Retreat loses its rainforest

FOR Warren O'Leary, the damage to his business is akin to having "a lakeside resort, and someone pulled a plug on the lake".

He and his wife Jeanie own a Byfield-based business with cabins and other facilities set over 105 acres of mixed vegetation, called Rainforest Retreat.

But "rainforest" might be a generous way to describe the region now, with the lush vegetation shredded by Cyclone Marcia.

Jeanie remembers the exact minute the cyclone hit - it was 8.36am when she first heard "the roaring

sound".

"For five hours we copped it," she said.

"It took 10 years to build this place up and only hours to destroy it."

Warren said their business depended on tourism, and the cyclone damage to the natural landscape had cost people their livelihoods and their income.

"We just don't have a rainforest, that's what sold the place," he said.

"The natural beauty is gone.

"I just don't know how we're going to recover… the loss of property values in this place is going to be astronomical."

Luckily, damage to the cabins was minimal; however it took days for them to clear paths to them through the fallen trees.

"The loss of vegetation is what hurts the most. It's so unique, it will take a long time to replace," Jeanie said.

"It will never be the same."

Warren said they'll be open again this weekend, and he's hoping people will come out to see what they can still offer.

Pollie look

SENATOR Matt Canavan and Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry met with business owners and primary producers during a helicopter tour of Byfield, Stanage Bay, Ogmore and Marlborough on Tuesday.

In Byfield they discussed funding arrangements in place for those affected by the cyclone.

Ms Landry urged people to get behind local businesses and support them through this tough period.

"These people have lost their livelihoods... it's gut wrenching to see," Ms Landry said.

"As a community we need to help support them... we need visitors in this area. We're open for business.

"As a government, I'm hoping to have some good news about the Category C in the forthcoming days."

Mr Canavan said it was important they calibrated the assistance provided to the impact on the ground.

"What happened here is, in my mind, equivalent to any natural disaster that's occurred in Australia in the last couple of decades, and therefore the support we provide should be commensurate with what governments do after those types of natural disasters."

For more information on available funding, visit http://www.disasterassist.gov.au or http://www.disaster.qld.gov.au



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