After two floods Maryborough’s CBD has come back to life, but residents in low-lying areas are exhausted

After two floods Maryborough’s CBD has come back to life, but residents in low-lying areas are exhausted

Walking down the main street of Maryborough, you would be hard pressed to spot any signs that just a month ago the city was hit by its second devastating flood this year.

It’s business as usual for most store owners who sing the praises of a flood levee that saved the CBD.

But locals in low-lying flood zones are wondering why similar investments cannot be made for their homes.

Business owner Anna Chilton said the $6 million flood levee installed by the Fraser Coast Regional Council to protect most of the CBD saved her electrical goods store from hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Anna Chilton and partner Tina Souvlis say the water stopped just short of entering their store.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

“We saw the council blokes working around the stormwater drain, and they said it should keep the water at bay – and it did, it was incredible.”

Ms Chilton’s store narrowly escaped flooding in January when a stormwater gate under the levee failed and floodwaters inundated the CBD.

“It was just short of coming into the shop which would have been devastating, the cost would have been enormous for us,” Ms Chilton said.

flood levee jo
The Fraser Coast Regional Council says the levee protected as many business as logistically possible from floodwaters. (ABC Wide Bay: Johanna Marie)

‘Resilient’ residents back in business

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said he had no doubt the levee would work the second time around.

“We very quickly found an engineering solution to the stormwater gate, which was put in just in case there was another flood – and it paid off. That’s what saved the CBD,” he said.

Mayor Seymour said about 95 per cent of the CBD was back up and running.

“A lot of the businesses in Adelaide Street that would have flooded, didn’t flood because of it,” he said.

“It protects as much as really possible – because once [floodwaters] get over 11.4 metres, which is what the levee protects up to, the water would be coming in from all different angles.”

Man in high visibility shit stands over river
Mayor George Seymour says 95 per cent of businesses in the CBD have reopened following the flood. (ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram )

Even businesses not protected by the levee were quick to reopen their doors, like Brittany Robinson, whose coffee shop flooded twice in the three months since she opened the cafe.

“With the water rising higher this time – it was probably about 30 centimetres higher than the last one – that took out our counters, our benches, our shelves, everything,” Ms Robinson said.

“So, we basically gutted the shop this time. Take it out, hose everything down, and build everything up.”

Women hoses out front of a shop
Ms Robinson had to hose flood waters from her coffee shop, before reopening a week later. (ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Ms Robinson, who returned to serve coffees within a week-and-a-half of the floods, said getting back to work was the only option.

“For your small businesses here, realistically you can’t get flood insurance because we’re in a known flood zone. So, there’s no relying on the cash to come in later,” she said.

“We are quite a resilient people here. Maybe the amount of floods we’ve had recently has helped with that.

“We had already bought the gumboots, we had already bought the extra mops, we were pretty much just straight back in.”

The corner of a coffee shop
Ms Robinson has embraced Maryborough’s flood history, marking the water level in blue paint on her shop’s interior. (ACB Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Residents call for buy-back scheme

For residents in Maryborough’s low-lying areas, flood fatigue kicked in quickly.

Floodwaters reached the roof of Rhonda Uren’s home twice this year.

“We were lucky enough that the man next door gave up his house so we could lease it off him. But we would be on the streets because there are not many rentals up here,” she said.

Ms Uren was unable to claim insurance on her home and has been told it will be a six-month wait for construction workers to make repairs.

Her daughter, Melissa Stanley, hoped the council could look at implementing a buy-back scheme for flooded properties.

“We’re just trying to help other people who can’t fix their houses. It’s not just us.”

Two woman stand in park, serious expressions
Flood affected residents Melissa Stanley (L) and Rhonda Uren (R) are pushing for the council to consider a buy-back scheme, or to raise the houses in low-lying flood zones. (ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Mayor Seymour said a buy-back scheme was worth considering.

“I think we should look into it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

“Where there are properties that are too low-lying to do anything with, we should be looking at what we can do to acquire them so people can live in a place that doesn’t flood two times before the end of February.

“This might be a sign of things to come, that we have two major floods at the very beginning of the year.”

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