Construction commences on Mortels’ $3.2 million Tourism Centre
The first sod turn and smoking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of Mortels' new $3.2 million tourism facility took place on 11 September.
Aboriginal Elder Uncle Bill Smith conducted the smoking ceremony which is an ancient custom amongst indigenous Australians, where native plants are burned to produce smoke which is believed to have the ability to ward off evil spirits and cleanse the ground.
Suitably named, The Sheep’s Back Visitor Centre will incorporate Mortels Sheepskin Factory, a museum celebrating the history of sheepskin in Australia, café and retail outlet.
Mortels Sheepskin Factory Chief Executive Officer, Tony Mortel said he was excited by the opportunity to bless and cleanse the land prior to digging the shovel into the ground for the first sod turn that will ignite the commencement of the construction of the new facility.
“The Sheep’s Back Visitor Centre will resemble a modernday shearing shed that will offer a unique interactive visitor experience sharing the history of the Ugg Boot and culturally significant stories through the history of manufacturing sheepskin in Australia," he added.
“You will be able to see first-hand how we make our quality sheepskin products from a raised platform and then walk amongst the machines to experience the noises and smells on the factory floor,” said Tony.
“Tourism is strong in the Hunter and we plan to capture international visitors by working in partnership with local tourism operators to create overnight packages that incorporate Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley to create a long-term economic benefit to our region. We see the tours being popular with international visitors, locals and school groups,” he added.
Tourism aside, locals haven’t been forgotten and have been considered in the design of the Centre with a convenient entrance for retail customers who want to just pop in to buy their beloved Ugg Boots.
The Sheep’s Back Visitor Centre is planned to open in March 2015 in Thorton.
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