A Winter Surprise For Residents In The Wettest And Coldest Town

June 17, 2019

Australia’s south eastern area is going through a cold patch. Winter has appeared like the White Walkers from the Game of Thrones. Snow has already fallen in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, even in parts of Queensland.

Tasmania lies closer to the Antarctica and in winter it can be cold, wet and miserable. Some locals complain while others just get on with it. It can wear you down if it goes on for too long.  Living in remote areas is difficult, you feel isolated and left out in the cold. Any bit of sunshine is a wonderful relief during winter.

Yet, there are times when being left out in the cold pays off as local residents of Waratah, a small historical mining town in north western Tasmania, recently found out.

Waratah, constructed on the edge of the Tarkine wilderness to support a tin mine at Mount Bischoff in the late 1800’s to mid-1900’s, was once a rich mining area. Today few people are aware of its existence, up until now that is.

With a population of approximately 250 people, Waratah has been labelled as one of the wettest and coldest towns in Tasmania, possibly for the whole of Australia, aside from the mountains. It has a high frequency of cloud, heavy rainfall, snowfall is common and temperatures can be extreme dropping to -5C or on rare occasions jump to 32C in summer.

Though, when you visit you see and feel Waratah’s uniqueness. Stand near the waterfall that runs through the heart of the town, close your eyes and listen to the soothing sound of cascading water. Inhale the pure, crisp air deeply and as you slowly release your breath, feel the environments powerful magnetism. It is cleansing to the soul even on the dampest of days.

In all weather conditions, the local residents work hard. They get on with the job to maintain and protect this beautiful scenic isolated town. They wish to preserve its history and retain their small community.

But things were about to change. An amazing event took place to kick start their 2019 winter and for some, an experience they could only dream of. Little did the unsuspecting people of Waratah know what was brewing for the last 12 months.

Collaboratively and in secret, Channel 7 and Accor Hotels had been planning an incredible surprise for the “wettest and coldest town” along with Wynyard-Waratah City Council and Gold Coast Council.

Word was out that Sam Mac (McMillan) weatherman extraordinaire from Channel 7’s Sunrise show was paying them a visit. Residents were invited to register for a competition with the “lucky couple” to be sent to an unknown destination for two nights, all expenses paid.

The catch, you needed to be prepared to leave that day once the winner was announced. Applicants packed their bags knowing it was highly unlikely they would win, but did as requested nonetheless.

At 5.30am it was pitch black, raining and freezing when the national broadcast began. Everyone congregated outside the town hall. Part of the group was my sister Anne Dunham with partner Tony Schmidt co-owners of St James Church Gallery and History Centre in Waratah. Even wearing thermals and multi layers of clothing they described how, along with the crew, they shivered outside waiting for the show to begin.  

I was in Brisbane lying under my cosy donna as I watched them cross live. I witnessed an incredible turn of events when the lucky winners, long-time residents and wonderful community contributors, Noel and Jenny Fagan were announced.

Everyone was elated and applauded happily as Sam handed them the prize. They were going to Queensland’s Gold Cost to a sunny 21C.

But things didn’t stop there. Sam then proceeded to announce in an excited voice that for the others who registered……… “you are ALL going!”  OMG their faces were in disbelief and my mouth dropped open. Sam was enjoying his role and humorously said “honestly, I feel like the low budget Oprah Winfrey” “that’s incredible, can you believe it?”.

The residents were ecstatic, cried, jumped, cheered and hugged each other. It was an unbelievable surprise to everyone. Who would have thought that all 70 were going. Some people had never left Tasmania, including a couple with eight children so you can imagine their shock and delight.

Buses turned up, whisked them away to the local airport and flown on a private jet to Coolangatta. They were treated like kings and queens.

Accor’s “WinterVention” successful project was based at the Novotel Hotel Gold Coast. They provided accommodation, all meals, transport and a choice from three option activity packages; Theme Park, Adventure or Relaxed.  


At night there were guest appearances from Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, The Suns AFL footy team, Trevor Hendy former professional life saver and ironman champion, plus more. There were photo shoots, cocktail parties, massages, swimming, laughter and sunshine. Their movements were covered by Channel 7 news over the weekend and someone confessed “I feel like a rock star”. It was a much needed respite for everyone.


From a personal perspective I am immensely appreciative. Accor Hotels and Sunrise Channel 7 unknowingly provided an opportunity for my sister to catch up with her daughter who lives on the Gold Coast and for me to drive down from Brisbane to see them in between their fabulous full schedule.

I asked my sister how she felt. “It was totally unexpected and I am overwhelmed by it all. The film crew so kind and amazing, Accor staff so wonderful and supportive”. They have not only put Waratah on the map but made it possible for our community to develop a deeper bond with each other. I am eternally grateful”.


Waratah residents were given a gift that will be talked about for years!

#myaccorwintervention @accorhotelsAU www.accorhotels.com #SunriseChannel7

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