ADDICTED: Bundy couple Kevin and Dianne Barnett.
ADDICTED: Bundy couple Kevin and Dianne Barnett. Allan Reinikka ROK180419agems3

'Rock fever' shakes up Rockhampton Showgrounds

BORN and bred in Mount Morgan, Kevin and Dianne Barnett know a lot about "gold fever”, but when they first got into fossicking, they were struck by another type of passion; "rock fever”.

"It's one of those things where you get into it and it gets into your blood,” Mr Barnett said.

The couple left Mt Morgan in 1964 and spent seven years in New Guinea before returning to Australia, looking for their new home.

"I did my apprenticeship [in Mt Morgan] and we knew the mine would close eventually,” Mr Barnett said.

The couple decided to settle down in Bundaberg and have lived there for the past 50 years.

In 2000, they went travelling around Australia and stumbled across their new passion for rock collecting.

"We picked up a whole heap of rocks,” Mr Barnett said.

Mrs Barnett said the pair would stop and see something on the side of the road and collect them.

"We've been out to the opal fields, Agate Creek 12 times for agates and now we have so many rocks we don't go fossicking anymore,” she said.

Mr Barnett had many of the rocks scattered around his business and gardens at Bundaberg when a customer approached him about joining the local lapidary club in 2003.

The couple have been members ever since and Mrs Barnett is now president.

Mr Barnett has built his own equipment for shaping and polishing the stones.

"It's an addiction,” she said.

"We have about 120 members and we have a very good junior base [of 20 members] and very good junior instructors.”

For the pair, the trick behind being a successful collector comes from having a "feel” for the hobby.

"We've got a lot of kids very interested in rocks and some of the younger ones can tell me more about what they are,” Mr Barnett said.

The couple will be selling and displaying their expansive collections at the 55th National Gem and Mineral Show at Rockhampton Showgrounds.

The event, otherwise known as the Gemboree 2019, has attracted traders and collectors from across the country.

The Showgrounds were beginning to fill up with caravans and avid collectors on Thursday morning, with stalls, tables and exhibitions being set up.

The Barnetts are encouraging locals to come out and check out their finds and to not be afraid to dip their hands in the tiny rock collection.

"You're allowed to touch. It is therapeutic,” Mrs Barnett said.

The Gemboree begins on April 19 and finishes April 22.

When: April 19-22. Friday: 12pm-5pm. Saturday: 9am-5pm. Sunday: 9am-5pm. Monday: 9am-2pm.

Where: Rockhampton Showgrounds

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