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Flood Stories, NSW Floods March 2021

There are many stories from the March, 2021 Floods, some say the biggest flood event in 100 years. On the preceding pages we talk to a few of those affected and some of the helpers.

Miss Nellie’s Cafe

The March 2021 Floods across Eastern NSW have been beyond extreme, Miss Nellie’s Cafe at Kendall has been greatly affected and have an unsure future.

Chrissy Jones spoke with owner Jenelle Nosworthy about the devastation caused to her business.

Can you give me a description of what happened?

We were cut off at home from the cafe due to flood waters morning of Friday 19/3 and friends sandbagged for us at 8am as the river was rising quickly, thinking we could prevent an inch or two from coming under the doors. We weren’t too concerned at first.

Within a few hours the river had broken its banks and we were sent photos of the water approximately 1m deep - up to the window sills, by 8pm it was over 2m and above the front door. We knew then we would lose a lot of equipment but could not imagine the devastation that ensued. We had no time to prepare and get things out so we have pretty much lost everything!

We received photos the next morning, Sat 20/3 at 8am (24 hours after sandbagging) and the cafe had been decimated - side verandah and garage ripped off, sidewall ripped out and front windows and doors smashed in with the deluge creating devastating havoc inside. When we finally got in to see for ourselves that afternoon, the water had subsided to ankle depth and we could not have imagined the devastation.

Locals quickly came to our aid with scaffolding, roof supports and anything else they could do to secure the building.

We have lost all our contents, equipment, food, utensils, furniture, keepsakes and grandma’s handwritten recipes, most of which travelled downstream or were strewn around the backyard in trees and stuck in fences, under mud and debris.

After trading all through COVID and thriving since lockdowns eased, we bought the cafe property off our landlord after saving hard and renting it for 8 years... now almost everything is gone.

My heart breaks the most when I see the devastation in the faces of my youngest staff, my friends and then when I read the messages of support from so many of our customers, from near and far as well as complete strangers.

We want to rebuild. The community needs us to rebuild. They will help us rebuild.

Emotions are circling. I am able to process it now that I have seen it for myself but keep flashing back to how beautifully maintained and welcoming our 100 year old building was only a few short weeks ago.

I also feel defiant though and want to do this for the Community, our staff and customers as much as for ourselves. It won’t be easy and quick but we have lots of options for “temporary Miss Nellie’s” and so many offers from local trades to help us rebuild and repair.

The Community have come to know us as friends and many are like family. Miss Nellie’s has been a comforting and familiar sight when you drive into town and many of the local children have grown up with us, in the past 9 years with many of them eventually working for us!

At the other end of the scale, we are very popular amongst the older generation who regularly visit for scones, homemade cakes and light meals because our food evokes memories of their past, growing up as children in their Grandparent’s kitchens - it is a timeless tradition.

We also host many of the local Tennis members, Social Clubs, Seniors buses and over the years repeat visitors from interstate and overseas return year after year.

The building has now been secured and assessors have been but now just waiting to see if/what insurance will cover. There is a chance the building can’t be saved but still hoping we can restore it rather than a complete rebuild.

We are going through the process of cleaning up what we can so we can set up a mobile garden cafe approximately mid May, more exciting details shortly. The local tennis club has also set me up in their commercial kitchen so I can start baking ASAP.

The response to our GoFundMe page is truly humbling and regularly brings me to tears. I am so thankful for the support we have received and continue to receive.

My fondest childhood memories are of sitting on my grandparents kitchen bench baking lemon cheese tarts and Afghan Biscuits with my Grandma, Jean. She used to let me help but I think I was really just eating the raw cookie mix from the bowl - hence our Tagline “life is short, lick the bowl”



Family Home Lost To The Floods - Bianca and Rob Costigan, Pappinbarra

Very good friends of our Sales & Operations Manager Chrissy Jones, Bianca and Rob had their home of 3 years destroyed totally. They have lost most of their possessions, but thankfully having a good insurer they are looking ahead and will rebuild on their land at Pappinbarra, just a bit higher up the hill away from the river they told us smiling. Bianca, Rob and their two children, Dray and Ava are strong and have a close bond with their daily and friends that will help them through this challenge.

Family and friends rallied when the call went out for a working bee to clear the debris, Rob jumped on his dozer and went to work. Where their lovely home once stood now is a pile of metal and wood. They have salvaged what they could, solar panels amazingly still intact on the roof, windows and sliding doors will be reused in their new home. An architect has kindly offered their services free of charge when the young family are ready to start planning their new home, also a Basix expert has done the same, both very generous offers of assistance.

They have just purchased a caravan and as soon as power is restored to the property will move back and start the process to rebuild their lives.

Neighbour Yvette Buthmann was flooded in on the side where the home once stood. A long-term resident of the Pappinbarra Valley since 2002 she has experienced a number of floods, the largest prior to this was back i 2013 which was very high, but not as destructive as this one she told us.

“The banks of Pappinbarra River looks like a bomb has gone off and flattened everything in its wake.”

Yvette and husband Christian were trapped for 11 days from Thursday 18th March through to Sunday 28th with no power. They were able to salvage a generator from their neighbours property and had enough fuel to run it, after draining it of water and cleaning it up.

Neighbours, Bianca and Rob, lost their home. Yvette was first to see the devastation of their family home. She says that she will never forget it. The night before Bianca, who was locked out due to the rising flood waters, was getting worried. As we had lived here and experienced many floods, I assured on the phone her that it would be fine. I remember on the Friday afternoon when seeing how high it was on our property that the water had come up as high as their side steps when we went for a look.

Unable to walk to Bianca and Rob’s home until the Sunday as the water was too high over the road down to their place, she remembers seeing the roof of their home and thinking it was all good. But as she got closer she soon realised that the whole house had come off it’s piers and been pushed against 2 large pecan trees. The cottage, which was Bianca’s Dads house, had been also swept off it’s piers and spun 180 degrees and slammed into the power pole between the 2 houses. All she could do was say no. no .no and got very upset. Stunned to say the least Yvette started walking back to her home. She met her husband Christian coming down in the car and told him what had happened, he couldn’t believe it either. We were both in utter shock. Telling Bianca and Rob was one of the most heartbreaking things she has ever had to do.


From Tim Walker, Business and Community Development Manager for the Hastings Cooperative Ltd.

Port Macquarie and the surrounding hinterland districts were drastically affected from the March 2021 flood.

The Hastings Co-operative in situations like this are the go-to or the gel between businesses and community, and we try to help in many ways. We are like a web, connected to many organisations, both in the community and business sector. keeping everyone linked and working together however remaining a central point of contact.

Initially we have provided many pallets of free bottled water to the first responders, SES and the RFS and to the outlying areas and the community halls in our large LGA region. It was helicoptered into remote and cut off communities, Francis Retreat at Bonny Hills, Telegraph Point, Pappinbarra, Beechwood, and into the Camden Haven.

The Hastings Co-operative has also provided support to the Stabilcorp run relief campaign that they were doing in the Camden Haven, a massive clean-up of the area utilising their trucks and equipment.

We have also provided supplies to the residents of King Creek that were cut-off, along with Al’s Bakehouse who provided loads of fresh bread. The supplies, fresh bread, milk and more were taken to one side of the flooded bridge and then taken across by boat from the King Creek RFS to the waiting and appreciative community.

Al from Al’s Bakehouse was a great asset to collaborate with, he and his team spent hours baking fresh bread.

At Easter St. Joseph's school called me up wanting to help. Also, that night a resident of Telegraph Point contacted me asking if the Hastings Co-op could donate some easter eggs for their children. So, I talked with St. Joseph’s the next day and suggested we co-ordinate together in a cooperative and combined way. We ended up helping several schools and communities, Telegraph Point, Upper Rollands Plains, Rollands Plains, Beechwood, Long Flat, Wauchope and Comboyne to have an Easter Egg Hunt, we also gave them hot cross buns. It was a combined effort between the Co-operative and St Joseph’s school, where we both provided the money to buy the goods.

In coming days, weeks we will be reaching out to our rural suppliers for their best offers on fencing gear, seed, ag equipment and supplies. We also want to help our farmers who have lost so much in the flood with the best deals we can get for barbed wire, fence posts and the like.

I think this flood event has actually affected more people in the community than ever before. Our whole community has rallied, cooked meals, helped clean homes and debris, supplied new fridges, freezers, homewares and clothing to those in need. To see this has been an amazing thing. We are an incredibly strong community and together we will get through this.


From Jeff Rogers, IPN Valuers

Wauchope CBD was hit hard by the March 2021 Floods, especially the businesses located at the bottom end near the railway line. IPN Valuers had 100mm of stormwater through their office early on the Saturday morning. Whilst high rainfall was forecast, we didn't expect the sheer volume in such a short period of time, we received a SMS from emergency services, but we were away on holidays so there was nothing we could do. Our neighbouring shop was similarly impacted as was the funeral directors opposite us.

The clean-up has been a big job. We had great help from family and friends for a number of days after. Sandbagging, carpet and rubbish removal, damaged office furniture, 4 loads to the tip - on the bright side, it was a good way to clean-out 18 years of clutter!

Thanks must go to Mum and Dad (Chris and Sandra), Terry O'Hagan, John Smallie, Erica and Luke Parkes. They helped move furniture, files, office equipment, did sand bagging, trips to the dump, cleaning and stormwater removal. On a personal level our driveway got washed into the dam and the chooks were very damp, but other than that we were fine.


Lifeline’s Veronica Godfrey Was In The Field, Supporting People Through Tough Times

Veronica has been working for Lifeline as a member of the Crisis Support Team for the past four years and volunteering on the Lifeline Crisis Support Telephone line for the past 8 years. She grew up in the Hastings area and now is lucky enough to be raising two beautiful children, Zander and Zoe here with her wonderful husband Godfrey.

She has been visiting evacuation centres around the Mid North Coast since the flooding event, different recovery hubs and evacuation centers in our local government area from Port Macquarie through to Telegraph Point and everything in between.

The stories she heard are a mixture of inspiring and heroic tales and tales of devastation and heartbreak. The community support that wraps around people who are heartbroken is something that she has been totally inspired by.

Kate McFarlane from Resilience NSW, has been incredible in organising and meeting the needs of our community through the disaster hubs.

Some of the local heroes that Veronica personally encountered include the Port Macquarie Mud Army and Olivia Tape, Helping Hand, Fran Pearse, John Faithfull at Telepoint, Kingsley at North Shore, Dee Crisp in Dunbogan, Teresa Glen Holmes, Jerome from 40 Winks, Alistair Flower, Jess and Andy from Round and Round, Tunny, and the manager from the Golf Club. She says there are too many to mention and so many more out there, just doing amazing things for people flood affected by the community.

In terms of support, Lifeline would encourage anyone who needs it to call 13 1 14. And we also have the hubs in every community. There are support services visiting daily, donations still being received and GIVEIT which is an amazing service.

“It has been humbling and my absolute pleasure to offer support when needed. I am in absolute awe of everyone helping and those who have been affected by this extreme event.” - Veronica


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