Thursday 13 June 2013


Hansard of the Legislative Council







Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, there is no doubt that food and drink is a big part of Tasmania's tourism industry. There is also no doubt that, on the whole, Tasmania does it well. I have often commented in this chamber on the report we did into the TT‑Line many years ago. We were talking with the major tourism executives in Melbourne and they spoke about the fact that Melbourne was the gateway to the Tamar Valley - to the food and wine industry. It was firmly entrenched in their minds that the Tamar Valley represents food and wine.


In my electorate, on the western side of the Tamar Valley, right on the water's edge at the head of the Tamar, in the old Monds and Affleck flour mill, is probably the most recognised restaurant in Tasmania. It is called Stillwater, and I want to mention its origins. I remember the Tidal Water restaurant at St Helens, in the member for Apsley's electorate, run by Don and Imelda Cameron. They wanted to expand and grow - people travelled from around Australia to eat at Tidal Water. They surveyed both Hobart and Launceston and decided Launceston was the place to set up their next operation, with Kim Seagram and Rod Ascui, and that business has boomed.


Stillwater recently won Best Restaurant at the Tasmanian Hospitality Awards and is a finalist in the national awards to be announced later this year. It is not just a restaurant - it is an extended family, which I will talk about in a minute.


Stillwater also won the best restaurant in 2011 and it won its first national restaurant award in 2001. Stillwater is closely associated with another leading Launceston restaurant called the Black Cow. Both restaurants are listed in the TripAdvisor's top 10 per cent of businesses worldwide in their high-rating reviews that they receive from their customers. I had to check that fact because I said 'worldwide' to somebody and they said, 'I've told you a million times not to exaggerate'. So I checked to make sure my facts were right and yes, they were.


Both restaurants, the Black Cow and Stillwater, have been chosen as employers of choice with the state government initiative. Gourmet Traveller and Good Food Guide have awarded Stillwater a star in this year's guide to Australian restaurants.


I want to talk about the staff, but you cannot do that without bringing in Kim Seagram, who has a most innovative attitude to restaurant staff. With her original business partners, Kim took on a number of enthusiastic and young restaurateurs in 2011. Bianca and James Welsh, recently married, have been working at Stillwater since 2006 when they were offered the chance to become partners in the Black Cow when it opened in 2008. They then took on Stillwater three years ago. That was the opportunity created by Kim and Rod. Bianca Welsh, who is aged 26, has just been listed as a finalist in the Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur of the Year awards, and we wish her well in that competition.


Mr Harriss - You couldn't buy the sort of advertising that Hansard will give to this.


Mr FINCH - No, absolutely, with the multitude of people watching this broadcast from parliament today. This will boost that percentage rating for them in TripAdvisor even more. Let me continue, time is running out, I only have another 18 minutes.

The two restaurant operations now sustain three families with the business co-owners and a total of 36 full-time staff and another seven casuals. I quote Kim Seagram:

We have migrants and high school leavers, students and their parents. Many apprentices, trainees with about seven or eight working with us at any time. Some are hospitality-career professionals, others are university graduates yet to find a job, having their first look at the working world and the opportunity to train for the future.

Most of our past staff have gone on to run large operations in Melbourne and Sydney but we are most proud of those who have ended up working in Michelin staff operations in France and the UK. All from training and guidance in their early careers at Stillwater.

That is what I call an enlightened employer. Kim's philosophy:

We can do it well down here. We are competing locally, regionally, nationally and globally. We can't do it bigger so we have to do it better in Tassie.

Yet more proof that innovation and dedication should be a strong part of Tasmania's future. Congratulations to Stillwater, Kim, Rod and the staff, Bianca and her husband James.