Joe Commisso was just about ready to retire to an old sheep farm when he struck liquid gold. The 61-year-old head of Quality Management & Constructions now has his eyes set on his latest venture, Beloka Water but he admits that wasn’t always the plan.
He purchased the parcel of land located outside Dalgety, at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, in the township of Beloka with his grandchildren in mind.
“I bought it so I could take the grandchildren down there and teach them about hunting, a bit of farming, a bit of everything, a sort of a getaway for me and the grandchildren,”Commisso said.
However, a new commercial opportunity came knocking on his doors after he planned to plant olive trees and to build dams on his property.
“I figured, if I’m going to plant olive trees and I’m digging out dams, I better see if there is any underground water,” he said, “so we started drilling.”
Commisso explained that the team he hired only had to tap down 96 metres to get to 800 million litres of water.
“We decided it was a commercial venture straight away and once we’d done all the tests and all the flows, that just confirmed it,” he said.
“We came up with seven aquifers and one of them was You-Beaut mineral water. It’s pristine because our neighbour is the [Snowy Mountains] national park.
Australia’s $544 million bottled water industry is dominated by Coca-Cola’s Australian Mount Franklin and the European imported waters from the Nestle group but this stiff competition hardly deters Commisso from pursuing his new venture.
“I believe it’s as good as, if not better, than most imported mineral water,” Commisso added, “We are hoping to eventually increase production once we increase our market share. I’d like to think I’d like to produce 10 million bottles a year.”
Beloka Water can now be seen on the menus of many fancy restaurants around town as well as in food stores. Commisso aims to secure 10 to 15 percent of the bottled water market.
“We have about 800 million litres of water [at Beloka],” he said, “We have no intention of using all that. We just want a share of the market and to deliver quality mineral water at a reasonable price.”
Apart from expanding Beloka Water, Commisso is also looking to build 340 eco-lodges on his 1400 hectare property. However, he believes he still have to convince local sheep farmers who have been making a living from meat and wool for seven generations.
“I just have to take it to the next stage and prove to them that we want all-year-round tourism and there is going to be a lot of work for the local people,” he said. “It might be very busy for three months of the year [during ski season], but I’ve been down there [at other times] and it’s very quiet.”
Meanwhile, his son Steve will be managing the construction side of his business.