A Tasmanian family that made headlines for refusing to pay income tax on the grounds it went “against God’s will” has announced it will be closing its honey store in the state’s north by the end of the month.
- The devout Christian missionaries operate the Melita Honey Farm at Chudleigh
- They were ordered to pay more than $2 million to the ATO in 2019, after failing to lodge tax returns
- Locals say the community will miss out on international tourism if the honey farm closes
Fanny, Lida and Remmo Beerepoot were ordered by the Hobart Supreme Court to pay more than $2 million to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in July 2019, after being served with two notices of their debt and failing to lodge tax returns.
The devout Christian missionaries operate the Melita Honey Farm at Chudleigh — about an hour’s drive west of Launceston — and will be closing their business on June 30.
In a statement on the business’s website the family said the closure was not related to COVID-19 nor the various legal challenges the family had faced over the past few years.
“The only reason why we are closing is because the authorities (which include the government, the judiciary and the [ATO]) walk in open defiance to the Almighty God, and they have made demands upon us which will require us to do the same,” the statement read.
“Both the ATO and the Supreme Court declare that the law of man, or legislated law, is of higher authority to the law of God.
“We understand that this news may come as a surprise to you, and it is a decision that we have long struggled with … it certainly hasn’t been an easy one — as Melita Honey Farm has been such a major part of our lives for these last 20 years.”
In 2017, the Beerepoots failed to pay more than $9,000 worth of council rates on three properties — one at Mole Creek and two at Chudleigh which make up the honey farm.
A Meander Valley Council report stated the family “steadfastly reaffirmed their belief that the land was not theirs, but that of the Heavenly Father, that the council would be taking the land from him and that was a matter between council and God”.
An anonymous source paid for the rates on the Chudleigh properties, but the Mole Creek property was seized by the council and sold for $120,000.
Locals ‘blown away’, ‘disappointed’ by the closure
The honey store is a tourist drawcard and typically brings in busloads of tourists to the area each year.
Kim Rye has owned Cafe Bozzey in Mole Creek for 11 years and said it was not uncommon for more than 1,000 people to go through the store in a day during peak tourism periods.
“The honey farm, Mole Creek caves and the Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary are the three mayor drawcards for this area, so now that we’re losing one of those it will be absolutely devastating,” she said.
“I’m blown away to hear they’re closing, they have the most amazing ice-cream. It’s truly the best in the world.
Chudleigh General store owner Mandy Wyer said she was also surprised to hear they were shutting down.
“It is disappointing. The business brought in a lot of international visitors to town,” she said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of impact it has.
“With coronavirus restrictions still in place business is down everywhere, so we’ll just have to wait.”
The Beerepoot family was contacted but declined to comment further.