WA Limestone has celebrated five decades since it was established as a small-scale Perth producer, becoming one of the state’s best producers while retaining strong family ties.
The year 1973 will be remembered for how it shaped two family legacies.
Two brothers, Malcolm and Angus Young, took the stage in Sydney’s Chequers nightclub as the first iteration of AC/DC on December 31, 1973.
Across the country in Western Australia, two brothers, Michael and Renzo Della Bona and their brother-in-law Peter Zamboni, started a small-scale limestone producer the same year.
Director Steven Della Bona said it felt special to reflect on five decades of the family-owned operation, passed down from generation to generation.
“To carry on in their father’s work is a great feeling and one that I treasure,” he said.
“It’s not easy, and it comes with some pressure, especially with running a business; it can be hard.
“Being family, we all pull in the same direction, and you have that connection, and that’s one of our strengths that we can rely on each other.
“Quarrying is in our blood, and we know we’ve got that security and trust of each other.”
The company has kept its family ties throughout the years. Steven (son of Michael) and David Della Bona (son of Renzo) are directors. Peter Della Bona manages the daily quarrying operations, while James Della Bona looks after the contracting and seawall projects.
For Steven, he has always had the dream to follow in his father’s footsteps. There’s an implicit trust and respect among the family members to protect their legacy and keep the family business strong for years.
WAY OUT IN WATTLEUP
Wattleup is found in the south of Perth and around 15 minutes from Fremantle Port.
It is also where Michael and Renzo, alongside Zamboni, went all-in on a small-scale start-up from a single limestone source.
The brothers and Zamboni made up three of WA Limestone’s five employees. It was hard graft early on as they battled to establish themselves in the market against rival start-ups.
In 1978, WA Limestone received a breakthrough with the Fremantle Sailing Club. The family-owned operation was contracted to help build a seawall of around 400,000 tonnes of limestone.
Shortly after, the company found success at Port Denison in Dongara for half a million tonnes of limestone for its seawall.
The marine projects gave WA Limestone its sea legs and proved it could match competitors in constructing WA’s major infrastructure projects.
“That set the tone and proved we could match the pace for these projects, even in remote areas outside of metropolitan Perth,” Steven said.
“These were significant projects, allowing us to go from project to project. We did the Challenger Harbour in Fremantle for the America’s Cup and up to the Dawesville Channel, which was four of five million tonnes of rock.
“These fairly important jobs across the state set the foundation for WA Limestone and what we do today.”
WA Limestone has grown immensely from the five-person operation in Wattleup.
The company employs around 350 people across the state with 10 metropolitan quarries in Perth, five concrete plants and four hard-rock quarries in Karratha, Port Headland, Onslow and Byford.
The company has grown to incorporate WA Limestone, WA Bluemetal, WA Premix, WA Limestone Contracting, WA Limestone/Jurali Joint Venture, Limestone Building Block Company, WA Limestone Heavy Haulage, Australian Sands International and Quarry Farm WA.
WA Limestone has continued to be a significant force in shaping the state’s infrastructure. It partnered with Main Roads, Leighton Contractors and GHD as part of the Southern Gateway Alliance to deliver the Kwinana Freeway extension and the freeway-standard Forrest Highway completed in 2009. The latter was, at the time, Western Australia’s biggest infrastructure project.
It was a significant production with four to five million tonnes of roadbase and sand required for the project across five years.
“The reputation that we had where we always delivered on what we promised and those relationships and that reputation our dads created early on, was critical to us,” Steven said.
“Everyone wants a supplier or contractor that can perform, and we’ve proven that we can, and we have the resources to do it; we’ve been able to continue that reputation.”
The company has recently completed the “landmark project” Mandurah Bridge in Perth and the Perth’s Ocean Reef Marina breakwall. The latter was a $60 million project for constructing two breakwaters alongside Italia Stone Group. These breakwaters covered about 80 hectares and encompassed some 550 boat pens, stackers, and the city’s first ocean pool.
For its work on highways and across the state’s seawalls, WA Limestone has developed projects that have become award-winning.
The award recognition extends to its staff. Earlier this year, Steven was awarded the Institute of Quarrying Australia’s Industry Hero Award for his contribution to quarrying.
“To be nominated and have that award as a recognition of my achievements but also the company was incredibly special,” Steven said.
“I love the IQA, and it has done a lot for me along the way, introduced me to some great people and opportunities, and allowed me to form exceptional relationships.”
“It was a proud moment for me.”
From small beginnings in Wattleup to becoming one of Western Australia’s pre-eminent aggregate suppliers and contractors has been no easy feat.
The family business is working to evolve new aspects of the company to complement its existing brands in the WA Limestone Group.
Steven said the company was looking at all options, including property development.
“That’s sort of the future, and we’re going down a slightly different path while maintaining the quarrying products and services,” Steven said.
“We want to think about the next generation and ensure the business is in a strong position when they come through.
“Hopefully, with the proper planning, this company will still be going in another generation. That’s the next challenge for us: to keep this dream alive.
“It’s a special feeling to look back and see what our family has achieved.”