Growth and Development of the Colony Property at Mogo NSW South Coast
The Original Gold Rush Colony was initially developed as Old Mogo Town by local businessman - Ron Prior. Ron, founder of Prior's Bus Service (Batemans Bay), was a councillor for The Eurobodalla Shire and owner of 26 acres on James St at Mogo, which he had purchased from Ken and Kath Ware.
The Wares had long dreamed of developing the property around the original mine shaft, but did not have the capital. Ron was also very concerned about the way local history was being lost.
For several years he employed his school bus drivers in their down time, to create the theme park. Buildings of the region were donated, his eclectic collection of memorabilia was housed, and Old Mogo Town was opened on the 2nd of November 1991 by Hon. Fred Daly.
Unfortunately tourism and educational facilities did not support the venture adequately, so it closed after only a few years of operation. At the end of 1999, Maureen Nathan was persuaded to purchase the facility as it had been put up for sale.
Maureen had a very high profile in the community as a pharmacist with a twice weekly radio programme. She was also on the committee of the highly successful Batemans Bay amateur theatrical group, The Bay Theatre Players.
Maureen had always viewed her role and pharmacy business (Batehaven Pharmacy) as part of the tourism industry, and recognised the need for a stay another day activity. Her persuaders and supporters recognised that the venture would need a great deal of entrepreneurial effort and knew she was up for the job.
Maureen's mother June Lotzof came in as a partner and together with hefty borrowings from the ANZ Bank the further development and re-opening of Old Mogo Town began.
It quickly became apparent that even with the dedication of Bay Theatre Players members, (Bill Mitchell as Manager, Alan Edmunds and Ian Boardman , Elizabeth McLennan and Barbara Gellatly) and Corey Peterson as a tour guide, that the theme park would have difficulty standing alone.
The sheds on the southern side of the dams were in poor repair, and Bill worked with the Moruya and District Antique Machinery and Tractor Association to repair them, custom rebuilding the machinery shed, using traditional methods from the 19th century as far as possible, and pouring a reinforced concrete slab for the shed to house the printing press and newspaper folder donated by Rural Press.
Difficulties with council were overcome, when inspectors realised that it was impossible to bring the theme park buildings up to 20th century building code, and still have an 1850's theme park. A line in the sand was drawn.
Maureen contracted a local innovative & award-winning Web Development service team to create the Old Mogo Town Website, which become a major educational resource in its day. Much of the educational material was sourced by Bill Mitchell using his training as a teacher from his years at Timbertop. More assistance came from teachers Ross Hosking and Bob Soper. Subsequent educational development was undertaken by Sam and Martyn Lloyd during their tenure.
Maureen, Barbara and Bill contacted schools to explore the educational school camps and excursion market. This then lead to the construction of 4 bunkhouses, and 5 miners cabins, the camp kitchen, laundry, tool shed and administration building. During the excavations for the piers and foundations the post hole digger hit quartz, re-enforcing the idea that the facility is on a gold bearing quartz reef.
Marketing began in earnest, with Maureen and her new partner Robert Legeay attending school Principals' Conferences. The knowledge and passion of all the tour guides and ancillary staff have now resulted in the facility having a sound core of return business as schools stage 3 core HSIE cycle through their activities.
Name Change - Scope Broadens
After several years of operation, it became apparent that tourists were confusing Mogo Village (Historical Regional Town on the Princes Hwy) with Old Mogo Town (Gold Rush Theme Park located in James St behind Mogo). The original branding (Old Mogo Town) had occurred when there was only a service station, a nursery and paper shop.
Mogo Village has now become a tourist Mecca with a fine collection of friendly and unusual shops and quality cafes.
Re-branding with a complete name change, became the only way for the facility to have a clearer identity for the future.
Award-winning South Coast - Tours, School Camps, Wedding & Accommodation And More
Under the management of Georgina Jackson and her able assistants, The Original Gold Rush Colony has received recognition in many fields.
The facility has received multiple accolades and awards in Tourism, Education, Australiana, Aboriginal Culture, accommodation for tourists and school camps, weddings and a nomination for the Prime Minister's Employer of the Year award for employing and rehabilitating people back into the workplace.
Georgina persuaded the family partnership to refinance, and put in 4 more cabins, taking the accommodation capacity up to 148. Olga the Tourist Steam Train had her tracks laid during 2011. She began to roll through the summer holidays of 2011/2012 for the enjoyment of all.
We have come a long way in the last 12 years of operation & development.
The Future For The Gold Rush Colony
With the Launch of the new website, and marketing advice, the Original Gold Rush Colony is poised for consolidation of the primary school education market, and expansion into the senior and tertiary education excursion market as well as small corporate conferences and team building excursions.
The full commercial kitchen at the Diggers Rest Tavern is run smoothly by caterer Lynda Downey. Under the competent hands of the Wedding and Functions Co-ordinator Janeena Woodville, Classic Country Weddings at the Original Gold Rush Colony have become a primary focus.
Applications for a limited liquor license for functions have been granted, use to commence in 2012. The Colony has received a grant from NSW Tourism to assist with building a palisade timber maze. One third of the acreage is currently fallow, but Maureen and her team have lots of ideas to develop further.