Standing Together Against the Tide
March is one special month I look forward to every single year.
This is the time when the gorgeous lasiandra trees burst out in exuberant purple flowers, signalling the start of the annual Wauchope Lasiandra Festival that is full of fun activities across town. There is that unmistakable warm fuzzy feeling of everyone getting together to organise and participate in the festivities.
Wauchope is my hometown and I grew up with this festival that takes place without fail every year.
This year has been very different.
We are still not free of COVID-19 and restrictions have altered the festival greatly. Midway through the festival, the floods rained in on us and that changed everything.
For many of my close friends, neighbours and fellow residents of the Greater Port Macquarie-Hastings region, we were all left horrified and helpless at the devastation.
David Jones cleaning out Pappinbarra farm - Chrissy's residence
Our beautiful hinterland communities and beachside towns were heavily hit. Numerous businesses suffered unimaginable loss and many individuals had their homes destroyed and others face many months of clean-up and repair.
On a personal note, my husband David and myself purchased our farm west of Wauchope in the beautiful Pappinbarra Valley almost six years ago. It has been a challenge from the start to say the least. We had three years of drought and then 2020 saw bushfires blazing through the region.
2021 has not been much kinder, and the devastation caused by the recent floods has been heartbreaking on many levels.
It is difficult not to be affected when you look out and all around are scenes of damaged or washed away infrastructure. Rainwater tanks, out buildings, sheds and kilometres of farm fencing can be replaced and rebuilt over time but the experience of fear and helplessness at the relentless rain and rising flood water is something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Many have had to survive without power for 10 days and endure being stranded for two weeks totally cut off from the rest of the valley.
Even as I am penning my thoughts right now, we still have neighbours who are cut off and have no access in or out of their property. Their only means of provisions is via Flying Foxes set up by the local RFS (NSW Rural Fire Services) or helicopter airdrops by the SES (NSW State Emergency Services).
It is at such dire times that I feel so much gratitude and respect for the people in our midst who step up with so much humanity and solidarity. I must say special thanks to Chris Roelandts, the local Hollisdale Fire Captain who took it upon himself along with his small crew to set up the ropes across the flooded river to provide food and fuel.
Our close friends in the valley, Bianca and Rob Costigan have lost their beautiful home and everything in it. Both were working in town and their kids were at school when the flood waters rose and locked them out. That night, as the waters kept rising, there was little else they could do except wait with increasing anxiety which finally ended in despair when they saw the total devastation of all that they had.
They are a hardworking young couple who had worked hard to build a dream life with their two children. That night, they lost everything except for the clothes on their backs. It is heartbreaking to know this is one of many families who have endured the same devastation.
Bianca and Rob have vowed to rebuild what they had. They love the Pappinbarra Valley and this is where they have called home for four years, and where they will continue to rebuild a new life.
I could go on and tell you so many more experiences of others who have been affected by the floods. But I would like to end this by lauding the community spirit we have around us. People are banding together to pull up those in need. Our resilience, tenacity and hope is what makes us stand together against the tides.
The storm is passing. And we are getting up and moving forward. Together.
Chrissy Jones, JP
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