Thursday 30 April 2015

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Carol Bracken - 2015 RIRDC Rural Women's Award


[10.25 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Hazelnuts or Kentish Cobs or filberts, call them what you will, Mr President, they are at the centre of a growing agricultural industry with massive potential in Tasmania.  Import replacement production is a no-brainer.  We do not even have to look at export markets until we have replaced the imports.  The problem is producing the product here at home more efficiently, more cheaply, and with better quality than the imports.  In the case of hazelnuts, Australia imports 2 000 tonnes every year, yet our current production is only 70 tonnes - a tremendous market potential if we can get the quality and the price right.  We note the trend of course towards locally produced, cleaner food products. 

The reason I bring up the subject of hazelnut production in Tasmania is that one of my constituents, Carol Bracken, has just won the 2015 RIRDC Rural Women's Award for -

Mr Hall - Only just in your electorate.

Mr FINCH - Only just, yes.

Mr Hall - The previous winner was just in mine.

Mr FINCH - There is a hazelnut producer very close by, in fact. 

Carol and her family established Tamar Valley Hazelnuts at Glengarry five years ago.  She wants to use the financial proceeds of her win, which is $10 000 - a great win - to help expand Tasmania's hazelnut industry.  I might point out that Carol is also a West Tamar councillor.  She plans to go to Oregon in the United States to study hazelnut production.  Then she wants to come back and run workshops and tutorials for women who are starting up rural businesses.  She wants to evaluate and develop business models to get hazelnut products to market in a very competitive environment.  Carol says she is looking forward to meeting other Australian rural businesswomen through her workshop program.  She says she wants to explore new business ideas with them and get inspiration to take her own hazelnut business to the next level.  She says there is a huge scope for expanding Tasmania's hazelnut industry.  Not only is there scope in the big import replacement market, but there is also the possibility of eventual exports to China and south-east Asia - a big market.

Carol Bracken and her family bought a 65-hectare property near Glengarry five years ago, and invested in establishing a hazelnut orchard and nursery.  They have 5 000 trees planted with an aim to increase planting to 9 000 trees.  Both Carol and her husband are actively involved in the industry.  Carol is probably watching this now, but Nathan is too busy out in the orchard.  He will have to watch it later.  They are members of their peak body, the Hazelnut Growers of Australia.  Carol is also a member of Tasmanian Women in Agriculture.  She manages their website and does a good job. 

Hazelnuts grow well in the right Tasmanian soils with the right climate.  They can be harvested mechanically, and that helps us to compete with the low labour costs in overseas markets.  When the labour costs are high, it is hard to compete.  Most importantly, in gaining a foothold in the Australian market, hazelnuts are well suited to online marketing.  They are lightweight, they are cheap to post and also to transport to customers.  Being locally grown, customers can be assured of their quality and their freshness.  There is a huge range of products - fresh hazelnuts to hazelnut meal.  While commercial hazelnut production is relatively new in Tasmania, there is a strong interest. 

I might say, member for Western Tiers, there is a very well known operation in your electorate, Hazelbrae at Hagley, which you would know very well.  That is not far from Glengarry.  That is one of the largest hazelnut plantings in Australia, in fact.  They are now producing 10 tonnes a year with plans for 50 tonnes by 2020.  The Tasmanian hazelnut industry is well on the way to achieving a critical momentum, although it has a long way to go to replace those 2 000 tonnes of imports. 

Again, I congratulate Carol Bracken for winning the 2015 RIRDC Rural Women's Award  for Tasmania.