Iron baron to the rescue: Wytaliba could 3D print a new village

Mining magnate Andrew
Mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest is considering purchasing a high-tech 3D printer to re-print the more than 50 Wytaliba homes destroyed in last year's deadly bushfire.

Mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest is considering purchasing a high-tech 3D printer to re-print the more than 50 Wytaliba homes destroyed in last year's deadly bushfire.

The iron magnate landed in the alternative community last Friday by helicopter, before holding a meeting with the village.

It was an inspirational moment, said Wytaliba RFS Captain and resident Kym Jermey.

"I'm surprised, but I'm inspired by it," he said.

"I find it inspirational that this guy has just turned up here out of the goodness of his own heart and just gone - right, how can I help."


The West Australian iron miner committed earlier this month to spend $20 million through his charity Minderoo on fire recovery, plus another $50 million on "the development of a long-term blueprint for fire resilience".

First steps for Wytaliba will be setting up temporary demountable accommodation. He will also help cover the cost of ongoing water supply, including new bores, and repairing damaged piping.

Two months on from the deadly bushfire much of the community is still living in tents, or on dirt floors, or has not returned to the village. Mr Jermey said the priority has to be getting the entire population back home, for fear of losing them for good.

But Minderoo doesn't plan to leave the village for up to two years, with a live-in liaison officer to stay to coordinate long-term recovery.

Mr Forrest had a simple message for Wytaliba: think big.

"We're talking about a 3D printer that prints mudbrick concrete," said Kym Jermey.

"Basically they're considering footing the cost of that either on a loan basis to us, or buying one in the first place.

"We'll continue to work the machine after we've rebuilt here, it then becomes a job and we can go to other places and rebuild."

It can print a new house in a week. In just a year they could rebuild every home lost to the bushfire and start a new high-tech construction business.

"The first step of that is to get the machine here, do a test of the strength and the fire durability of some of the materials, decide on what materials you're going to use.

"This is new technology so we need to get this through council approval - he's also going to help us with that, and help supply the engineers to test all this gear."


The 3D printing process, also called additive manufacturing, uses a computer generated model to create objects by automatically building the product layer by layer.

Beyond that the sky is the limit, from tar sealing Wytaliba's internal dirt road network to a better power system to reducing soil erosion.

"He's taking it a step further from not just rebuilding the community, he basically sat there and said - here's your opportunity to rebuild it bigger, better than it's ever been before."

Mr Forrest helped rebuild some of the communities wrecked in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. He said some Victorian communities believe the recovery process was worse than their fire tragedy.

"He said he wants to make sure we don't remember this event that way," said Mr Jermey.

Phil Hine is one of the victims of the bushfire who is still homeless. He said state and federal governments had done little to help the community.

"It was pretty evident that what we needed was the basics; water and shelter," he said.

"For myself, I need shelter. I have a tent, but it's unbearable to be in the tent after 10am on a hot day in the middle of summer and I know that by wintertime if we're still stuck in the tent we'll be rather cold too!

"Someone like Andrew Twiggy Forrest coming down, it's a big relief because he's going to offer a physical help.

"He's not going to give us money, he's actually going to supply help."

Minderoo has been contacted for comment. Andrew Forrest also visited Tenterfield.