A story from Tumbarumba in NSW, reflecting life in October 2020
Tumbarumba, at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, is one of Australia’s premium cold climate wine regions.
Cathy and Brian Gairn established Courabyra Wines in 1992. Over the past 28 years, they have produced world-class premium quality wines.
“We had about 15 per cent of the vineyard burnt and about 40 per cent has had severe heat damage and 100 per cent was written off to smoke,” explained Cathy. “We lost our solar panel system and fences and farmland. We’ve had some damage to the chairs at our cellar door and we’ve had to replace them. Just minor damage really but enough to be an inconvenience that’s for sure.”
The Gairns are better off than most – their sparkling wine is in storage in Melbourne so they have enough stock to continue trading, they also have good supplies of white wine on hand but their red wines took a hit and they will be out of stock soon.
“We have heat damage so it’s going to be a much smaller crop than we are used to and by the time we pick it we won’t bottle it and have it made until 2023, so we have a big gap,” said Cathy. “We’ll probably get through Christmas with our stock and then we’ve got nothing until probably February 2023.”
The Gairns have been able to access government grants to help them get back on their feet with the help of the Recovery Support Officer, Susan Jackson.
Recovery Support Officers (RSOs) from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency help support the recovery of bushfire-affected communities. RSOs work with local and state government counterparts to ensure a coordinated approach to locally led recovery.
“We have been fortunate. It has been fantastic. With a primary producers grant, I went in to see Susan and she was absolutely wonderful, she made it so easy. I just had to get some information from the accountant and fill it out and that was virtually on the spot.”
The Gairns have spent their primary producers grant replacing their damaged fencing and they were able to buy a new generator that can pump water to the vineyards but also back up the supply to their cellar door restaurant.
Cathy also received a $10,000 small business grant. This grant has helped with advertising, a website upgrade and promotion costs. “We didn’t find it stressful at all, you just need to find the time to sit down and do it. They don’t take very long. Once I submitted the paperwork the money came through very quickly – in about 10 days I think so very quickly,” she said.
Ten months on and business is booming.
“We are bigger and better than before. After the fires we found that we were inundated - hundreds of people turned up to see if they could help, if we were OK, to support us. Everyone would say thank god you are ok. It was very humbling to have people do that. People have been amazing,” Cathy said.