End of the line at Kimberley

Railway bridge kimberley

End of the line at Kimberley

JULY 2016 | Marguerite McNeill

WE ALL KNEW there was a storm coming and that it was going to be big. We just didn’t know how widespread and devastating it would be.

When the storm front hit early last month the rain kept coming and rivers kept rising until a deluge of flood waters rose and swelled, leaving a massive wake of destruction across Tasmania.

Weeks later the frightening scenes are still uppermost in many people’s minds.

Across the Meander Valley everyone has a story to tell about flooding in their area. Sorting through those experiences is almost as difficult as sifting through the huge amounts of debris the floods left behind.

The western end of the municipality was the hardest hit with six bridges washed away (3 at Liena, 2 at Mole Creek and 1 at Caveside), leaving some locals stranded with no road access out.

Landslips cut roadways at Liena, Old Gad Hill and Oliver’s Road.

Floodwaters, laden with tonnes of timber, caused major damage to a span of the Kimberley Railway Bridge, severing the link across the state’s North West. Repair is underway and TasRail expects the bridge to re-open by mid-July.

Flood waters have also forced the closure of Marakoopa Cave, one of the district’s major attractions as it sustained significant damage to its infrastructure. The cave is currently being assessed but it is too early to know when it will again open.

The Walls of Jerusalem, a favourite walking track, also remains inaccessible. Road closures in the area have resulted in a sharp drop in visitor numbers to Mole Creek, a preferred stop on the tourist route to Cradle Mountain.

The raging waters caused major devastation for beef farmer Denis Durham whose property “The Den” lies on the edge of the Mersey River, west of Mole Creek.

As well as losing ninety head of Durham Shorthorn cattle, almost half his breeders, his land was wrecked.

“It was absolutely smashed, he said. The place was carved apart.” Mr Durham who estimates his losses at around $1million is angry at being caught so unawares.

He questioned the reason for cloud seeding in the face of the storm and why there was no warning at all. “Why was there no warning,” he said. “I could have moved the cattle to higher ground. People’s lives were in danger, big time.”

Flooding led to some people losing road access for just a few days but others will have to wait much longer until bridges and roads are repaired. Mole Creek Online Access Centre manager, Todd Wilson, found a temporary fix to his travel problems by decamping to Deloraine from his home at Lorinna. Now, when he travels to and from work to Lorinna, his trip includes an emergency 4WD track and a trip over the Gog via Paradise.

Mole Creek publican Doug Westbrook was hard put with rising waters lapping the rear of the establishment as well as storm water gushing from across the road and through the front door. “It was like a river,” he said. “Two private properties were flooded out as well.”

In Deloraine, townsfolk have slept easy since the Meander Dam was completed several years ago and have experienced no major flood events for almost a decade.  That changed on 6th June, when the river rose once again and burst its banks, damaging infrastructure in Deloraine and beyond to Carrick and Hadspen. Road damage also occurred at Liffey.

Meander Valley Infrastructure Services Director Dino De Paoli said that damage to Council owned infrastructure in the Meander Valley could reach $4million, with an estimated $2.5 million going towards bridge replacement and repairs. Council’s Work Department crews are working with other bodies to repair an enormous amount of damage to roadways and make them safe.

Mike Moores