercial accommodation operations and short-stay accommodation,” she said.

“Commercial operations have to pay heavier taxes on their business than people operating out of their homes.

“On the other hand short-stay accommodation brings more money to the town through tourism and also through the purchase of goods and services.”

She said there were plenty of questions surrounding short-stay accommodation that would hopefully be addressed during the inquiry.

“We need to ask ourselves how we would monitor the growth of Airbnb,” she said.

“How do we develop a sustainable tourism industry?

“It’s an interesting vortex of issues that need to be addressed.”

Last year, The Weekender revealed the State planning department was considering a “continuum of options” from “very light-handed” to full regulation to address issues arising from short-term stays in the era of the online sharing economy (‘Short-stay spectrum’, 22 November).

Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Acting CEO Michael Clark said Ms Jack was the driving force behind the submission.

“Seeing how Airbnb affects commercial operations and small business operators is definitely an eye opening experience,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how it all goes with potential future regulation.”

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Fruits of labour

ALBANY city councillor Robert Sutton and his partner Debbie Walker are set to build a pomegranate shack on their 40-hectare Napier property now a development application to do so has been approved.

Mr Sutton says he enjoys getting his hands dirty at the couple’s pomegranate orchard.

“We planted our first few hundred trees in 2015 after Debbie’s niece introduced us to pomegranates,” he says.

“The health benefits of pomegranates absolutely staggered us.

“After I saw that most pomegranates you can buy in supermarkets are imported from America I saw the opportunity to fill a niche market.”

Since then Mr Sutton and Ms Walker have planted 3000 trees and have decided to broaden their horizons.

“Pomegranates have taken over my life and to see the results of having fruiting trees from what was an empty paddock is amazing,” he says.

“We decided after last season that we didn’t want to head down the normal line and that we wanted to try value adding to our fruit.”

Mr Sutton says he and Ms Walker made three trips to Turkey last year to learn from farmers who have cultivated the fruits for centuries.

“Getting the right information is hard, which is why we’ve been going to Turkey,” he says.

“We’re importing a special juicer that will fresh freeze the pomegranates so no water gets into the juice.”

Mr Sutton says a wide variety of products will eventually be sold from the pomegranate shack.

“We want to make pomegranate ice cream using Turkish methods that use pure pomegranate juice and no water,” he explains.

“And we want to make pomegranate molasses or pomegranate lemon, which is what the Turkish call it.

“It’s sweet but tart at the same time.”

Ms Walker says the shack will sell juicers so people can hand-press their own pomegranates.

“We’ve also spoken with a local winemaker to eventually provide them with our juice and them make wine for us,” she adds.

“I would love to eventually see a sparkling pomegranate wine that we can sell.”

Mr Sutton says it will be a few months until the business is up and running.

“It’s going to be a big year,” he says.

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Nullaki concern

THE City of Albany has declined to say if it will appeal last week’s State Administrative Tribunal overruling of Albany council’s unanimous refusal of plans for a lime pit at Nullaki Peninsula.

Asked if the City would appeal the decision, Acting Mayor Greg Stocks said the City would “take some time to review the SAT’s finding and conditions imposed and will be guided by its legal counsel on this matter”.

Cr Stocks said the tribunal’s decision last Thursday came down to technicalities of interpretation, and expert advice presented by developer Graeme Robertson that issues of concern could be managed.

He said he was surprised that an extractive industry was considered consistent with the objectives and provisions of the area’s conservation zoning.

“We actively defended our position and are puzzled and bitterly disappointed we have been unsuccessful and understand the community will be too,” he said.

Mr Robertson told The Weekender the ruling was a “win-win” situation.

He said it was a win for Great Southern farmers, as the pit would provide a natural resource “saving them approximately 50 per cent on their cost of obtaining first grade agriculture lime” in the region.

And he said it was a win for the environment with a maximum of three hectares to be cleared temporarily in lieu of the 21 hectares originally recommended for approval by the City.

“As far back as 2006, I have been approached by farmers in the Great Southern who were aware of the vast lime deposits on the Nullaki and were trucking the majority of the 300,000 tonnes required annually for the area from Margaret River,” he said.

“With the increased use of superphosphate in the Great Southern, the soil acidity increases, and to balance the pH. The only remedy is the application of agricultural lime.”

Nullaki resident Angela Dickinson, who lives about 2km from the proposed extraction site, said lots of locals were “really upset” by the ruling.

She said she was concerned about the potential spread of dieback, increased traffic and noise, and threats to already threatened flora and fauna.

“People choose to live in the country to get away from noise,” Ms Dickinson said.

“[With the lime pit]… there will be 14 laden trucks per day – which is 28 truck movements back and forth each day – so that’s about three or four trucks per hour past peoples’ driveways.

“It’s highly inappropriate to be extracting from a high conservation zone.”

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Trio says ‘no’

AS A controversial Shell service station inches toward completion on Albany Highway, three businesses that have elsewhere co-located with Shell have ruled out occupying an attached shop and lunch bar.

Fresh Trading Co’s John Wood and Julie McCarron, whose business shares a service station with Shell in the Perth suburbs of Welshpool and Ascot, have told The Weekender they do not “have any properties forecast for the Albany region”.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees, which has a drive-thru service at Shell in Ascot, were in the same boat.

“I was really hoping it might be a Gloria Jean’s Coffees store opening at the Albany site but alas, it’s not,” said Christina Jones, a spokeswoman for the coffee chain.

And with more than 20 Shell servos across Perth having a Coles Express, a Coles spokesperson said the national food retailer had no plans to occupy the service station’s shop.

Project proponent Peter D. Webb & Associates director Nik Hidding said he was “not permitted” to speak with media about the service station.

Victorian-based developer Procon Developments was contacted for comment.

The emerging Shell has long been contentious due to its close proximity to Albany’s main entry roundabout, which sees more traffic crashes than any other intersection in regional Western Australia.

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Prem born again

ALBANY’S historic Premier Hotel could see customers walking through its arch doors as soon as Christmas this year if all goes to plan.

The heritage listed building was gutted by fire in May 2016 in an arson attack instigated by then licensee Graeme Cooper.

The building has been vacant ever since and, with several windows now broken and graffiti on its exterior, is fast approaching eyesore status.

The Weekender reported in January last year that H+H Architects had drafted plans to restore the 1891-built pub to its original grandeur.

This week, project manager and builder John Boccamazzo, of Realforce, said remedial work was underway to prepare parts of the site for a demolition phase that would last three to four weeks.

He said some of the historic elements of the hotel would be kept, such as the staircase, entry cornices and arch doorframes.

However, several walls would be removed to allow for larger interior spaces.

“The owners had a change of scope about the accommodation, so now there will be no accommodation and it will just be a tavern,” Mr Boccamazzo said.

“So we’ve spent the past 12 months redesigning.

“We are going to remove the bedrooms upstairs, and upstairs will have a lounge-style area, a function room, a bar and a manager’s quarters.”

He said when completed, the hotel would be able to hold up to 600 people.

There will be a first and second-floor veranda and a ground-floor alfresco area facing Grey Street.

Mr Boccamazzo said the interior design would keep to a “heritage, industrial, rustic” look.

He said the hotel’s bottle shop would be refurbished.

“We hope to present the plans for approval to the City in the next few weeks,” he said.

Real estate agent Barry Panizza, one of 11 co-owners of the hotel building, said he looked forward to watching the 2020 Around the Houses car rally from the top balcony.

“It’s an exciting project for us,” he said.

“We will be looking for a hotel operator as we get closer to the deadline.”

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