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Binna Burra ready to rebuild after grabbing lion's share of $22m ecotourism funding

Business

The bell of the iconic Bina Burra lodge, razed in the devastating 2019 Black Summer bushfires, will ring again with a rebuild of the lodge near the Gold Coast absorbing the lion’s share of $22 million in the state budget for priority ecotourism and cultural attractions.

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Binna Burra Lodge was destroyed in the blaze that caused more than $20 million in damage to the property alone and $60 million in ongoing losses.

Binna Burra lodge director Hal Morris said the recovery had been “a long road back,” with the resort that holds a special space in Queensland’s ecotourism history just managing to claw back from the brink of having to close permanently.

The destruction of the renowned eco-tourism resort became an enduring image of the impact of the bushfires across south-east Queensland during one of the nation’s most devastating fire disasters.

In September 2019, wildfires ripped through the World Heritage Listed Lamington National Park, destroying the historic lodge, surrounding cabins, as well as 11 homes in nearby Beechmont.

The blaze started in the Sarabah Valley, about 30 kilometres west of the Gold Coast. As the crisis unfolded, the fire twisted and turned, threatening the township of Canungra before charging towards the historic 32-hectare Binna Burra retreat in the Gondwana World Heritage listed ancient sub-tropical rainforest.

In delivering the budget on Tuesday, Treasurer Cameron Dick said $18 million would be donated to the Binna Burra foundation to help the rebuild of the lodge “so that the bell of Binna Burra will ring again.”

A further $2 million would be spent on improvements at Lamington National Park, working with O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which is just six kilometres away from Binna Burra Lodge, he said.

“Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s are just two of the countless Queensland small and medium businesses that have done it tough year after year,” Dick said.

Morris, who was Binna Burra chairman for eight years to 2015 and then re-joined the board after the bushfires, said the funding would help replace the main lodge that was currently “an empty site at the top of Mount Roberts with a marquee.”

“This lets us replace the main lodge that people would know from days gone by,” Morris said.

“This will let us rebuild the lodge itself in bricks and mortar.”

Morris said the new build would be more fire-proof to deal with natural disasters.

“When the founders of Binna burra decided to build at Mount Roberts in the 1930s they recognised there was going to be that kind of challenge and there are challenges to building an eco-tourism resort at the back of beyond at the end of the road,” he said.

“We are aware of that, and we believe we are up to it, we are experienced at building and operating this kind of facility and we very excited about the opportunities it presents moving forward.”

Repairs and rebuilds have been slow since the fires then Covid devastated the tourism destination. Bad weather, including recent flooding, has also consistently delayed the reopening and rebuilding of the disaster-ravaged location.

In an unusual move last year, Binna Burra Lodge launched share offer to raise $4.5 million by offering shares in the unlisted company to more than 800 existing shareholders. The shares were offered for the bargain-basement price of just $1 to help reopen the historic 32-hectare retreat.

After the offer expired for existing shareholders to purchase up to three shares for every existing share they owned, shares were then opened to the general public at the same $1 price point. The share offer closed in April.

During this time $30 million, jointly funded by the state and federal governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements was also spent to repair the only road in and out of Binna Burra.

 

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