In late August, 2019, what seemed like a “simple event” broke out into an uncontrolled fire that caused the world to change for the community within Queensland’s Scenic Rim.
Co-owner of the Mount Barney Lodge – an eco-tourism retreat based alongside the World Heritage Mount Barney National Park – Innes Larkin has lived in the region for two decades, and was astonished by what he saw.
In an interview for a new video series supporting bushfire affected communities, Open for Business, Mr Larkin said the blaze “just kept going” and wouldn’t stop for anything.
“It looked nasty….You know, we’d stand from here and we’d look south on our verandah, and there was just this orange glow,” he said.
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‘There was just orange glow,’ Mount Barney Lodge co-owner Innes Larkin said of the bushfires that devastated the Scenic Rim in 2019. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
At the Binna Burra Lodge, ‘everything was gone’ after the blaze ripped through. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
“We had fire truck patrols here going for six months and it was just total devastation at the top,” Binna Burra Lodge chairman Steve Noakes added.
“Everything was gone, the lodge was gone. There was severe damage to part of the Sky Lodges.”
At the Greenlee Farm and Macadamia Orchard, the fire “came right up to the fence line”.
“We protected the orchard,” orchard owner Robyn Lee said. “Because we do rely a lot on tourism in this area, when the fires went through it just stopped people coming here.”
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The fires caused severe damage to parts of the Binna Burra Lodge’s Sky Lodges. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
‘When the fires came through it just stopped people coming here.’ Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Scenic Rim Regional Council Mayor Greg Christensen said that while the fires caused disruption of community and led to the loss of “some significant assets”, “the perception was that the whole region had been burned”.
“At the end of August, the world changed,” he said of the region.
“What seemed like a simple event broke out into an uncontrolled fire….[and] what it meant was that people withdrew. So that was challenging for the whole economy.
“And it certainly left a big hole for some people in their finances and in their capability at that time.”
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Tourists thought the ‘whole region had been burned’, Mayor Greg Christensen said. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
But like so many Aussie communities devastated by bushfires over the last two years, the Scenic Rim “embraced those in need”, Mr Christensen said.
“And that made a very different experience. It made a strengthening experience. People are realising what they can’t have there they live in suburbia, they can experience out here and our community is open to share that with them,” he said.
“We’re the home of Queensland’s first national park, we are home to the Lamington National Park, we’re the gateway to Gondwana. So if you want somewhere to connect with the authentic, environmental credentials of Australia, this is the place.”
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The Scenic Rim is ‘somewhere to connect with the authentic, environmental credentials of Australia’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
‘This place is World Heritage listed because it’s of universal value.’ Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
The Scenic Rim is World Heritage listed not just because it’s special in the eyes of Queensland or Australia, but because it’s of “universal value”, Mr Noakes said.
For Mr Larkin and the Mount Barney Lodge, they’ve taken the setbacks in their stride and found a way to rebuild stronger than ever.
“We have never been in a better spot as a business. Our business is back and we’re looking for ways to build what we do and do it better,” he said.
“This place is ancient. This place is wild. This place has everything you need for a spectacular holiday.”
The Sarabah Estate Vineyard. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
The vineyard is ‘out in the country’ but boasts ‘Gold Coast weather’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
If getting back to nature isn’t your thing, fear not.
“You can choose and create the theme of your experience and you can enjoy driving into the gate of the vineyard and talking to winemakers about their wines,” Mr Christensen said.
Ms Lee said the Scenic Rim’s name “pretty much sums it up”.
“We’re here, we’re welcoming, we’d love to see you. It really is a great place to come and visit, and we’ve just got the works. We’ve got the bushwalks, we’ve got the wineries, we’ve got the scenic drives, and not to mention the food – we’ve got some of the most amazing food,” she said.
The Scenic Rim’s name ‘pretty much sums it up’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Tourism, Trade and Investment Minister Dan Tehan said now, more than ever, bushfire-impacted communities need our support.
“A year on from the black summer fires, the best way we can help these communities is by visiting them,” he told news.com.au.
“Stay a few nights … visit the destinations that surround these communities and support the ones that have been so heavily impacted.”
“I’ve been living here 20 years and there are still things I haven’t done in this region,” Mr Larkin said.
“It’s truly amazing. Come out and experience it. It is our backyard, and we would love to share it with you.”
For the next 14 weeks, news.com.au in partnership with Tourism Australia and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency will showcase bushfire impacted regions that need our support. For the full video series, check out Open for Business
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