Binna Burra Lodge to re-open after catastrophic bushfire
An iconic Queensland tourism destination hopes to welcome guests again soon.
Binna Burra Lodge is literally rising from the ashes.
The historic venue faced an uncertain future after bushfire swept through the 86-year-old tourism destination in Lamington National Park last September.
Binna Burra Lodge Marketing Manager Brad Cox said the fire had a devastating impact, destroying the heritage-listed older buildings which represented about half of its accommodation.
“The lodge and all of the heritage-listed cabins were destroyed and that was the infrastructure that has been there from the 1930s onwards,” Mr Cox said.
“The historical, heritage component of the site was burnt out.
“The modern Sky Lodges, built just over 10 years ago, remain intact and are fully functional, except for one which was damaged and needs repair.”
Mr Cox anticipated the Sky Lodges would be available for bookings by the end of April along with the Campsite Safari Tents, the Lamington Teahouse and Groom’s Cottage which escaped damage from the blaze.
The recovery effort has been hampered by the closure of Binna Burra Road, stopping access to Lamington National Park and Binna Burra Lodge.
It is hoped the road will be opened by the Department of Transport and Main Roads in March, allowing for the demolition and removal of the destroyed buildings and the final preparations for the reopening of the undamaged facilities.
“The Sky Lodges apartments, Campsite Safari Tents, Teahouse and Groom’s Cottage will all be open and available by the end of April,” Mr Cox said.
Work was still being carried out at the site including the stabilisation of cliffs which were compromised by the fire.
A team of workers, including abseilers, has been working around the clock stabilising the area, including the removal of burnt-out trees and exposed boulders and the installation of concrete and steel rods to stabilise the cliffs above and below the road.
The difficult terrain has not been the only obstacle, with one of the workers bitten by a snake.
“Once the soil is ‘cooked’, which is what happens in a bushfire, the moisture is removed and that is what makes it unstable,” Mr Cox said.
“It is a seriously difficult project.”
In a morale boost for the small team of eight out of the previous staff of 62 employed before the fire, Binna Burra Lodge has started operating a café at Beechmont to help raise money for the recovery effort.
“The old school site at Beechmont, owned by the Scenic Rim Regional Council and managed by a local community group for a number of years, has been offered to us,” Mr Cox said.
“It is right on the roundabout as you enter Beechmont and has spectacular views.”
Binna Burra Lodge began operating the Headmasters Café in January on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“We opened the café to share some Binna Burra hospitality and food with people who enjoy coming to that region,” Mr Cox said.
“We have put in a little bar to serve tap beer and we are using the same menu as the café in Binna Burra.”
Mr Cox said there was also a display of about 40 photos showing the history of Binna Burra Lodge and the impacts of the bushfire.
“We have a huge legacy of patrons, many of whom want to know what is going on,” he said.
“The photo display gives them a chance to see what happened, see the burnt-out remains and get an idea of the situation we are in.”
With the assistance of various government agencies and other private and not-for-profit organisations, all former employees have found new jobs, started retraining for other positions or have undertaken study.
It is expected when Binna Burra re-opens there will be a staged re-hiring of former staff with the likelihood of extra positions becoming available.
There is still some uncertainty over the future of Binna Burra Lodge but the dream is for it to undergo a reconstruction subject to the securing of funds.
A recovery council has been formed consisting of Binna Burra shareholders and other stakeholders and they are working with state and local government representatives on future possibilities.
“There’s lots to dream about but unfortunately you have got to be careful speculating,” Mr Cox said.
“The next stage is yet to be determined. At the moment the most important thing is getting through the process of demolition and then opening the facilities we have.
“Our recovery is well and truly underway.”
Story by Ray Andersen