Community support flows in


Bernie Worthington before the fires damaged his vineyard.
The aftermath of the fire.
Community support flows in
Community support flows in
Bernie Worthington before the fires damaged his vineyard. The aftermath of the fire.

On March 18 last year, he lost an entire crop due to smoke taint from fires that swept through the region.

This year, the 80ha Waroona fire finished the job, when it swept through and destroyed the vineyard.

There has been an immeasurable outpouring of support for Drakesbrook Fine Wines from the community since then.

The Colts from Peel Thunder Football Club joined a team of 85 people on site on January 23 to help with cleaning up damaged dripper lines.

“It was a massive job and it would have taken me a year to fix,” Mr Worthington said.

In a further show of support, Kent Street Deli, in association with the Rockingham Kwinana Chamber of Commerce, is hosting a dinner on February 26, with all proceeds going to Drakesbrook.

The winemaker is as indomitable as his vines, some of which are already sprouting new growth.

But Mr Worthington said he expects to shed a few tears on the night of the dinner.

“To be honest, we’ve been blown away by the support from all quarters,” he said.

“I’ve been trying to push the whole shop local, buy local idea, so it’s lovely of them to do this.

“Local businesses really need to appreciate other local businesses. A lot of businesses just want the cheapest option, but that’s not always the best option.”

Mr Worthington expects the damage bill to creep into the seven-figure mark.

“Sixteen years worth of work has gone into that vineyard,” he said. “How do you put a figure on that?

“But we weren’t hurt, which is the main thing.”

The winemaker still has a few years worth of wine stock in storage, but the survival of the few remaining living vines will depend on the weather.

“We have no dripper lines, so no way of watering the vines,” he said.

“If the summer is kind to us, most of them may survive.”

Mr Worthington is concerned that the Lord Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund will not be supporting farmers.

“While a lot of people were affected in Yarloop, there are a lot of farms, vineyards, small businesses, pubs, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that were affected,” he said.

“If they aren’t supported, it’s an absolute travesty. I’ve heard people will want their donations back if that’s the case.”

The WA wine community has also been supportive of Drakesbrook.

People have been offering wire, cuttings and other “substantial” support.

“They’re our competitors, not our competition,” he said.