Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Banalasta Plantation - Bendemeer

Photo: Eucalyptus Radiata, Banalasta Plantation

Banalasta is the world’s largest organic eucalypt plantation, and a decade after being established, it can’t keep up with the demand for eucalyptus oil.

Situated in Bendemeer, half way between Armidale and Tamworth in New England, Banalasta is a successful mix of business and tourism, producing eucalyptus oil, a wide range of eucalyptus and lavender-based products and boutique wines. It is also a popular tourist attraction, with a Visitor Centre and café.

Kim Hawksford, from Banalasta, says the demand for their premium eucalyptus oil is so great that they just can’t keep up the supply.

“With our export market, it’s a matter of first in, best dressed,” Kim explains. “We just fill the orders as they come in but unfortunately we’re not in a position to produce a greater quantity to meet the intense demand.”

Banalasta currently produces three tonnes, or 3,000 litres of eucalyptus oil per year. Most of this oil is exported to the USA, Hong Kong and Europe, while the remainder goes into its eucalyptus-based products, which are sold via its website, direct from the Banalasta Visitor Centre at the plantation, or at selected outlets.

There are one million eucalyptus trees growing on 150 hectares here but the entire property, once a sheet and cattle property, is some 3,000 hectares.

Eucalyptus trees grow to around three metres before being harvested and take 12 months to grow to this height again for re-harvesting.

The species grown at Banalasta, eucalyptus radiata (australiana) or the narrow peppermint leaf, produces a premium, medicinally classified oil. It is particularly suitable for cosmetics and medicinal purposes, as opposed to the lower quality oils used in household cleansers and the like.

The oil has a wider anti-microbial spectrum than common eucalyptus oils, such as globulus and blue mallee. Its properties enable it to be used as an active ingredient in a wide range of goods, which in Banalasta’s case, means therapeutic, medicinal, skin care, hair care, pet care and household products.

One of the aims of Banalasta’s founder, Rolf Blickling, was to bring some eucalyptus oil production back into the Australian market. He has also strived to increase awareness of organic farming and the excellent uses of their end commodities, as well as conservation.

Spanning 40 hectares of the property is the World Forest Plantation. This is an ongoing environmental initiative to assist carbon sequestration, combat global warming, and help save endangered native flora. To date there are 35,000 trees of 40 different native species planted. People are able to “buy” a tree and have it planted here in honour of a baby’s birth, to remember someone who has died, or as a gift.

Lavender is the secondary product grown at Banalasta, with the oil used for some of their skin care products. It’s a French hybrid variety, Intermedia Lavendula Grosso, the leading producing plant for lavender oil worldwide.

Rolf Blickling once imported Australian wines into his native Germany so it was inevitable that he would plant wine grapes here and produce his own wine.

There are 16,000 vines in the high altitude vineyard, where the ripening process is slower, giving the wine a fuller and fruitier flavour.

Six varieties of red and white wine are produced under the Blickling label. The wines are currently available via the internet, in larger restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, and should be available in the Brisbane market soon.

Visitors to Banalasta can tour the oil distillery, eat lunch at the café or cook their own by purchasing a barbecue pack and using the outdoor barbecues. Wine tasting is on offer, along with cellar door sales. The Visitor Centre stocks the full range of eucalyptus and lavender-based products.

Banalasta’s café actually attracts as many locals as tourists who often use it as a meeting ground because of its ideal location between Armidale and Tamworth.


Banalasta Plantation is at Bendemeer, off the New England Highway, 55 kilometres north east of Tamworth heading towards Armidale. It is open seven days from 9am to 5pm. Banalasta Visitors Centre: 02 6769 6786 or visit the website:

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