A working station in the Central West of New South Wales is also home to a five-star resort that began life as an executive retreat.
Story and photos Mark Muller
There are not many sheep and cattle studs that can boast guest quarters quite like those found on Burrawang West Station. Laying some 70 kilometres west of Parkes in the Central West of New South Wales, Burrawang once sprawled across more than 210,000 hectares and boasted one of the State’s largest woolsheds. Today, at 4800ha, it is a more modest affair, running a herd of 1000 Angus-Shorthorn cross cattle and a burgeoning white Dorper stud geared towards fat lamb production. Bill Royal, a man of unaffected humour and charm, has been involved in the station side of things at Burrawang for more than 30 years and exudes an earthy pleasure in the quality of the stock and the pasture improvement he has overseen in that time. “It makes you feel good just to look at ‘em,” he says.
There is nothing modest, however, about the less traditional aspect of the Burrawang operation. Back in the early 1990s the property was bought by Japanese construction giant, the Kajima Corporation. Company owner Dr Kajima wanted a luxury bush retreat for his executives and engaged a top Australian architectural firm to design it, taking styling cues from Australia’s colonial past. The results are luxuriously impressive. There are four lodges, which together contain 12 suites, and a central homestead with formal dining room, lounge, billiards room and bar. The attention to detail is notable, from the fittings and fixtures to the eclectic and beautiful art collection spread throughout. It’s understated and tasteful. Throw in tennis courts, a 20-metre pool and a sauna, and you’re starting to get the full picture.
For the better part of a decade a select group of very lucky Japanese executives were the beneficiaries of Kajima’s largesse, but with a downturn in the economy, he sold out in 2000 and canny Australian Graham Pickles and his wife Jana stepped in. Now Burrawang West is open to the public, with rates starting at $770 per person, per night. Graham is working hard on both sides of the operation, and regards each to be as important as the other, although at this stage the cattle and sheep are doing their fair share to support the tourism business. “The ideal is that half of the income will come from agriculture and half from tourism,” he explains. “It’ll take time, but the opportunity is here to build on what we’ve got and craft something really special.”
Working towards that goal from the resort side are new managers Doug and Stefanie Loeb - they were appointed in December 2006 - and their offsiders Chris Hemphill and Lyndall Fisher. Doug’s an excellent chef with experience in management at some of the top hotels in Sydney and Stefanie is an architect, who’s loving playing host. Both are German speakers, which will be an advantage with at least some of the station’s international visitors. “We’re getting more and more people from the US and Europe,” Graham says. “People are just loving having a real Australian outback experience in luxury.”
Burrawang has become popular with corporate groups, which value its combination of ‘isolation’ (there’s no mobile signal) with luxury and accessibility (it’s a relatively short flight from Sydney, 435km to the east). “We’ve found that the corporate market has done the Hunter Valley, the Southern Highlands and the Blue Mountains and now they want something different,” he says.
Central to the way things are run is the close relationship between the pastoral and tourism sides of the enterprise. Guests can tour the property and share in the good work being done, including the establishment of a new 110ha wildlife sanctuary along the property’s Goobang Creek. You can tell everyone pretty much gets on well, and that relaxed friendliness is as much a part of the sense of luxury surrounding the place as are the fixtures and fittings.
This story excerpt is from Issue #52
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2007