Fruit burns but brothers are unbroken

Fire ravages pineapple plantation near Yeppoon in Queensland

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Ryan Brooks and his brother Jake are pushing forward with their harvesting plans despite fire ravaging their Bungundarra farm. Picture: ABC

Ryan Brooks and his brother Jake are pushing forward with their harvesting plans despite fire ravaging their Bungundarra farm. Picture: ABC

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The Brooks brothers Ryan and Jake refuse to bow to natural forces despite fire causing havoc at the Bungundarra farm near Yeppoon.

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A LIFE on the land has taught the Brooks siblings Ryan and Jake a lot about resilience, if nothing else.

This week they are harvesting what they can from the Brooks and Sons pineapple plantation at Bungundarra, not far from Yeppoon and even closer to natural disasters.

For all intents and purposes it appeared to be a crop of quantity and quality, having been planted in the aftermath of the devastation foisted upon Bungundarra by Cyclone Marcia three years ago.

But then came the inferno of last week in which some buildings on the farm were razed, machinery, including tractors and harvesters, burned beyond repair and tonnes of fruit charred or worse.

One of the tractors destroyed in the blaze.

One of the tractors destroyed in the blaze.

"There was nothing I could do but watch it burn," Ryan Brooks, a fourth generation grower, said.

"We'd never been through anything like it before.

"My grandfather bought this property in the 1950s and dad has been here his whole life and I grew up here. This is devastating.

"There have been cyclones but this was 10 times worse than anything else. All been a bit of a blur, really.

"It's the only thing people want to talk to me about and I understand that. Fortunately, we have crop still to pick and that's keeping us quite busy right at the moment."

Fire has destroyed more than 100,000 pineapples at the Brooks and Sons farm at Bungundarra, near Yeppoon.

Fire has destroyed more than 100,000 pineapples at the Brooks and Sons farm at Bungundarra, near Yeppoon.

Mr Brooks said the firestorm was as unexpected as it was ferocious.

"We were well aware of the fire but there was no threat whatsoever to us before the wind changed," he recounted. "Then it just happened.

"The fire took care of more than four hectares of pineapples. We believe some of the fruit might only be affected by the heat and they could come back but about 100,000 standing plants were destroyed.

"As well, we lost planting material as well as the utes, seven tractors, slashers - you name it. I don't know what the cost will be but machinery in the shed would have been worth $500,000 for starters.

"Luckily we have another farm to keep things ticking over and we will just get on with business."

A solemn outlook.

A solemn outlook.

A spokesman for the Yeppoon-based Tropical Pineapples, which markets the Bungundarra produce along with crops from other local farms, said the firestorm was "another kick in the guts" for growers already dealing with prolonged drought.

"These fires were just a catastrophic start to the season," acting CEO Joe Craggs said.

"It's been a long, dry year and a very tough time since Marcia when that cyclone wiped out almost everything. This crop was planted soon after and now it's been destroyed so we feel for the growers."

The state government will provide concessional loans up to $250,000.

The state government will provide concessional loans up to $250,000.

Queensland Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Craig Crawford said concessional loans up to $250,000 would be made available to repair or replace fire damaged buildings, plant and equipment or livestock as well as freight subsidies.

Call 1800 173 349 or visit qld.gov.au/community/disasters-emergencies for Personal Hardship Assistance or call 13 25 23 or visit qrida.qld.gov.au for Disaster Assistance (Primary Producers) Loans, Disaster Assistance (Essential Working Capital) Loans and freight subsidies.

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