Five-star sustainability in action

Video and images courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

Video and images courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

Queensland is now home to one of the world’s most stunning eco-retreats thanks to a lifelong commitment to sustainability from philanthropists Jude and Graham Turner.

Passionate conservationist Jude Turner had a 20-year vision to share South East Queensland’s lesser known high country with the world.

This vision was realised earlier this year with the launch of luxurious ecotourism product, the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail.

Jude’s dream was ignited in the late 1990s when she, together with husband and Flight Centre founder Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner (Bachelor of Veterinary Science ’71), purchased two large farming properties in the region. The Turners continued to buy land, converting 3500 hectares into declared nature refuges, two of which adjoin the Main Range National Park effectively extending the protected space.

A desire to showcase the best of the Australian bush with sustainability at the forefront saw Jude spend the ensuing two decades meticulously planning a luxury tourism experience that would pay homage to their Turner Family Foundation’s commitment to preserve Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

“As one of the largest ecotourism ventures ever to open in Queensland, the extended Scenic Rim Trail is set to be a global sensation. The area covers 85 kilometres of hiking trails and is Queensland’s only inclusion in the Great Walks of Australia collection,” said Spicers Group Sustainability Product and Design Manager - Claire Baguley, who worked closely with Jude to execute her vision.

“The trail traverses part of the unique Gondwana Rainforests, where visitors can discover a place of untouched beauty with unique and exclusive accommodation, spectacular views, soothing rainforests and rich cultural and natural heritage.”

A cornerstone of the experience is two newly established, completely off-grid eco-camp sites – Amphitheatre Eco Camp and Timber Getters Eco Camp – within Main Range National Park.

An image of the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail walk.
An image of the Spicers eco-camps.
An image of the Spicers Retreat restaurant.
An image of the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail walk.
An image of the Spicers eco-camps.
An image of the Spicers Retreat restaurant.

To ensure minimal environmental impact, construction took two years of painstaking design and planning.

“The remoteness and ecological significance of each site has led us to run the building design and construction as a large-scale kit-of-parts manufacturing project, rather than a traditional build,” Baguley said.

“Wherever possible, all materials have been sourced from within a 500-kilometre radius of the retreat to support both the region and the carbon footprint of the project.

“All the spotted gum used in the buildings, charred timber cladding and internal ply linings are sourced and milled from responsible, certified sources in South East Queensland.”

“All decking is made of Replas (a recycled plastic product), which uses soft plastic wrapping to make the decking. We chose the product for its durability, low maintenance and sustainable credentials. We recycled all soft plastic during construction and any offcuts of the decking material was collected and sent back to Replas at the end of the job to be fed back into their production cycle. A closed-loop approach to building materials.

"This is a great project to show how sustainability can permeate into every aspect of an experience."

Today, the Spicers portfolio is home to nine luxury accommodation retreats, seven award-winning restaurants, four day spas, three cattle-breeding operations, a world-class mountain biking park, a purpose-built wildlife centre, 60 hectares of koala habitat, and more than 3500 hectares of nature refuges.

Key to embedding a sustainable culture across Spicers’ growing tourism portfolio has been the establishment of a ‘green team’, made up of sustainability champions at each property.

“We have 10 minimum standards for every Spicers property that are directly aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These initiatives – linked largely to recycling – reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill, which is a key area of focus as we work towards our group goal to achieve zero net waste and zero net emissions by 2030,” Baguley said.

“The great thing about the program is that it starts with the tangible things. By focusing on waste, it's fixing what we have created.”

With just one decade to achieve the zero net waste and emissions goal, there’s more than just recycling to consider.

“Last year, Spicers Balfour Hotel in New Farm made significant inroads to being single-use plastic-free, which has provided lots of valuable learnings for implementation across other properties,” Baguley said.

Water collection and conservation is also a priority.

“Vacuum toilets with extremely low water usage (0.5 litres per flush) and water-saving shower heads, along with timed showers, are incorporated to support the eco-camps' sole reliance on roof rainwater collection. About 90,000 litres of rainwater storage supports each camp.”

“The next stage is more complicated; it focuses on improving water systems, and we have already made great progress.”

This commitment to the environment, while creating a profitable and successful business showcasing great Australian experiences, is no small undertaking.

Jude has capitalised on her country upbringing and considerable knowledge of the travel industry to deliver experiences of world-class elegance, uncompromising luxury, unbridled adventure and sensitive interaction with the environment.

“Jude’s commonsense approach, influence, style and passion to leave the environment in a better state has created something very special for those who visit Spicers Retreats, and it's something we are very inspired by," Baguley said.

About The Turner Family Foundation

UQ entered into a long-term cooperative venture with The Turner Family Foundation in 2017 to undertake wildlife research and teaching on the Spicers Hidden Vale

By housing a diverse range of native wildlife, The Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre offers UQ students and researchers valuable hands-on access to learn and develop next-generation wildlife management and conservation techniques.

For more information about other conservation projects from the Turner Family Foundation, visit Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre – University of Queensland.