Hayden Winter and Jade Tighe with son Leo, 2, and daughter Evie, 5 months. Picture: Lachie Millard
Hayden Winter and Jade Tighe with son Leo, 2, and daughter Evie, 5 months. Picture: Lachie Millard

How a community in crisis beat the man

THE hinterland town that would have been submerged by the proposed Traveston Dam is now floating on sunshine.

Kandanga, ground zero in the epic battle between community and government, is bubbling with energy.

But not long ago, this was a community in crisis.

To make way for the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam, the then Beattie Government bought more than 500 local properties, comprising 656 individual lots, for $520 million.

Viable farms that had been in the same family for generations ceased operation and businesses that relied on them were decimated. Kandanga, as well as other local centres such as Imbil, Kenilworth and Gympie were badly affected.

Then the project was rejected by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett in 2009 after a community backlash and series of environmental studies.

Almost 10 years on we take a look at how Kandanga has recovered.

HOPE FLOATS

Kandanga, named after the Aboriginal word meaning "bend in the creek'', has turned the corner after some challenging years.

It faces a bright future backed by an influx of new residents and businesses, including the Kandanga Country Kitchen, owned by Bec Edmonds and Trent Kirkwood.

They left Brisbane where Ms Edmonds worked in government and Mr Kirkwood in car sales, to pursue their hospitality dream, creating a paddock-to-the-plate cafe that epitomises community values.

 

Kandanga Farm and Farm Store Worker Genevieve Kane and Kandanga Kitchen Owner Bec Edmonds sit in the spot where the failed Traveston Crossing Dam would have run through Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard
Kandanga Farm and Farm Store Worker Genevieve Kane and Kandanga Kitchen Owner Bec Edmonds sit in the spot where the failed Traveston Crossing Dam would have run through Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Ms Edmonds said the cafe put community first and championed local organic produce.

Also enjoying a new start in the area is former Brisbane couple Jade Tighe and Hayden Winter who pounced on a 12ha farm for $350,000. It had been bought by the State Government for almost $1m in the dam buy-up.

Hayden Winter and Jade Tighe with son Leo, 2, and daughter Evie, 5 months. Picture: Lachie Millard
Hayden Winter and Jade Tighe with son Leo, 2, and daughter Evie, 5 months. Picture: Lachie Millard

Mr Winter, a former caravan and motorhome sales manager, said it was a great place to raise their young family, comprising five-month-old Evie, and Leo who is about to turn three.

"It was definitely the value that brought us here. It was an excellent opportunity. We have done up the house and are slowly improving the property. We have cattle, pigs and grow garlic,'' he said.

An aerial View of Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard
An aerial View of Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard

Mary Valley Chamber of Commerce president Janelle Parker said the valley was seeing "huge change'' and growth would be strong over the next few years.

She said advantages included affordable properties, a great climate, proximity to Brisbane (90-minutes' drive away) and a wonderful sense of community.

The Mary Valley near Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard
The Mary Valley near Kandanga. Picture: Lachie Millard

"People come here for different reasons. Some have had enough of the intensity of city living and others want room to move or to set up microbusinesses.

"The feeling of community is strong, and you can become involved as much, or as little, as you like.

"There are also great camping spots nearby and you can walk, kayak and enjoy nature. It's paradise here.''