Barlens rise to challenge of building temporary city at Henty


Shaun Brown and Morris Mckeeman with staff Jack Mckeeman, Dylan Klein and Shaun Harrison, preparing marquees for Henty.

As the flames burned around Victoria’s Great Ocean Road on Christmas Day 2015, Barlens Event Hire staff were moving to erect temporary housing for 500 people.

The Albury based company played a leading role in providing shelter near Orbost for evacuees, erecting fully floored and air-conditioned temporary structures within 24 hours of receiving the call.

Barlens general manager Morris Mckeeman said the emergency service was also provided for the 2009 Black Saturday fires and the 2012 floods.

As one of Australia’s leading event hire companies, Barlens has the capability of calling upon resources from its warehouses in both Albury and Canberra.

In peak season, the company employs more than 80 staff and contractors to build and pull-down structures.

With 1200 exhibitor sites, the Henty Machinery Field Days is one of the biggest events and challenges on Barlens calendar.

The company has been associated with Henty for more than 20 years and supplies around 100 marquees for the field days, ranging from the Farm Gate pavilion at 20m x 45m down to 3 x 3m structures.

The booths can be supplied with hard flooring, lighting, furniture, display boards, glass display cabinets and custom stands.

Initially, over a dozen semi-trailer and B-double trucks are used to transport the equipment to Henty, followed by daily deliveries.

“Henty is the starter’s gun and the largest bill for the new season each year,’’ Mr Mckeeman said.

“Planning starts in May and the number of clients we have at Henty just keeps growing.

“Being locally based, we can do last minute equipment and have a temporary yard based at Henty.

“Barlens and Henty is a good partnership.

“Corporate branding has lifted individual business profiles at Henty, the competition is stronger so businesses have got to stand out among the other sites.

“If your business is relying on how you looked 10 years ago, you’re not going to make it.’’

Mr Mckeeman said the latest trend of building upwards included three storey structures with full verandas, viewing decks and mezzanine floors.

“We are moving into more glass and hard wall in the place of vinyl, plus multiple stories and any length is possible,’’ he said.

“Where Henty goes next, who knows – I think it’s impressive now, it’s the biggest show going around the field days in Australia – we’ve had a look at AgQuip, Elmore and Agfest, and Henty is certainly leading the way.

“As long as change and growth keep happening, I can’t see an end to Henty at all, it will keep getting stronger and stronger.’’

Barlens erect almost 100 marquees at the field days, including the large Farm Gate Produce pavilion on the lower right of the picture.

Originally established in 1965, Barlens is a major supplier of marquees to the horse racing industry for cup days at Albury, Lockhart, Kilmore, Dederang, Corowa, Tatura and Holbrook.

Events generated by the office of the Prime Minister and Governor General are also catered for.

Barlens played a critical role in the establishment of Australia’s off-shore immigrant detention centre on the island of Nauru.

“We had a timeline to source and pack gear but it was peak season here for the trade – it was a matter of getting onto our networks and seeing what structures they had spare,’’ Mr Mckeeman said.

“We supplied an enormous amount of 10m x 12m marquees and larger 20 x 70m structures for catering and mess halls.

“They were shipped out of Brisbane and it took about a week to travel there.

“In all, it comprised 76 shipping containers and three ships, and a Hercules lift out of Brisbane by the army.

“In all, 24,000sqm of structure comprising 76 shipping containers on three different ships, plus a Hercules lift out of Brisbane by the army.

“Besides the heat, a lot of the time there was no power or water to contend with.

“Our part of the project took almost four months of construction, with Barlens staff working at night to avoid the extreme heat and humidity.’’

By the time they finished, the centre’s three camps accommodated 2500 people.

Barlens cater for the major musical artists touring the country, including the Taylor Swift concert this October at Etihad Stadium, and in the past, Adele, Bruce Springsten, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Powder Finger, Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Day on the Green builds.

“Last year we moved 66,000 chairs around the country just for the entertainment industry,’’ Mr Mckeeman said.

“This year we provided two fully floored marquees for ice skating rinks at Adelaide.

“Our region extends from Coffs Harbour to Broken Hill and Adelaide, Melbourne, regional Victoria, NSW and ACT.’’