For two generations, the Larkin family has owned and operated Mt Barney Lodge, an ecotourism retreat situated at the base of Mount Barney within the Scenic Rim on the Gold Coast, where nearby attractions include mountain ranges, beautiful rainforests, hidden waterfalls and hiking trails.
Despite its tourism drawcards, climate change has posed a continuous threat to the future of the lodge and the Larkins’ livelihood.
Climate impacts in the region range from bushfires to flooding. Many tourism businesses, including the Larkins’, have had to close on several occasions in the past five years due to extreme weather events.
In September 2019, unprecedented fire conditions swept through the Scenic Rim, sparking a fire in the mountain ranges. Lodge coowner Innes Larkin had never seen such intense fires before, nor experienced the level of concern shown by QPWS, RFS and Police.
As the fire raged on, thousands of hectares of World Heritage Listed forest was destroyed and large numbers of Queensland native wildlife, including koalas, were killed. The Larkins evacuated their guests, and Innes stayed behind to defend their property.
The resulting loss of tourism income to the area was huge, only to be compounded by post-bushfire flooding, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The family had released “Barney Bonds”, which are gift-card style IOUs that can be purchased now and redeemed later, so that people could come back after the fires. But just days before the lodge was due to reopen, the COVID-19 lockdown kicked in, which hampered the Barney Bonds initiative and caused severe stress about the future of the business.
JobKeeper has been a “lifesaver” for the Larkins, and the Lodge has welcomed record visitor numbers since the lockdown lifted in early June. Innes Larkin chalks this down to more people seeking out the healing influence of nature after a long period of isolation.
“It seems Queenslanders are embracing nature as an antidote to all the stress caused by COVID-19,” Larkin says.
The compounding disasters of the bushfires and COVID-19 have spurred the Larkin family to call for stronger climate action—they are lobbying their local council to declare a climate emergency, and starting conversations with guests about the importance of nature conservation.
The Larkin family has been resilient through multiple shocks, but are conscious that Queensland’s bushfire season is fast approaching again.
The family is anxiously watching for rain to keep the World Heritage forests’ moisture levels up. A reminder that even when COVID-19 passes, the need to urgently tackle climate change remains.
This case study originally appeared in the Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan. Read it here.
Read more about the ‘Black Summer’ here.