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Buildings washed away as Fitzroy River banks continue to erode

By Hannah Barry, Erin Parke, Thursday February 18, 2021 - 06:31 EDT

Recent rainfall in the central Kimberley has stoked long-held concerns around town infrastructure, as the Fitzroy River continues to erode its banks.

The Fitzroy Crossing township has already recorded 187.2mm of rain for the month of February, with parts of the Fitzroy river flooding and cutting off the Great Northern Highway for days at a time.

The river runs directly through the township and as the river swelled, chunks of land adjoining the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge were washed away, including a shed structure known as a popular look-out spot for tourists.

It's an ongoing issue in the township, with stop-gap solutions, including installing rocks to help support the highway bridge crossing, have been met with frustration from business owners and residents.

Fitzroy Crossing Lodge manager John Rodrigues said the recent rainfall and subsequent flooding meant he would now spend next month moving the 'Riverview rooms' tourist accommodation away from the banks.

"I think the priority is to remove the chalets and rooms away from the river," Mr Rodrigues says.

"Even five years ago it was 20 metres away, but now it's about nine metres off the river, so that's got to be done in the next couple of months."

He said the Fitzroy Crossing township had lobbied for more than a decade to address the issue, but they had been stone-walled when conversations turned to funding.

"We've had engineers looking at it, we've had different departments, but as soon as you mentioned the money and the cost of rectifying something like this, they want to just shut the doors," he said.

Cemetery 'washed away'

It's not the first time Fitzroy Crossing has had to contend with rising floodwaters and its impact on existing infrastructure.

In 2018, the state government undertook a three-month excavation of Fitzroy's pioneer cemetery.

It came after the main cemetery in town was relocated to a safe, dry location in 2001, but the mainly Aboriginal burial ground adjacent was eaten away by the river.

The skeletons of 50 people had to be boxed up in a sea container and reburied after the erosion meant bones became visible through the dirt.


© ABC 2021

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