Winery destroyed by Victoria bushfire

04 March, 2019 by Andy Young

Andrew Clarke, owner of Jinks Creek Winery and winemaker of 30 years, was watching television coverage of the bushfires in Bunyip State Park and saw his home destroyed.

The bushfire has burnt through more than 12,500 hectares of land, with Clarke telling media outlets that his life’s work has been destroyed.

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“I don’t want to see the devastation, but I am going to have to face up to it, we lost our entire – it is my life’s work and we have lost our cellar door which we built over many years,” Clarke told Channel Nine’s Today program.

“I suppose everyone can imagine seeing your house go up in flames, I mean with all your clothes in it – you don’t realise what possessions you have got until they are gone. It’s all gone.”

Clarke received a winemaking scholarship from the Victorian Wine Industry Association in 1979 and was the first winemaker to plant a vineyard in West Gippsland.

He told The Age: “I planted that winery myself and put the first vines in back in 1979.

“We’ve got a 130 million gallon dam and the water bombers were pulling water out of that, but we still lost everything. We’ve lost our livelihood.

“I saw our wine cellar door, restaurant and the house next to our Airbnb cottage explode on TV. That’s how we found out.

“We’ve lost everything.”

Speaking on Channel Seven’s Sunrise, Clarke pleaded with authorities to get some crews to try and salvage some part of his property, he was also critical about a lack of back burning operations.

“I’d like to ask if we could please get someone to go up to our last remaining house and try to do something.

“Get some crews up there or something so we’ve got somewhere to live. We’ve lost everything.”

He added: “We’ve been left in the hands of these incompetent people, that’s why we’ve lost everything.

“This fire would never have been as ferocious if the government had stuck to the rules of the Royal Commission [into Black Saturday] and done all the burning off that they should’ve done.

“They don’t do any burning off. I’ve been on their backs since the early 2000s to burn off out the back of my place, they keep saying they’re going to do it.

“The ferocity of that fire wouldn’t have been as much if they had been doing what they are meant to do.”

Clarke also said that he had just bought equipment to brew beer, but fears that will have been destroyed and with his insurance unlikely to cover that investment he said “my livelihood is in tatters.”

He added: “I don’t have any way of earning any money, I don’t know what to do, I have to support my family, so I’m stuffed pretty much.”