Serious, fragile, inspiring. First council meeting since the floods
March 15, 2022
ABOVE: Woodburn Visitor Centre was flooded. Photo: Contributed
I did not attend this council meeting in person, instead I watched it live on the council’s Facebook page. I have not listed all items in the meeting’s agenda because the focus was on the floods and the work needed to recover –Susanna Freymark
Serious, fragile, inspiring.
These are not words I usually associate with a council meeting but at the March 15 Richmond Valley Council meeting, voices were quieter than usual as councillors and staff shared their flood stories.
The meeting was warm too as the stories revealed how council staff went “above and beyond” to help during the flood disaster.
Mayor Robert Mustow said it was a tiring time for the community.
“We have endured one of the longest droughts that led to bushfires that ravaged half of our council area. We had covid and now the community has been bought to their knees by floods,” he said.
His voice wavered when he spoke about the flood damage in the lower area of Richmond Valley.
“You have to see it to believe it,” he said.
He urged everyone to “stay strong, give each other a hug and we’ll come out stronger”.
Mayor Mustow spoke about his own experience during the floods.
“The enormity of this flood is beyond belief.
“I built a two-storey house at The Bend in 1980.”
In the past 42 years, water has not entered the ground floor, he said. This time the fast-flowing floodwaters came up to two metres on the walls.
“We lost a horse – that hurt. The horse was part of our family for 17 years,” his voice breaking as he said it.
Mayor Mustow was relieved no one in the council area had died in the floods.
General manager Vaughan Macdonald said the council was focussed on remote areas so people still isolated could “get out.”
“The community has thanked us for what we are doing and how fast,” he said.
“We got Casino done quickly and we’ve moved into other towns to clean up. We’re working with Disaster Relief Australia.”
Mr Macdonald’s report about the flood damage assessment was included in the meeting’s minutes.
“The Richmond Valley has experienced unprecedented flooding over the past two weeks, with all communities within the local government area being affected. Early estimates of the damage to community infrastructure and assets exceed $150 million and it is expected that the recovery process will take three years.”