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Australia's wettest town Tully set to revamp iconic gumboot rain monument

Mark Rigby, Thursday March 16, 2017 - 14:47 EDT
ABC image
The golden gumboot has fallen into a state of disrepair since it was erected in 2002. - ABC

In 1950 the small town of Tully, about 120 kilometres south of Cairns, unofficially became Australia's wettest town, recording a total of 312 inches — 7,925 millimetres — of rainfall.

To this day it is still the most amount of rain that has fallen on any populated area in the country in a calendar year.

Ron Hunt has lived his whole life in Tully and remembers 1950 well.

"That particular year, I tell you, the animals were walking around hand-in-hand looking for a boat," he said.

Tully's claim to being the wettest town in Australia is not without its controversy — the nearby towns of Innisfail, Deeral and Babinda have also vied for the title.

"Because the Innisfail rain gauge is near the pub there used to be a little bit of urine in it — they used to cheat," Mr Hunt laughed.

"And we know that the guy at Deeral would wait until the very last to put his [totals] in, because I think he used to top it up.

"As for the Babinda people, there's a bit of a rumour going around that they've found evidence of chlorine in the rain gauge.

"But ours is ridgy-didge mountain rain."

From Buddha to golden boot

In 2002 when Tully erected a monument to the rain — a giant golden gumboot at the entrance to town — its claim to being Australia's wettest town was all but cemented.

Unfortunately, 15 years of tropical rain and sunshine have not been kind to the giant gumboot, so much so that its golden paint has faded and oxidised to a pallid green.

"We've always had trouble with the final colour. Whatever we put on there started off as a dark gold and ended up as an oxidised green," Mr Hunt said.

While holidaying with his son in Vietnam, Mr Hunt came across an area full of gold Buddha statues.

"I asked the question and they said that paint had been on there for 12 years and it looked like brand new really.

"We tried to get that paint out here but it didn't have the necessary stamps of approval … the last thing we wanted was to have it condemned at the wharf."

After returning to Tully Mr Hunt showed an Australian paint company pictures of the Vietnamese Buddha, and the company agreed to match it with a guarantee on its durability.

"They mixed up a brew and would you believe it's called Gumboot Gold, so it's a special paint that's been made for our gumboot," Mr Hunt said.

"The worry we do have, though, is that we're going to have to have a sign up to say 'All visitors please wear protective eyewear, otherwise your eyes could get damaged from the brightness'."

Cyclone-battered, but still standing

The gumboot's lacklustre appearance is only one of a long list of problems it currently faces.

While it stood up to , the long-term effects of the storm have since taken their toll.

"Even the frog stayed on — his paw marks are a bit harder on the boot, but even he didn't move," Mr Hunt said.

"But we had a fair bit of saltwater come down with the rain and that promoted some of the rust inside.

"Council have looked at it and they've got a grant from the State Government, rather a large grant for the area, and they're going to do a fair bit of refurbishing to it.

"So it'll look schmick when we've finished."


© ABC 2017

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