MILL WINS BIG

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Dome managing director Nigel Oakey at the heritage listed flour mill in Katanning, which will be adapted to become Dome's first hotel. PICTURE: NIC ELLIS THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Camera IconDome managing director Nigel Oakey at the heritage listed flour mill in Katanning, which will be adapted to become Dome's first hotel. PICTURE: NIC ELLIS THE WEST AUSTRALIAN Credit: The West Australian

Painstaking efforts to turn the once crumbling Katanning flour mill into a world-class tourism venue have earned Nigel Oakey’s acclaimed Premier Mill Hotel three coveted prizes at the WA Heritage Awards.

The hotel was selected as the joint winner of gongs in the heritage tourism product; and conservation and adaptive reuse of a State registered place categories on Friday night.

Mr Oakey, Dome cafe group managing director, was then called on to receive the prestigious Gerry Gauntlett Award, which honours the most adaptive and imaginative reuse of a heritage building in the State.

Mr Oakey said he was proud and humbled to receive such recognition.

“Just as this little flour mill in an under-explored neck of the bush long ago won our hearts, it seems to have now rather captured the imagination of so many others,” he said.

“To all the wonderful little towns and hamlets of the Great Southern and our regional communities everywhere — this is for you.”

Mr Oakey bought the flour mill for just $1 and transformed the 128-year-old building into a 22-bed luxury hotel.

After winning the coveted State awards, he said the hotel might soon be considered for UNESCO world heritage recognition.

“It’s a step that the State Government intended to take,” he said.

“I don’t know what would be fully involved with it, but I know they were looking to make a submission with UNESCO.”

He said the State awards were recognition of the value in the region’s history.

“Awards like these that will make people in the city wake up and finally realise that there’s something out there in the bush,” he said.

“To date, this part of regional WA never really entered into people’s consciousness.

“The mill restoration is an opportunity for people to connect to the real part of WA bush towns that particularly relates to Australian agriculture.”

Heritage Minister David Templeman said Mr Oakey and his team had made a remarkable contribution to preserving WA’s heritage.

“The Premier Mill Hotel is an outstanding example of how adaptive reuse and conservation of our industrial heritage can promote.

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