Plant & Equipment

Resilient, provincial city shakes off its ‘Sleepy Hollow’ tag

Welcome to Geelong, the venue for the IQA’s 62nd annual conference!

Geelong is unjustly portrayed – mostly by parochial Melburnians! – as Melbourne’s inferior cousin. Its nickname of “Sleepy Hollow” was coined by jealous Melburnians in the Gold Rush era when the then thriving port and wool city threatened to overtake Melbourne as Victoria’s premier city.

The City of Geelong, however, was a vital Victorian manufacturing base for most of the 20th century. From the 1920s, it was home to a Ford vehicle manufacturing plant, fertiliser plants, wool mills and whisky distilleries.

By the 1940s, the Ford plant had been joined by International Harvester works, and the Shell Australia oil refinery. The Alcoa Point Henry aluminium shelter was built in 1962 and the company’s Anglesea power station opened in 1969.

Quarrying and cement manufacturing was – and continues to be – an important part of the city’s industry. Greater Geelong is surrounded by plains of sandstone and basalt to its north and west. Bluestone from the You Yangs and sandstone from the Brisbane Ranges were quarried for Geelong’s early buildings, and limestone was extracted for cement production at Fyansford (from 1888) and Waurn Ponds (from 1964).

Today, numerous family-owned and small to medium-sized quarry businesses operate in Greater Geelong, the most notable being Barro Group’s Point Wilson Quarry (part of a site visit on day one of the conference) and Boral’s Waurn Ponds cement works. An SME is Newcomb Sand and Soil Supplies.

{{quote-A:R-W:175-Q:"Geelong, however, is renowned for its resilience. The city has embraced new industries, including the public service and education sectors, and undergone significant urban renewal"}}By far, the city’s darkest “hour” was in the 1990s when many institutions downsized or collapsed as Australia underwent a period of fiscal and political modernisation. This stagnation in the Geelong economy was underlined by the collapse of the Pyramid Building Society, which left many local depositors in ruins.

More recently, in October 2016, the Ford motor plant closed after 91 years of operation, hailing the end of an era.

Geelong, however, is renowned for its resilience. Despite the erosion of its manufacturing base over three decades, the city has embraced new industries, including the public service and education sectors, and undergone significant urban renewal.

The Port of Geelong is the now picturesque Geelong Waterfront, and many of the inner city precinct’s old wool buildings have been converted to apartments or office buildings. Geelong continues to be a major road and rail hub, with the Geelong Ring Road replacing the Princes Highway (through Geelong from Corio to Waurn Ponds).

After many decades as a defence and commercial airline test ground, Avalon Airport has been upgraded to offer interstate and more recently international passenger travel.

Even the conference venue – GMHBA Stadium – is an exemplar of the city’s vibrant construction activity. It is not only the home of Geelong’s AFL team (the second oldest Australian Rules football club) but it has aspirations to become an entertainment venue.

The Victorian Government has committed nearly $106 million to the fifth and final stage of the stadium’s redevelopment, which will boost its capacity to 40,000, and make it Australia’s largest regional arena.

So, what’s all that baloney about being Melbourne’s mediocre cousin? Geelong is a vibrant, modern town with a rich history, making it an ideal host for the conference – and for this Melburnian, a pleasant diversion from Melbourne’s hustle and bustle!

I look forward to catching up with you at GMHBA Stadium at the beginning of October!

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