Bilpin Fruit Bowl estimates $3 million damage bill from bushfires

LIKE many Bilpin businesses and residents that were affected by bushfires this summer, the iconic Bilpin Fruit Bowl has a hefty damage bill that it will struggle to pay.

Margaret Tadrosse, who has owned the company with her husband Simon for 35 years, said they lost 6,000 fruit trees, as well as trellising, hail netting and other infrastructure in the fires which struck the district on the weekend before Christmas.

She estimated the damage totalled $3 million.

When asked what are her options, Mrs Tadrosse said: "At the moment, nothing."

"You've never been able to insure fruit trees. And because I didn't specifically insure the hail netting for fire, it's not covered [by insurance]," Mrs Tadrosse said.

"In 35 years we've never had a fire through here. The hail netting was my insurance for the crop, because living in Bilpin we get a lot of hail storms."

She is calling for more assistance from the government, to help get her business back onto its feet.

"We lost the trellising on all the apple trees and the irrigation, all the fencing around our property, pumps, signs, power boxes; some of it is insured but only minimally," she said.

"It's very close to $3 million out of pocket. We've been lobbying the government for grants for assistance to replace the hail netting and the trees, to help us out.

"There's a lot of farms, apple orchards, who lost trees, including Batlow, it's going to affect the industry big time."

Mrs Tadrosse said they lost around 40 per cent of their orchard. Even if they could afford to replace those trees, it would take years until they could make profit from them again, she said.

"We buy from nurseries in Melbourne and there's usually a two-year wait on the trees," she said.

"But now, since so many orchards have been damaged there's a three-year wait on the trees. Then you need to wait four years until they bear fruit.

"We're looking at seven years without an income [from those trees]."

The team have had to dial-back the number of days they open to the public for their 'pick your own fruit' offering.

"[The fires have] impacted our livelihood," Mrs Tadrosse said.

"In 35 years we've never had a disaster that's as bad as this. It takes a lot of years to get that infrastructure built up. We don't have $3 million in our bank account to replace it all."

Mrs Tadrosse is appealing for locals to spend some time, and some money, in Bilpin to help ease the loss.

"Just come back, spend [some money] in Bilpin, support the community. Even though we're local, just make that short drive up to Bilpin and support the district," she said.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman is calling for more direct financial support for struggling Hawkesbury businesses in the wake of the fires.

Hawkesbury City Council received $1 million from the National Bushfire Recovery Fund and $250,000 through the Bushfire Community Resilience and Economic Recovery Fund, however Ms Templeman said it would not help businesses who needed grant assistance to help sustain them through these tough times.

"Most need financial assistance to pay the bills and keep their staff," she said.

Susan Templeman MP and Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, meet with Margaret Tadrosse and other Bilpin locals about telecommunications woes caused by the bushfires. Ms Templeman is calling for more government assistance for business owners who were affected by the fires. Picture: Supplied

Susan Templeman MP and Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, meet with Margaret Tadrosse and other Bilpin locals about telecommunications woes caused by the bushfires. Ms Templeman is calling for more government assistance for business owners who were affected by the fires. Picture: Supplied

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