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Volunteers thanked for keeping Bundaberg afloat

Eliza Rogers, Thursday August 1, 2013 - 14:44 EST
Audience submitted image
About 5,500 residents were evacuated in the Bundaberg and North Burnett region during the January floods. - Audience submitted

The Attorney-General visited Bundaberg today to thank some of volunteers who helped when floodwaters swept through the city and the Burnett region six months ago.

Jarrod Bleijie said the flood had a special meaning to him, as his grandparents lost possessions and were evacuated from their North Bundaberg home during the disaster.

"I know only too well what some of the families are going through. Bundaberg has a great people... our community champions and the work they're doing, they're an amazing group of people," Mr Bleijie said.

He met with an intimate gathering of volunteer representatives including the Red Cross, the North Bundaberg Progress Hall, and Meals on Wheels, which only missed one meal delivery during the floods.

They were the face of about 1,000 volunteers who played pivotal roles in the aftermath of the Australia Day floods, which saw the Burnett River in Bundaberg rise to a record 9.525 metres, flooding 4,000 homes.

A further 500 homes were flooded in the North Burnett.

About 5,500 people were evacuated.

The recovery has been described as remarkable, but there's still a long way to go.

Some people are still without their homes, primary producers and farmers are still rebuilding fencing and infrastructure, and even still working out their losses and the funding they can access.

Most say they will still be feeling the effects more than a year down the track.

The hard recovery work has included the very arduous task of removing pontoons and boats washed down the Burnett River.

Organisations including BMRG (Burnett Mary Regional Group), Government departments, Maritime Safety Queensland, council, and local contractors have been working together to coordinate the retrievals.

They have to work out who is responsible for what, organise the heavy machinery needed to remove the vessels, some weighing 13 tonnes, and manoeuvre them into place.

Another painstaking task has been scooping broken-up styrofoam floats and other marine debris from the water and riverbank.

Seventeen boats and pontoons have now been removed and the funding's been exhausted, but BMRG says another $45,000 is needed to move three remaining pontoons.

BMRG special projects officer Brad Crosbie says he's confident the funding will be secured from somewhere.

But Mr Crosbie says the mammoth task has brought out the best in the community.

He told of a special story of resident Roger Hartwell whose boat (and house), Harmony V, was wiped out in the floods, with Mr Hartwell, his small dog and her four puppies on board.

The community, authorities, organisations and contractors worked together to rescue and rehouse Mr Hartwell.

"It's just quite amazing to work in a community that support each other, especially the boating community. It reflects the heart of the community; working together to help a mate out, I s'pose," Mr Crosbie said.

The vessel removal project has focused on the area between Agnes Water and Innes Park, and the clean-up program will now turn to helping cane farmers remove flood debris and rubbish from their fields.


© ABC 2013

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