Sunday, July 09, 2006

Innovators abound in the marvellous community of classified advertising. The wheel turns and the lightbulb shines for classifieds users in homes and business everywhere. This column (August 2001) comes from the New South Wales northern rivers region …

THE "gold rush" that a new industry brought to the north coast in the 1980s certainly made life interesting for Robert Tillman.
Grafton born and bred Robert worked as an accountant with a food wholesale company before he joined the tea tree oil industry in 1988.
Robert joined one of the industry’s pioneers, Australian Plantations Ptd Ltd, as company secretary and financial controller at its Wyrallah property, about 15km from Lismore.
"At the time there had been a real gold rush mentality," he says.
"There were stories of growers crops being stolen by thieves cutting them overnight."
The tea tree, however, had already taken up a chapter in Australian history. Captain Cook’s crew thought the melaleuca leaves looked like a good source of nutrition to combat scurvy.
So history records them as brewing some melaleuca tea. And the name "tea tree" stuck.
Robert says the history books did not record the English sailors’ verdict but he has tried such a brew and it’s quite nice.
The tea tree has been featuring in the Checkout Classifieds recently for another reason.
The company has given new push to a byproduct of its oil extraction process.
The organic matter that remains after the extraction of the 1% oil content has been used as garden mulch since about 1989 but this year marks the company’s first venture into retailing it.
Australian Plantations has long sold mountains of the former waste for on-sale to nurseries and landscape suppliers level but opened its own retail outlet, Melaleuca Garden Supplies, in January.
The new site gives the company a presence right in Lismore.
Robert says it has been just one step in increasing productivity in an industry that has been troubled by oversupply of oil, partly due to the collapse of certain big players.
The mulch is credited with a host of benefits including weed control, improvement in soil structure and water retention.
Its pH rating is 7.0 which is neutral, neither acidic or alkaline.
It also looks good – which gives an advantage over other commercial mulches.
When you get it, remember to treat it like gold but don’t mix this batch into a brew like Captain Cook’s men probably would have been brave enough to sip.

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