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Lisa McLeod on Rebuilding Pappinbarra

Lisa McLeod, Pappinbarra Resident and Rural Fire Service Member, Pappinbarra and Hollisdale

Rain events in Pappinbarra are a regular event. Living on the river and having to drive across it to get to your home is natural for me and many in the valley. This rain event was like no other though.

Living on the land you listen to the forecast and then make your own mind up as to what may happen as it's never quite what you expect. You pack to stay out if it's going to rise too much or you shop to stay in.

We packed to stay out as it could be a week or two and I needed to be able to get to work. No way did I think it was going to be this kind of disaster. It was unbelievable what happened and just how much the river changed and the damage it caused.

For me personally our access road was destroyed. It's 2 klm long and will take months to repair. Our fences and paddocks are destroyed on our river flats and the trees along our creek and river have been ripped out. The whole community is reeling.

I would estimate that 95% of residents have been affected.

We had many houses wash away down the river and many homes inundated with water. Sheds, outbuildings, machinery, animals, farm equipment, pumps and irrigation have been damaged beyond repair or buried in the river.

Personally I helped during the flood by opening the Hollisdale hall to the community as it is set up for a disaster of this kind and we have used it as a place of refuge for as long as I can remember. The 2017 and 2019 fires and now the 2021 floods. It has a 12.5kva generator which allows the community to shower, wash clothes, eat meals that we prepared and come together to talk and support each other.

I manned this facility along with others for two weeks and also went out with my Hollisdale Fire Brigade crew and other locals to install zip-lines to several properties in the valley that were isolated across the river. We sent food and fuel across the river until they could walk across. I also delivered food to other properties as well. I went out with the Fire and Rescue team to show them all the properties to ensure they captured the damage. The Australian Defence Force also asked me to drive with them to view the worst affected roads.

My colleague Heather Smith and I reinstated our Facebook page Rebuild Pappinbarra which we started to help people in the 2017 fires. This allowed us to connect with affected families and to provide information to them on the recovery process and for us to help them individually with their needs and concerns,

“Just being able to talk to someone when you're in distress is important and we wanted to help people this way if we could.”

A real generosity of spirit comes out in natural disasters. It brings out the best and worst in people. I have seen both traits. Luckily the generosity shines the brightest. It is a tough time for everyone and everyone that wanted to help really made a difference. People pitched in to make meals, man the hall, clean the hall, pick up supplies.

The main bridge had a tree over it limiting access. This tree was felled and removed so all vehicles could pass. Many businesses both in Wauchope and Port Macquarie were very generous with supplies and food.

Essential Energy supplied us with fuel to put across the zip lines so families could keep their generators going to have power. Many other acts of kindness come to mind also.

As a member of the RFS I was involved in delivering food and fuel to households and doing welfare checks on families up and down the valley. My Captain and another member cleared the trees off the road from the first wild night of weather so the road was accessible to the valley residents.

Never have I seen a flood like this. The river is mainly a beautiful part of our valley. This time though it unleashed a torrent of water never seen before. Also serene creeks were swollen and running so high that it destroyed everything in its path. Some residents of the valley are still without access in or out of their properties, funding should be allocated for access to properties.

We have been declared a natural disaster area by State and Federal Governments. The river ways are an environmental issue that must be addressed, and soon. The rubbish in the rivers will keep coming down to the ocean and they need to be cleaned up. The contamination is enormous. The majority of properties in the valley draw their drinking water from this river. They can’t survive without this river being cleaned up.

“What’s next? How do we Rebuild Pappinbarra?”

Sheer hard work and determination. Support from the Local, State and Federal Government. The damage to properties is overwhelming and requires more manpower than any family can provide. The army came to some areas in the LGA and did great work. Unfortunately, they did not provide any assistance to Pappinbarra or many other rural communities, we were waiting for them and they did not arrive. We really need assistance and I will champion this cause for as long as it takes to get some assistance for my community.

If you can volunteer your time in this community, Lisa can put you in contact with a family that would really love some help.


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