From the Namoi Valley Independent // 13 November 2018 // Article: Vanessa Höhnke, Photo: Billy Jupp

The recent event was organised by the Gunnedah Show Society to cement the viability of the Gunnedah Showground precinct and raise funds to refurbish infrastructure.

In October, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson announced $1.5 million for the showground through the Stronger Country Communities Fund, to develop the equine aspect precinct and upgrade the grounds, grandstand and Gunnedah Kennel Club amenities block.

Mr Avard said EIMEX played a “big part” in securing the much-needed funding.

“We were told in order to get major funding we had to demonstrate that the show ground could not only run horse events, but also other events,” he said.

Mr Avard said “time was of the essence” to launch EIMEX, with mining on the up and solar companies vying to establish farms near Gunnedah.

Almost 60 exhibitors displayed their products over three days, and hundreds attended a dinner and a Women in the Workforce breakfast, with “high-profile speakers”, including federal Minster for Resources, Senator Matthew Canavan.

Mr Avard said while the two events were highlights, the committee was “disappointed” in the lower numbers of attendees at the seminars, which focused on topics including water efficiency and the use of drones in agriculture.

He said EIMEX was the result of “a huge effort from the committee”, which “started off from scratch” in November last year.

Fellow committee member councillor Rob Hooke said the team wouldn’t have pulled it off without Helen Cygan’s “expertise” and Mr Avard’s “drive”.

“Accolades where they’re due,” Cr Hooke said.

“The leadership [George] showed, it kept the committee focused. We actually achieved in six months what should have taken 12.

“It was as late as two to three months ago that we thought, ‘We’d better pull the pin on this before we spend too much money’.

“It was just sheer determination from a wonderful group of people who went out and did foot-slogging to sell the sizzle.”

Cr Hooke said for an inaugural event, it was “marvellous”.

“We did make a profit [and] we’re absolutely thrilled,” he said.

“At the end of the day, this money is for the development of the showground precinct, not the show society per say.”

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, Gunnedah Community Scholarship Fund and Red Cross all benefited from the expo, with more than $12,000 raised for the community organisations.

Committee member Rob Hooke was the one who suggested backing the scholarship fund through a charity auction at the dinner.

“It’s something that benefits the entire community and supports our young people and I’m very passionate about trying to add the skills shortage we have in this area,” councillor Hooke said.

“If we can support young people to get an education and come back into the area, it just helps our community so much.”

Cr Hooke said scholarship fund chair and fellow councillor Gae Swain was “almost doing hoops” during the charity auction.

“She was ecstatic,” he said.

The future of EIMEX in Gunnedah is looking good, with Mr Avard commenting that there was “no doubt” the society would host another event in the future.