Chairman's update - July 2020
Giving you details on the 12 month post bushfire recovery and reopening of Binna Burra.
We trust you are handling this current COVID-19 pandemic period satisfactorily. It’s another remarkable period in the past century of Binna Burra’s history since the ideas were percolating in the mind of visionaries such as Romeo Lahey of a place to access the newly gazetted Lamington National Park here in south-east Queensland, Australia.
The First World War, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression, the Second World War and various other international and national periods of conflict, economic, political or social uncertainty have all provided a constant backdrop as to why generations of Queensland, interstate and even international guests have valued the escape to the nature-based ‘spirit of Binna Burra’.
(At the end of this letter, you’ll see an order form for a wonderful limited-edition book researched and prepared by a long-term shareholder, Don Marshall. It’s an overview of history leading to establishing and developing of Binna Burra Lodge up to the beginning of World War II. If you choose to purchase a copy or two, all the funds will go towards archiving, presenting our history and heritage, and a new library for Binna Burra.)
This year, 2020, will see the second opening of Binna Burra since 1933. This time, we’ll be coming out of a one-year shut-down caused by the terrible bushfire that devastated the heritage-listed Lodge on Sunday 8 September 2019. The work to reopen the road access and prepare the business to again welcome guests is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not been an easy journey to keep your company solvent since the bushfires last year, but Binna Burra has survived and will stay around for the long-term.
We have been fortunate to have substantial goodwill from all three levels of government and those who wish to see Binna Burra recover. The Binna Burra Cultural Landscape really does live up to its reasons for being included on the Queensland Heritage Register as a place important (a) in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history (b) because of its aesthetic significance and (c) with a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.
Our roadmap to recovery.
Let me share with you the Binna Burra roadmap to recovery in 2020. In the box below, you will see the reopening dates for:
- Access into the Binna Burra side of the Lamington National Park – roadworks are still underway and even with the planned opening of the road to the general public in early September, there will continue to be controlled road access until that work is completed.
- Accommodation at the Sky Lodges and the campsite - repairs to the Sky Lodges commenced in January, however, heavy rain closed the road access for some five weeks so builders could only restart work at the end of February. Binna Burra staff have been doing a great job with the repair and upgrade works on the campground area and we were thankful for a very kind donation from Dulux to supply the paint and repaint the Tea House.
- Our food and beverage options – at the Binna Burra Kitchen on the old school site in Beechmont and also at the Tea House and a refurbished Groom’s Cottage.
The first activity in the roadmap has been to open up bookings for our Sky Lodges and campsites. We started taking bookings again in early June for overnight guests who will be able to return in early September. So far, the booking trend is good.
The Binna Burra Kitchen located at the old school site in Beechmont reopened on 3 July, having only operated for eight weeks early in 2020 before COVID closures. Now, this small community-centred café has extended operating from three days to five days a week. If you live within a few hours’ drive of Beechmont and Binna Burra, it makes a great place to include in a weekend drive!
At the Binna Burra site, Groom’s Cottage will be positioned as the new ‘Heritage Heart’ of Binna Burra when it reopens in early September with our new library upstairs and ‘cosy’ food and beverage services offered downstairs for day visitors and our overnight guests to enjoy while soaking in the stunning landscape views. At this time, we will plan to make an interim Gallery in the Barn to tell the story of the bushfire at Binna Burra last year (In terms of media coverage and public awareness, the 2019 Binna Burra bushfire is something of a ‘Stinson’ airplane crash event that occurred over at O’Reilly’s back in 1937).
The Tea House still needs a lot of internal work, but it will also reopen in early September.
Of course, the enjoyment of celebrating the reopening of access into Binna Burra in the first week of September coincides with the one year anniversary of the bushfires. We are mindful to balance our joy with reflections on the losses last year in the Beechmont community and at Binna Burra Lodge, as well as recall the long and intense bushfire season that impacted so heavily across Australia for the next five + months.
At the time of writing, the demolition work on the rubble where the Lodge and cabins used to be is almost complete. With the ongoing involvement of shareholder views, we now need to move into a Master Planning phase for that site, come up with plans for what, if anything, is to be rebuilt on the site and if so, work out where the money is going to come from. That process will take a year or two – perhaps even longer.
Meantime, the company has the task to make a successful sustainable business from the remaining infrastructure (Sky Lodges, Campground/safari tents, Tea House, Groom’s Cottage, the Barn and Pottery Shed, etc.) as the basis for the long-term success of this new post bushfire era for Binna Burra. Planning work is well underway for the expected opening of the new via Ferrata @ Binna Burra adventure experience in mid-2021.
In August, last year, Board member Ian Pritchard took on the role as Interim Managing Director for what was to be a few months. The bushfire in early September 2019 changed that and Ian continued on to assist in our recovery processes through to the end of May 2020. Ian’s contributions to the company and to me personally over those immediate months after the bushfires when we had to terminate the services of nearly 60 staff and deal with many pressing issues concerning the future viability of Binna Burra was substantial and highly valued.
Effective 01 June 2020, the Board appointed Jonathan Fisher as our CEO. Ian continues as a Board member. Jonathan brings substantial experience to a business such as Binna Burra given the past 12 years or so as first the CEO of the National Trust Queensland Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and then as CEO for National Trust Australia (Queensland). He has (a) demonstrated history of working for the protection, conservation and celebration of Queensland’s environmental, built and cultural heritage which needs successful commercial models to sustain the core purpose of the organisation and (b) has served as a Board member of various industry and professional organisations, including Destination Gold Coast and continues as a Board member of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.
Jonathan is a resident of Beechmont so it is useful at this stage of Binna Burra’s revival that we have both the Board Chair and the CEO as ‘locals’ who can easily access the business locations.
Infrastructure technical support for managing the recovery.
The task of dealing with and coordinating recovery efforts is complex and often very challenging work. This includes Binna Burra’s relationships with external agencies such as the Department of Main Roads and Transport and their contractors on the single access road and various government agencies responsible for site planning and our contracts with the government as well as our own internal recovery and reconstruction activities with, as examples, the contractors to repair the damaged Sky Lodges, the contractors for demolition works, contractors involved with water, sewerage, power, roads, parking, tree clearance, buildings and so on.
As a consultant to Binna Burra, Tim Medhurst has bought his substantial skills to providing a range of services required for our site planning and infrastructure project management services for the overall Binna Burra site. The restricted times that the various sub-contractors working at Binna Burra can gain access due to the ongoing roadworks is one example where delays can be caused – as we have seen with the extended time it has taken to get the demolition works completed. Our ability to coordinate all the planning and infrastructure work would not have been possible in the period since the bushfire without the highly valued professional services continuing to be provided by Tim.
While our recovery from the 2019 bushfires continues, like every other business, we also have to manage the impacts of the current COVID pandemic. Importantly, the spirit of Binna Burra remains strong. As you noted in the 2020 roadmap to recovery, we are using the remaining infrastructure to get going again.
Let me refer back to the comments I made before for the Annual General Meeting in November last year
“The Gondwana Rainforest of Australia has been around for hundreds of millions of years. Binna Burra has a special place inside that World Heritage Listed Natural Environment. Compared to Gondwana times, at the time of the bushfires last year, we have been around for a microscopic 86 years. Binna Burra will be around for the next 86 years and more!
So, I continue to think that we are halfway through a 172-year journey for Binna Burra. What we all do in this recovery and reconstruction phase of Binna Burra will be as important to future generations as was the vision of Romeo Lahey and Arthur Groom and their colleagues back in the early 1930s.”
Come September this year – one year since the bushfires - we all look forward the opportunity to welcome old and new generations of visitors to our Binna Burra side of the Lamington National Park.
Chair, Binna Burra Lodge Ltd, Lamington National Park, Queensland, Australia
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Limited Edition – BINNA BURRA BEGINS.
Order your copy now. $99 plus postage. Details below.
‘This compilation is in effect an overview of history leading to the establishing and developing of Binna- Burra Lodge to the beginning of World War II through the medium of printed matter, particularly newspaper items.’ Don Marshall
How you can help in our recovery, rehabilitation, and presentation of archives as well as documenting and presenting the 2019 bushfire impacts.
Retired Journalist and Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (QNPWS) Senior Information Officer, Don Marshall, has had a lifetime of interest in the natural history in Queensland and its protection. As a long-standing shareholder of Binna Burra Lodge, he also has a keen interest in the early history of the formation of the Lamington National Park and Binna Burra Lodge.
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