Coffee farm waiting on one thing after cyclone devastation

17th June 2017 1:25 PM
Owner of Whitsunday Gold Coffee, Nikki Phillips, is playing a waiting game with insurance companies in the wake of Cyclone Debbie. Owner of Whitsunday Gold Coffee, Nikki Phillips, is playing a waiting game with insurance companies in the wake of Cyclone Debbie. Peter Carruthers

IT'S AN iconic part of the Whitsunday hinterland but Cyclone Debbie did not discriminate when she touched down in March.

Like so many other buildings in Proserpine the Whitsunday Gold Coffee Plantation did not stand up well to the force of the 260km/h winds.

The manager's residence was levelled and water damage to the roasting and coffee shop buildings meant a big clean up.

Significant damage to the actual coffee plants meant a harvest was out of the question this year and the yield of the attached cane fields is expected to be down 30%.

Owner of the business Nikki Phillips explained she was "treading water" right now and was at the mercy of the insurance companies.

She wouldn't speculate on when the popular tourist attraction would be back open for business.

The coffee farm was the dream of Nikki's late husband, Peter, whose businesses in the Whitsundays operated under the name Trader Pete.

Trader Pete also operated a newsagency and souvenir outlet, the Resort Store, the Swimwear Shop and all of the lobby shops on Hamilton Island, which Nikki took over when Peter died in 2010.

Nikki said Whitsunday Gold Coffee gave the town of Proserpine a little bit of character and she was sad to return after the cyclone to witness the devastation.

Nikki said her house and her businesses on Hamilton Island had been affected by the cyclone also.

"Who knows what happens at this stage. At the moment it's just waiting for insurance," she said.

"We are actively not allowing the property to become derelict."

Before the cyclone, visiting cruise ships would visit the coffee plantation and the Proserpine Historical Society's Museum on a weekly basis.

And while the museum has reopened, no cruise ship visitors have visited Proserpine since the cyclone.

Nikki said it was unknown if the former managers Ali and Graham Simpson would return and all the casual staff have been laid off.

The business interests on Hamilton Island have always been more lucrative than Whitsunday Gold Coffee and although one has not been prioritised over the other, Nikki said is was in her best interests to secure the income of the Hamilton Island businesses.