10 May 2023

Valentine's Day bliss for bulldozer operator

| Matt Nicholls
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BRIONY Kopp might be the only bulldozer operator/florist in Australia.

The founder and owner of Weipa Wildflowers says she loves her balanced lifestyle, although admits that the days leading into Valentine’s Day are a bit longer.

“It’s definitely the busiest time of the year with all the fresh flowers arriving,” she told Cape York Weekly.

“Like any business up here we have freight issues.”

In the dry season, Briony’s flowers come to Weipa via truck in refrigerated storage.

But when the roads are closed, it means her freight comes via Qantas, which means significant additional costs.

“It gets here quickly but you are relying on Qantas and the cost of air freight is three to five times the price,” she said.

“We make it work, though.”

Briony said she had been in the floristry industry for more than a decade, having started as a junior in a florist shop.

“I think that’s how most people get into the industry. I’ve been a qualified florist since 2016,” she said.

After moving to Weipa in 2020, Briony doubted if she would continue in the flower industry.

“I thought it would only be mining but floristry is my passion. I love anything with flowers,” the Aurukun Earthmoving bulldozer operator said.

The Western Cape has been a big winner as a result.

Getting flowers had been a challenge in Weipa and special occasions often went without.

“I think that’s one of the most pleasing parts of the business; making floristry accessible,” Briony said.

“Over time I’ve also worked out what flowers do best in the warmer climate so we do a lot of natives and dried flowers. I want to sell a product that will last.”

Most of the fresh flowers come from Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands, while the dried flowers are sourced from further south.

Briony said Weipa Wildflowers had been able to supply decorations at a number of key local events, including several Cape York weddings.

“It’s a real thrill when you can provide a service that people didn’t think was possible,” she said.

“I still think the best part is when you deliver flowers to someone who isn’t expecting them.

“Seeing someone’s face light up gives me a big thrill.”

This year’s Valentine’s Day will likely result in a sell-out.

“This year I’ve been very impressed with the number of blokes in Weipa who are getting in early with their orders,” she said with a laugh.

“They’ve had a couple of years of practice now.”

It can be a risky business.

To make sure she has enough stock, Briony has to order her flowers in December.

This year, she has not only taken personalised orders, but has diversified to making flowers available to buy at the Weipa Servicentre.

On the weekend, they were snapped up quickly.

She said the Rio Tinto Let’s Keep It Local voucher scheme had been a big help to the business.

“It’s been amazing. People get a voucher at Christmas and spend it locally in the community and that helps every business in town,” she said.

“I’ve had quite a few orders from people with vouchers.”

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