The Durrant Epistle For 1998

This will commence a series of annual letters to our Family & Friends – so many of whom are still in contact – for those who know us please enjoy the read.  Those who stumble onto this may be board witless, sorry!

9 Weebo Way, PO Box 296, Leinster WA 6437

20 December 1998

A very Merry Christmas to all our friends as we close 1998, the penultimate year of this century and indeed the millennium.  For the Durrant family it has been a busy year and we are found, once again, wondering where the time went.

Life in the Northern Goldfield’s town of Leinster is still very challenging and lots of fun.  I have been here for nearly three years and look like being here another year or two at least.

Working for WMC has been a unique opportunity for me to see a business turn itself around in difficult times. The Leinster Nickel Operation had to re-invent itself, in the face of plummeting Nickel prices and high costs.

My role was to focus on the cost of the Town and reduce the impost to the business with minimal impact to our residents.  Since I have been here I have knocked 44% off the cost structure of the town.  We are doing the same amount of work with a third of the people, so productivity is through the roof, and the Town is looking as good as ever.

The year’s results have shown the Company that Leinster is the jewel in the Nickel Business crown, having controlled the costs reached record production targets and transformed the business from a struggling four to five year operation to now a confirmed fourteen year operation.  That has been quite an experience to be a part of and I have learnt a great deal.

Kay is the Administration Manager for the Leinster Tavern and Lodge.  She is putting in lots of hours enjoying the work and the people contact.  These days we seem to pass occasionally at home I still love to get up early in the morning and Kay likes the quiet evenings to herself.  This year was our 20th wedding anniversary, it is hard to believe someone could put up with me for that long.  I tell her how lucky she is, but Kay seems to have another view.

It was an anniversary Kay will remember, I took her 150 km west to the town of Sandstone to wine and dine her at the Sandstone pub!  I told you she is one lucky woman, we had a luxurious evening of fine food and wine, a night in a donga with shared ablutions.  After 20 years she deserved the best, there was entertainment laid on.  A town meeting was held in the pub to debate the merits of the road bypassing the town and all 20 of the townsfolk turned up to share our anniversary with us.

As an example of such a small world we live in.  We ended up chatting with the Sandstone school principal, Dave Sasche, who taught Gareth in Exmouth.  For those Exmouthites Leinster now has a number of persons that passed through when we were there.  The Local Police Senior Constable Steve Gosney, the Bain family, Ian Morris, Pia Musto and the Durrants

Janet and Gareth are still attending boarding school.  Janet is at St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School (going on to year 10) and Gareth at Scotch College (going on to year 9).  Both have settled in and are doing very well; probably a lot better settled than mum and dad.  Kay and I miss them when they are away, but for them to stay in Leinster for high school is not an option.  The Leinster school to grade 7 is really first class and for kids to grow up in the bush and have the safety and freedom of Leinster is the way to go.  However, there are only 11 kids in years 8, 9 and 10 so the breadth of subjects and social interaction is just not what is required for the future.

This year was my second year as a Councillor on the Shire of Leonora.  It has been fascinating to understand how Local Government works.  It really can be rewarding when a progressive Council works together.  Leonora Shire is run very well from year to year and there is no Council debt.   However, there is no actual vision for the future.  I have introduced a strategic planning process which commences, for the first time, next February.  That gives the Council time to prepare a new budget and principal activities plan for the 1999/ 2000 financial year.  We should be able to place the Shire of Leonora in a positive forward looking position against similar sized Shires.

In February this year Kay and I went away on holidays to Malaysia and Thailand.  We left on February 7 for three nights in Kuala Lumpur, then flew to Bangkok on the 10th.  We stayed in Thailand for nine nights and flew back to KL on the 20th.  We drove up to Pangkor Island and stayed for six nights, back to KL on the 26th and arrived back in Perth on the 27th.

We enjoyed Thailand the best because we went to a friends wedding (Dave Clark who runs the Panel Beaters in Leinster) in a tiny North Eastern town called Kat Chum.  We lived in his house, in the village and were treated like locals in one non stop party.

We travelled from Bangkok by train (11 hours cattle class) to Ubon Ratchathani which was an American Airforce base during the Viet Nam war and very close to the Laos boarder.  Then by mini bus 120 km North to Kat Chum.

After the wedding we drove West with other friends (Steve Gosney the local Leinster Policeman) to a small town called Nakhon Sawan a couple of hours North of Bangkok.  We met up with more people there (Steve’s sister in law Ying and husband Bob) and travelled back to Bangkok with them.

Basing ourselves with Bob and Ying in Bangkok we then travelled to Kanchanaburi to see the Commonwealth War Cemetery there at the commencement of the infamous Burma railway.

The whole Thai experience was fantastic, we ate and drank to excess with an exchange rate that made the stay very cheap.

We loved KL and there I caught up with a distant cousin, Bronwyn and husband Peter I hadn’t met before.  We had a couple of nights out with them.

Pangkor Island was average, it is one of those resorts that make you realise Australian beaches are second to none.  The atmosphere and food was great, but for a beach side respite, Exmouth will do me any day.

The Kids were not impressed with mum and dad going on holidays overseas without them.  We had planned to be in England this Christmas, but with the dollar going down and the exchange rate against the Pound so low we decided to wait another year.

Through the Council I have been involved with a number of regional groups.  WA is divided into nine areas managed by Development Commissions.  Our area of interest is under the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission, however, because Leinster and Leonora are in the Northern Goldfields we are left out of the equation quite often.  Our area competes for resources not only within the Development Commission boundaries but also with other parts of the State.  So I stick my nose in wherever I can, to ensure we get our slice of the cake.

I am on the Steering Committee for the Regional planning Strategy.  This is to be sure of understanding where we will be positioned in the future.  I am also a member of the Telecommunications Working Party to improve all telecommunications in our area.

Additionally I was re-elected as the Chairman of the Northern Goldfields Regional Organisation of Councils.  This is a union of six Shires, Meekatharra, Wiluna, Sandstone, Leonora, Laverton and Menzies.  We represent 27% of the State in area but only 0.6% of the population!  Not a very loud voice.

My main achievement this year was to have a 26 km stretch of road between Leinster and Agnew (our Gold operation) sealed.  This has been talked about for many years but I had an opportunity to facilitate its completion through all the regional contacts I have made.

There is also a very real chance of introducing an Internet provider into Leinster.  With the introduction of Mobile phones this year I am making inroads to the improvement of Telecommunications in Leinster.  A couple of good successes.

As part of my involvement with the Liberal Party we were heavily involved with the campaign to elect Barry Haase to the Federal Seat of Kalgoorlie.  I am still the President of the Leinster Branch and also Vice President of the Kalgoorlie South Division.

We were very pleased with our work when Barry was elected, pipping the Labour Candidate only after the final preferences were distributed.  To see Graeme Campbell go after 18 years was a little sad because he is a great character, however, his use by date was up and we need to achieve a lot to improve our life in the bush.  The involvement taught me a lot about our electoral system.  For me, politics is a personal interest because I believe if I want to make a change I need to contribute.

Gareth and I had the most magnificent trip up to the Kimberley in July.  Again as I mentioned in last years letter I have a desire to travel the Canning Stock route with Ross Clarke and for a number of reasons we couldn’t pull it off.

Anyway the consolation prize was Gareth and I in the Land Cruiser with two swags and the Engel Fridge off to the far North.  We left on Saturday the 4th of July after Gareth came home from boarding school.  Kay was working and Janet was not interested in travelling 6,500 km in two weeks.

On the first day we drove over 1000 km from Leinster to Marble Bar, via Wiluna, Meekatharra, Newman and Nullagine.  We stayed with the brother of a friend and arrived the day after the Marble Bar Cup a great thrash with over 500 attending.  We had a good look around Marble Bar the next day.  The highlight for me was going out to Corunna Downs where a air station was during the war.

Next day we stopped somewhere in the bush along the Great Northern Highway, south of Broome.  That was the magic part of the trip Gareth and I were totally self contained and rolled out the swag wherever we stopped.

Next day we arrived in Derby for an overnight stay with Ric and Maria Svanberg (A family friend from school days).  Maria was the Government Chemist for the area and they had been travelling around Australia for the past two years.  We had met up with them in all sorts of places including Leinster.

So, after a lovely night catching up on past experiences and planning the rest of our trip Gareth and I took off to conquer the Gibb River Road.  We “did” all the gorges in the Leopold Range such as Tunnel creek and Windjana.  We travelled to Mt Barnett, North to Kalumburu, back down to the Mitchell Plateau and camped in some beautiful places and swum in almost every waterfall.  One of our favourite camping spots was on the Carson river south of Kalumburu.

We travelled south back to the Gibb River road and headed into Kununurra, our first night in a caravan park.  After a look around Kununurra we headed south on the Great Northern Highway, unsure of the funny black stuff under our vehicle.  We stopped at Turkey Creek and took a helicopter flight across the Bungle Bungles then on to Fitzroy Crossing for another night.

Next stop was Broome, and we intended one night there but stayed two.  We finished our trip with an 1800 km drive back to Leinster in 17 hours.  The countryside was just breath taking and Gareth’s company terrific we got on so well.

Then in September I flew across to Brisbane to surprise Mum for her 70th birthday.  It did not surprise mother as her ESP was working and expected me to turn up.  Even after leaving home at 16 years of age I constantly get mental calls from mum and vice versa.  Is one ever immune from a mothers call.  Mum is as well as can be expected taking all her vices into account and maintains the sense of humour.

I still love going “home” to Bribie, there is something special about all the familiar nic knacks and furniture being in the right spot.

Janet is now on her sojourn.  She came home in the September holidays and decided she would like to spend Christmas in the East seeing we were no longer going to Europe.  The airfare was $1029 so I said if she could contribute $500 she could go.  After working the holidays baby sitting, at the Nursery on weekends and at Mulga couriers during the week on administrative duties; Janet presented me with the $529 just to prove she paid the major share.

Kay and I were very proud of her achievement and now she is in Brisbane with my Mum and sister for a week.  She flew from Leinster to Perth and had a four hour wait.  Tara’s (one of Janet’s school friends) family took Janet to Kings Park to see the Perth Christmas lights and fill in time.

Janet then took the “red eye” direct to Brisbane arriving at 04:40.  She will fly to Sydney today spend Christmas and New Year with Kay’s family and will fly back to Perth on the 3rd of January.  All this as my 14 year old baby on her own.

Gregory, my nephew, will fly over to us on the 3rd also meeting up with Janet in Sydney.

Gareth is staying at home and he is getting itchy feet now.  He had hoped to get to the Philippines with his mate Joel but finances were too tight.  So Gareth is working all this holiday to save up for next years purchases and travels.

In October this year Leinster hosted a night for the Variety Club Bash, they came through on a fund raising run with about 60 cars and over 200 people.  We set a huge party up on the oval and carried on like kids all night.  The bash raised over $1M for their charities and it was great to be a part of it.

Kay is still President of the Leinster Community group, who are doing great work organising social activities for the Town.  The Drive-In is going from strength to strength.  The Community group upgraded the old Carbon Arc lamp houses to a Xenon Lamp which has improved the quality of the picture.  That cost about $17,000 was all raised by the community.

Next year, we will commence a $150,000 extension to the Indoor Sports Centre and once again, the money will come from fund raising and Government grants.  All part of my view of weening the community off the hand outs from the Company.  People appreciate their facilities more if they have a direct input to achieving improvements.

I am sure 1999 will be as hectic as ever, we never give ourselves a chance to slow down.  Our current focus is Janet and Gareth finishing high school so that will dictate our next four years.  Then who knows what next.

We sold our house in Perth and now own our home in Exmouth so we are cashed up waiting for any investment opportunity that may come our way.

All our love to you all and may you have a prosperous 1999

Peter, Kay, Janet and Gareth


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