Life on the land in Australia



A year after the floods that devastated much of Queensland, many businesses are struggling to understand why little has been done to help those in flood-prone areas.

It’s not just last year’s floods that have hurt businesses across the state. Some are fed up with chronic, ongoing mismanagement around issues such as delays in settling insurance claims.

Steve “Burnsie” Burns, proprietor of the remote Nindigully Pub on the banks of the Moonie River, central Queensland, is one such operator wondering when compensation and assistance will arrive.

A far cry from the Steve Burns and Debbie Lee.A far cry from when the floods hit … Steve Burns and Debbie Lee outside the Nindigully Pub. Photo: Supplied

At the dawn of 2010, as floodwaters threatened, Burns was told to cancel his pub’s iconic New Year’s Eve celebrations. The pub, which harks back to 1864, is the oldest continually licensed pub in Queensland.

New Year’s Eve is central to the survival of Nindigully – permanent population five – and traditionally the biggest night of the year, with celebrations attracting more than 3000 people.

He estimates he lost $100,000 as a result of the New Year’s closure.

Hit a second time

Then, last March, the pub was hit a second time, when Nindigully experienced its largest recorded flood, with waters reaching 4.65 metres and lapping at the pub’s floorboards.

“We lost all our plumbing from under the pub and all our tank water. We were surrounded by water, yet had none on tap. We were isolated for over a month,” Burns says.

“The flood that cut us off last year wasn’t as bad as the flood of 2010. But the issues we faced back then have still not been addressed. I can’t believe we’ve waited two years for anything to happen; nothing’s being done,” Burns says.

He submitted a compensation claim immediately after the first floods, but says he has “been mucked around for two years”.

“I keep supplying invoices and they keep dragging things out. I’m hoping they might make me a reasonable offer at some point,” he says.

Rivers rising

He believes the decision to shut down the pub on that New Year’s Eve was the result of a mistake by police who he says claimed the river was more than a metre higher than its actual reading.

“The inspector claimed the river was at 3.6 metres when it was 2.45 metres. I’m the river reader and I put the information on to the Bureau of Meteorology site. The inspector read the information the wrong way, but he shut the pub down anyway,” Burns says.

“We were the only business in Queensland officially shut down even when other businesses and pubs up and down our river were allowed to continue to trade”.

Early this week he was due to meet local council staff to discuss ongoing flood-related issues, including the need to fast-track insurance claims, a lack of available flood insurance for businesses such as his and the need for better communication between those who measure and report the river’s height.

Burns is now pushing for better communication between local authorities to reduce the risk of a similar situation in the future.

Closing its doors

Another business severely impacted by the floods last January was the Champions Brock Experience near Rockhampton (pictured below), the largest collection of Peter Brock cars in Australia. It was eventually forced to shut.

“We lost three-and-a-half weeks of peak holiday trading, and the business just wasn’t sustainable after that,” says former manager Heather Smith.

“We have been approached to move the collection and we’re investigating our options, but at the moment we’re closed permanently.”

“The floods had a major impact on the region, but there’s been a lot of people around this summer because many have decided to stay home as they are worried about leaving the region after what happened last year.”

A region hit hard

Bunjurgen Estate Vineyard, near Brisbane, has also spent the past year recovering.

Chief executive David McMaugh says the water-sodden vineyard and fairly serious mildew problems led to a smaller crop in 2011.

“That said, the good news this year so far is that although the crop is only 20 to 25 per cent of what it would normally be, quality is high and we look like making some fantastic rosé style wines,” says McMaugh.

McMaugh says the floods hit the region hard.

“A local winery closed due to lack of business, one local vineyard bit the dust and three more are for sale – so not a pretty sight in that department. But in a way having less opposition has worked well for us at least – the harsh reality of life I suppose,” he says.

Yesterday, McMaugh was facing the prospect of bushfires destroying his property. What a difference a year makes

January 16th, 2012
Topic: DROUGHTS FLOODS Tags: , , , , ,

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