Current Issue #488

Bushfire-affected South Australian businesses tell us how to help

Sia Duff
Fire-damaged vines near Lobethal

It’s easy to feel helpless as we watch bushfires wreak havoc across Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills. But there are many simple and direct ways to help affected businesses along the road to recovery.

Feelings of despair are a natural response when we see communities hurting, and there’s been no shortage of pain and destruction in the Hills and KI communities this summer. But even as the regions’ tourism, wine and food industries have been dealt a punishing blow, there are a number of practical ways to help those dealing with the aftermath.

There has never been a better time to stock up on a bottle or a case of world-class wines from these areas, and online sales are an easy way to show support without getting in the way of clean-up action.

At the same time, visitation is vital: operators from both regions are urging people not to cancel bookings or change plans to visit. The message is clear: staying away will have dire economic effects for these wounded communities. 

The Adelaide Review spoke to a handful of business owners who were severely affected by the fires, but are determined to rebuild and are looking to the future.

Golding Wines

Lucy and Darren Golding’s Western Branch vineyard at Lobethal was badly damaged but their cellar door and gardens have survived.

“[Some of] the first headlines were ‘Golding Wines up in flames’ and as much as I am reassuring people, I’m still getting  messages enquiring if we are open,” Lucy Golding says. “The broad-brush media message was very doomsday for us so we want people to know we are still here. Our vines are gone but the public part of our business is open.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of support we have had from visitors and people have been spending money buying wine, talking with their wallet, not just tasting and tyre-kicking, and we are very grateful for this.”

“We are keeping our hands on the wheel and moving forwards. It’s not going to stop us, the ‘for sale’ signs aren’t going up,” says Darren. “We will overcome this and push hard, invest more in our business and learn from this experience.”

Tilbrook Estate Wines

Owners James and Annabelle Tilbrook lost their Lobethal winery, wine stock, 90 per cent of the vineyard, farm and sheds.

“We have immediately lost our livelihoods: we have no wine to sell, other than a few cases of museum stock,” James Tilbrook says. Depending on what the next few months hold, we have lost all of our 2020 crop, most of our 2021 crop, and will only have a crop again in 2022. 

“How to help wine producers like us with damaged/destroyed vineyard and winery and no stock? Please contribute to the Gofundme campaigns and fundraising events that have us as a beneficiary. Please buy wine from us when it becomes available. To do this, you need to follow the winery on social media and sign up to the newsletter. Stay in touch and see our progress.

“We are hoping to be able to buy in wine, blend it up, then bottle it, so we can have some wine to sell. We also have a partly constructed new cellar door. When it’s finished people can help by visiting for lunch, or booking a function there.”

Drone photography reveals how close fires came to Golding Wines' main building
Golding Wines
Drone photography reveals how close fires came to Golding Wines’ main building

Vinteloper Wines

David Bowley lost his entire 30-hectare property at Cuddlee Creek including vines, building and property infrastructure and a farmhouse.  

“The obvious thing people can do is jump on our website and order our wine,” Bowley says. “Some wines are sold out which is amazing. If people want to get just one or two bottles that is totally cool with us, we’re absolutely geared up for whatever they want.”

“To make sure everyone feels the power of what happens, we have collected burnt remains, irrigation, vineyard tags, timber and we put a little piece in each box we deliver.

“The point is to give people an emotional connection to what we went through and it comes with a note that this is a little piece of the past as we rebuild the future.

“Other ways people can show support – by coming to our venue at Lot 100 (Nairne), tasting our wines, having something to eat and drink and generally coming back to the Hills to see us.

“We also have a lot of stuff that needs fixing, repairing, cleaning up in the next six months – if I have to pay contractors it will send us to the wall! So in the next six months we’ll put aside a day or two a week, put out a call for volunteers, put on a barbecue lunch and some wine to say thanks for any help offered.”

Barristers Block Wines

Owner Jan Siemelink-Allen lost 100 per cent of her Woodside vineyards in the Cudlee Creek fire.

“Our whole vineyard has gone,” Siemelin-Allen says. “We didn’t lose our cellar door, the fire got to within 20 metres of it. I was there to the very end, it was pretty hairy. 

“For most of us up here, it will be a three- or four-year rebuilding program. We are really positive and focused. We have too much to lose not to make it work again.

“We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support.  We are in full swing, our staff haven’t stopped, and the best way to help is by ordering our wine online or via Facebook or coming to our cellar door.

“We have well over a million dollars of damage and we won’t get anywhere near the insurance money to cover what we need to rebuild. I am not asking for charity – if we sell our wine, we can get through this and we want the whole region to get back on track .

“I’m also hurting for a close friend of mine who has a Hills business unaffected by the fire, but getting cancellation after cancellation. They just happen to be [located] in the middle of the Hills. We all need a critical mass up here. I’m hurting, we all are, but together we can do it as a community.”

Sia Duff

The Island Estate Vineyards

The Islander Estate is operated by French ‘flying winemaker’ Jacques Lurton and Yale Norris. Their cellar door and winery were spared but their Bark Hut Road property suffered a catastrophic loss.

“The fire decimated our farm, house, sheds, infrastructure such as equipment, nets, our office, wine lab, irrigation… all the things you need to run a winery,” Norris says.

“The winery was spared and we have stock to sell and staff to look after. As business owners, we have to make sure our people stay employed, that is more important than anything.

“The vineyard was cooked and it will take a huge replacement of vines, it will take us years, so if people support us now, we will be able to keep our employees [on].

“We’d love people to come visit our cellar door but we [are] also online and are happy to ship a dozen or a single bottle of wine.

“People are opening their wallets which is wonderful – as a business and a community we can rebuild, we are resilient, help us be resilient, don’t forget about us.

KI Online

Jane and Justin Harman’s Central Market stall is a smart destination if you want to support KI but can’t get to the island, with a wide range sourced directly from the island’s producers. 

“The team is also working to assess what’s available after the fires and creating recovery packs containing items from producers who need support. The situation will keep changing but the recovery packs may feature products from KI Source,  one of the premier catering companies on the island, which has had most of their catering jobs cancelled for the next few months. Producing these products is their only cash flow for now. At least one of their employees has lost everything.

“KI Oats narrowly escaped but their neighbouring farms who supply them were decimated.”

Proudly Kangaroo Island stall at Adelaide Central Market
Sia Duff
Proudly Kangaroo Island stall at Adelaide Central Market

Spider Bill Wines

Tarrant Hansen lives in the Hills and makes small batch wine from premium parcels of Adelaide Hills fruit sourced from growers. He makes wines in an offsite facility that was unaffected, but wants people to remember the growers and understand the impact of their losses on the whole industry.

“I make wine elsewhere so I am fine and wasn’t affected as much as others. I have lost a lot of fruit through from growers I have good relationships with whose vineyards have burnt down,” Hansen explains. “Some of them can’t continue and will demolish their blocks or sell up and leave. Everyone forgets the growers, [people] know wine brands and wineries but don’t know anything about the growers. I’m sure a lot of people aren’t even aware just how many small brands rely on these people for fruit year in year out.”

Woodside Providore

A visit to Tremaine Kerber’s Woodside café supports the many local producers featured on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

“We lost trade the week before Christmas, usually one of our busiest times of the year, which put the pressure on us,” Kerber says. “It was overall just a devastating time.

“We’re a small café, sourcing as much local food as possible so the money that people spend here means I can buy more from the local butcher, who gets his meat from a local farmer who has probably been burnt out.”

The Cudlee Cafe

This community hub narrowly avoided the Cudlee Creek fires. Garden designer and mother of five Babette Wilkinson has a plea: don’t abandon the Hills.

“We have been slammed on the last couple of weekends which is fantastic but, still, a lot of people are saying ‘we are not coming back into the area yet because of road closures’. People are not thinking about other routes in, there are ways around it.

“Other people seem a little scared about being confronted by it. I guess you can’t blame people for feeling confronted but we are, in fact, a little green oasis in the midst of the fire-ravaged area. The majority of people who live around here are telling me they need money for fencing and fodder – it is a huge need. Guys who work full time in the city have come up offering their time which has been great.  I have been a bit of a drop off spot for cash donations [to help with] fodder and fencing.

“We love what we do here and we use so much local produce, all our fruit and veg are grown by an old couple in Cudlee Creek. All the young people who work here live locally, too.”

Kylie Fleming

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