Our campaign’s end

It was a long road to recovery for the Gympie Indoor Bowls Centre, and sadly, due to recently discovered foundation issues, it's become even longer.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve brought you stories about the ongoing battle to right our region after the devastating floods of 2022.

There is still a long way to go, with the final tender only just about to be awarded for road works and construction by the Gympie Regional Council, in whatever form that will take.

Over the past year we’ve spoken to people and businesses who were directly impacted.

We’ve heard from experts on disaster management, spoken to community groups who reached out, and we’ve regularly updated our readers on the innovations, and academy research to emerge from the events.

We started the campaign on 24 February, last year, a full year and a day after the BOM issued a flood watch on the Mary River after it rose 6m in just six hours.

Our first article showed the timeline of events between Wednesday 23 February and Friday 4 March 2022 and detailed the rapid rise, the deadly consequences, and the beginnings of the monumental clean-up.

In the following week we got to meet Monkland resident Pauline and hear about her feeling of helplessness, as the floodwater backed up in drains and spilled into the lower level of her home.

We also had our first taste of the amazing collaborative exhibition at the Gympie Gallery, 22.96/receding, which over the last year was first extended due to popular demand, then at the end of the year was nominated and became a finalist in the 2023 Queensland Gallery and Museum Achievement Awards.

Gympie’s community and the strength of its people were at the heart of this exhibition and accompanying public programs by local artists Miriam Innes, Joolie Gibbs and Leeroy Todd.

At the start of March, we tallied the repair bill for the council over the previous 12 months and revealed the GRC had applied for $52M in funding applications, with a further $2M for insurance.

At the time a council spokesman estimated the actual total cost of repairs would be double that at between $90-$100M.

It was also revealed that a total of 291 homes were flood impacted in the Gympie region with 112 of those deemed uninhabitable and while some were able to be repaired, many were demolished.

According to the March 2023 report, the clean-up after the February flood added an additional 11,072.61 tonnes of waste to council waste facilities when compared with the same period in 2021 (a 455 per cent increase over the previous year).

We also discovered that some insurance companies were slow or reluctant to pay out their policies with 2000 complaints lodged with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) in the 12 months following the floods, with 19 of those complaints from Gympie residents and businesses.

The following week we delved into the cost on businesses and learned that aside from the extensive damage to farming properties, with destroyed fences, lost livestock, and ruined crops, 143 commercial and industrial properties in the region were assessed as having between minor and severe flood damage.

Also in March we told the story of the Gympie Rotary Club and how over 12 months, they distributed more than $53,000 worth of help to Gympie region residents and businesses in the form of grants, groceries, citronella candles, food, and more.

Early in April, Gympie nurse Deanna Mitchell received the Sunshine Coast Hospital Health Service Dr Barney Moy Memorial Award for her outstanding leadership during the floods.

We also learned about the trials Richard Pluukard went through when his home of 13 years flooded, and how with the help of Gympie Rotary Club he raised it higher to be better prepared in the future.

In April it was announced a philanthropic group called the Minderoo Foundation was hoping to help revitalise The Sands at Gympie with the help of The Australian Resilience Corps and RACQ, they worked over a weekend in May to restore the area.

Stories about the environment were a large part of the Gympie Flows Forward campaign with the effects from the February floods impacting not just threatened and vulnerable species, but whole ecologies, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Stories along this topic followed mapping of the Mary River to catalogue damage and debris, finding out about efforts to restore the Mary River Turtle and Mary River Cod and the restoration of parks and trails beside the river.

We also discussed forums and discussion panels and their findings – how they were helping to shape future policy and how they planned to help different sections of the community in the event of future disasters.

In May the infamous Maudsley Street pothole was plugged and we shared photos of the completed works.

Also in May, Snap Fitness Gympie was awarded Community Club of the Year for 2022 for forming a “flood recovery army“ in the wake of the February event and was recognised at a ceremony on the Gold Coast.

There was also some innovative equipment unveiled in May, with the RACQ Lifeflight team sharing their new purpose-built animal rescue capsules called ARCs, designed especially for rescuing pets after the need was discovered during the flooding events of 2022.

In June, Nanango MP Deb Frecklington’s plea to have flood gauges installed on the Boonara-Nangur Creek systems in the west of the Gympie region was our front page story.

“This infrastructure would make a real difference to the people who live along this creek system giving them assurance they could be alerted earlier to the threat of flood if and when it next occurs,” Deb said at the time.

Also in June we met with the new owner of the Royal Hotel, and took a look at the extensive renovations, the effort that went into reopening the completely submerged venue, and what they are hoping to accomplish in the future.

There was some welcome news for the Gympie Netball Association in July after it was revealed they would receive $2.3M to completely rebuild their Rose Street facilities which were completely unusable since the February floods.

Also in July Gympie Dominos donated $20,000 to the Gympie SES as part of their Give for Good Charity campaign.

Kitiwah Place Early Childhood Centre also held a special event in July, marking the official opening of their playspace, complete with an amazing trike-track.

In August, the Gympie Recovery Accommodation Park, set up in the wake of the floods to house people who had been permanently displaced, received a further eight tiny homes on the Jane Street site of the former Gympie Caravan Park.

As more permanent solutions were found for flood victims, the park is helping to relieve a little of the housing stress that is currently gripping the state.

In September, a report by headspace, a youth mental health service revealed the psychological impacts felt by young people in the wake of the 2022 flooding were continuing to be felt.

In October, Glenwood community received a $12,000 grant to purchase defibrillators for use by the community if they become cut off during severe flooding.

Gympie Regional Council also committed to a $160K agreement (over four years) with RACQ Lifeflight after their invaluable assistance during the 2022 floods.

In November, Arthur Gorrie reported on a “wild west“ for property buyers, with a mish-mash of different disaster measurement and forecasting standards meaning there is no agreed statewide standard for flood vulnerability or fire exposure.

Also in November, the Gympie branch of the Auswide Bank moved back into their Mary Street building having spent the previous 18 months in the Goldfields Plaza.

In December we learned how the flooded Mary brought in invasive weed species, and did a quick recap on some of the stories covered so far.

Then in January, it was a little like deja vu, as we kept a close flood watch on the Mary during Cyclone Jasper, and then Cyclone Kirrily.

Also in January, we shared some good advice on how to be best prepared in the event of a natural disaster.

And so, two years after the worst floods in living memory, we conclude this campaign but there is still work to be done.

Just last month there are still buildings being impacted by this event.

The Indoor Bowls Centre on Graham Street is just such a building, which, after being completely flooded, and having months of time and buckets of money spent on it, is currently closed again due to structural issues beneath the foundations, believed to have been caused by flood erosion.

King Kong Discounts in Mary Street is also closed, also due to foundation structural issues, also believed to have been caused by the flood events of 2022.

It will take time for the scars of this event to fade, but the people of Gympie are resilient and as this campaign proves, can rise to the challenge of rebuilding and moving on.