King Islander's DIY approach to saving freight costs


July 01, 2016 14:59:40

If you live on King Island, in the middle of the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Victoria, everything you order needs to be shipped in, and at a cost.

So when you want a new caravan what do you do?

If you are like King Island resident, Andrew Blake, you build one on the back of a kelp trailer.

“I’m building a ‘studio on wheels’ for my wife Diane to do her art in because the house isn’t big enough,” Mr Blake said.

Lucky for Mr Blake, his neighbour, Jim Benn, is a former builder with a shed large enough to build the 4 m x 2.5m x 2.3m ‘studio on wheels’ within.

“I enjoy a bit of building and am very appreciative of being in Jim’s shed with his technical assistance to get it right.”

Part of the reason for building the caravan from scratch is to avoid the shipping fees which, according to Jim, may total the overall price of the caravan.

“It’s a huge issue on King island. It’s one that we are all concerned about.

“We’re losing our ship at Christmas time. We’ve got a new ship lined up but we don’t know what the freight cost will be,” he said

King Island is set to get a new shipping service from 2017 to replace the SeaRoad Mersey once it goes offline. The new service will bring freight to and from mainland Tasmania to the Island twice weekly.

“At this point it’s $160 per cubic metre for everything that comes onto the island. So when you do the volume of a caravan, which is really just dead air, it kills ya (sic),” says Jim.

For Mr Benn, building the structure is a straightforward task.

“It’s made out of timber; it’s built on an old kelp trailer and I’ve just basically built a structure like you would for a small house.”

The kelp trailers are used to haul the kelp (large strips of seaweed) up from the beach. This one is rusted but sturdy.

It joins an assortment of resurrected vehicles in the shed, including a light aircraft Jim uses to fly from King Island to Queensland.

“It doesn’t carry enough fuel to get me there, but we always say you can only fly as far as your bladder allows. My bladder’s good ’til Shepparton.”

Classical music is blasting, drowning out the patter of rainfall on the tin roof and insistent cooing of the iconic Bass Strait winds.

“We don’t want it to blow away in the King Island breeze,” Mr Benn said.

Of the three little piggies houses, Mr Benn said “this is the one made of sticks, not straw and not brick, but once it leaves here I don’t care,” he jokes.

As the final wall of the structure goes on, Mr Blake assures that “lots of nails, lots of glue and keeping things square” will keep the studio standing, adding “it must be said that it doesn’t always blow on King Island.”





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