Tree change: the story behind Live Wire Park - Education Matters Magazine
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Tree change: the story behind Live Wire Park

More than three years in the making, Live Wire Park in Lorne is drawing schools from major cities including Melbourne and Adelaide. How did it get off the ground? Education Matters speaks to one of the founders.

An off-the-cuff inquiry about a 10-acre property on the market two hours from Melbourne was a significant turning point for Live Wire Park Director Luke Nisbet.

It was 2010, and Luke and his father (and business partner) Chris, were scouting potential locations for a business idea to get children off their screens and into nature.

At the time, the Nisbet family (including Luke, his father Chris, and Chris’s father Des) were operating a commercial refrigeration manufacturing business in Melbourne. The business had been operating for 70 years.

The park caters to a range of ages. Image: Live Wire Park

Luke was working as a self-taught draftsman in the business but was toying with the idea of getting out of Melbourne.

“My dad and I both wanted a tree change, so we got together over a couple of beers 13 or 14 years ago to share ideas for a potential business – and came up with a zip line adventure park,” he says.

Luke’s grandmother owned a farm at Cape Patton, near Kennett River, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. 

“As kids, we would build our own zip line on the farm, and that’s where the idea came from,” he says.

“We wanted to bring joy into people’s lives. I’ve got kids, and I wanted to create a place that was fun for them, to get out into nature, and off their screens.” 

The idea soon snowballed, with Luke taking on the task of preliminary research and development.

“I began looking at other adventure parks, and thinking about how to market it, how many people it would need – in terms of visitation – to be viable. I put together projections and a budget to build it, and what we would need to charge for entry,” he says.

After crunching the numbers, Luke and his father decided it was feasible, and began searching for land in Lorne, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

“We looked at several properties on the market but nothing suited. We knew of a property that had been for sale a year or two prior, and I happened to ask the real estate agent what happened to it, and he told us it never sold.”

The 10-acre block on Erskine Falls Road was exactly what they were looking for. The Nesbit’s sold their manufacturing business in Melbourne, and purchased the land.

Design phase

The land was zoned for rural conservation, requiring the Nisbet’s to apply for a site-specific amendment to use the land for commercial purposes. They also had to go through a detailed planning process with the local council and apply for a state planning permit.

The family also needed to reach out to professionals to design the park. Luke had already done research in this area, having visited adventure parks while travelling through Europe, which is where he heard about French-company Altus.

More than 30 kilometres of cable was used in the construction of the park. Image: Live Wire Park

The first Altus adventure course was built in 1997 in the French Alps. While it continued to operate courses, it became a High Wire Adventure Course design and construction company.

It was also involved in establishing the European standard (EN15567) for High Wire Ropes Courses, ensuring user safety remains a priority.

Altus has now implemented more than 400 projects in 26 countries across five continents since 1997.

“Altus are world leaders in designing high wire adventure courses. They flew over and designed Live Wire Park with us on-site in only two weeks, wearing special helmets with lasers fitted to plan the zip lines, and modelling it in 3D,” Luke says.

“We also employed an architect to design an office and amenities, and we had to meet the requirements of several Council-mandated reports – geotechnical, environmental, heritage, indigenous, bushfire overlay, flora and fauna – it was an extensive permit process. It took authorities three years to approve it,” he says.

Once approved, the Nisbet’s invited Altus back to oversee construction, and sourced local tradesman for building and earthworks.

It took 14 months to build the park. Most of the High Ropes specialist materials were shipped in from France. There were two 40-foot containers full of materials. More than 30 kilometres of cable was used in the construction of the obstacles in the park. 

They also named the business – Live Wire Park. “I named it after my son – he’s a little live wire!,” Luke says.

Eight weeks before the park was due to open, Luke began recruiting crew members, who were trained by Altus – and still are.

“Altus continue to come out once a year to provide refresher training, ensuring our staff are trained to the highest European standard.” 

Live Wire Park crew are trained to the highest European safety standard. Image: Live Wire Park

In February 2018, Live Wire Park held an Open Day for local schools; it officially opened on 1 March 2018 – the first completely off-grid elevated adventure park in Australia. Fuelled by solar power, paired with all water being collected, used and treated on site, makes Live Wire Park a sustainable business.

“We originally opened with two high wire courses – one for younger kids, and one for teens and adults, a zip coaster and a canopy circuit walk,” Luke says.

The Shockwave Zip Coaster is the most extreme zip line in Australia. At 525 metres long, the high intensity activity provides a 360-degree experience, powered by gravity.

The wheelchair accessible, low intensity Canopy Circuit walk is a 120-metre pathway suspended among the treetops 10 metres above ground.

To help get the word out that they were open for business, Luke started cold-calling local schools, camps and surf clubs.

A year after opening, the Nisbet’s expanded the park, installing suspended trampolines and a ball pit, known as the Spring Circuit. 

“We started with one or two schools booking a month. We’re now celebrating our seven-year anniversary. In February this year, we had 16 schools visit – that’s averaging a school visiting every second day.”

Live Wire Park offers a 25% discount for school groups, and free entry for teachers.

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