"When we work together, we can move mountains."
That was the Upper Lansdowne community's experience when the Lansdowne River and its tributaries flooded, washing out roads and bridges and effectively stranding the community, during the March flood event.
"We were not going to sit back and wait to be rescued," resident Lyn Connors said.
And what the community achieved, using the resources and people at hand to get roads opened and bridges repaired in just a few days, should be a model for future disasters, she says.
Lyn has lived in Upper Lansdowne for 30 years and by Thursday night, March 18, she knew the community was in for a "pretty big" flood event.
The river rose up to the road - the highest she has ever seen. Twenty four hours later they had a second hit. "It was mind-blowing, how high and fast it was running."
Less than 18 months before, the Upper Lansdowne community had faced the horrendous bushfires. Three homes were lost and six times Lyn feared her home would be one of them. The fires came to within 20 metres of her home but was saved by the efforts of fire fighters. "I hope I never experience that again."
She has experienced floods, and homes in the area are built well above flood level. But the volume of water and the speed with which it was travelling was something Lyn hadn't experiences. She was in "awe" of how fast nature can change.
Lyn lives on Mount Coxcombe Road. Three of the five bridges on that road were lost, the longest, a timber bridge, broke in half and washed downriver but was able to be recovered, in two parts and has been mended - but it's slightly shorter.
Despite the destruction, Lyn and her community took charge and in a week, they had two bridges repaired, one rebuilt and a landslide removed, and the road was graded in the worst sections so it was passable.
Mission accomplished! 1 week ago today we floated across the river to meet with council to create a plan to restore access to everyone on our road! This afternoon I drove down to the end of our road from my place. 3 bridges repaired, landslide removed & road graded! Its been an amazing experience of self determination & bringing people together to work on a common goal! The biggest heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who assisted & supported in all different ways! The best part - Ive met some beautiful new friends along the wayLyn Connors, March 21, 2021
Lyn works fulltime and lives with her son, Zar who has high support disability needs. He has a team of carers to support him, though they were unable to get through. So while Lyn was looking after Zar solo, she was able to coordinate the community which was working on a solution to their isolation.
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A call was put out to MidCoast Council and it reached the emergency task force. They worked with council to get advice. The community had four tractors and a backhoe, as well as "intelligent and resourceful people".
"We had a great early morning meeting with council with a new way to get to a meeting - floating across the river in a tube," Lyn posted on Facebook on March 24. "By the end of the day we have a plan in place for alternative access, the landslide cleared, one bridge now has access and work on the road had begun! Not bad for day one of recovery and an awesome local community!"
Pieta Laing via the Upper Lansdowne to Lansdowne Community Facebook group, helped keep the community informed. Being stranded, they needed medical supplies and food.
A GoFundMe page was set up. Here's "your chance to help by putting your hand in your pocket," Pieta posted.
Council's roads manager, Daniel Parks "has been fantastic," Lyn said. Daniel arranged for council engineers to provide advice for the community. Pieta set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to hire local contractor Alan Ryan to repair a washed out bridge and part of the road. Alan had the grading done by Saturday. Tuesday morning Alan was hired to get bridge number two rebuilt.
The community responded on social media: "Thank you Al (Ryan), Cameron (Avery) and our Council! A Huge Thank you to Brett and Eona Johnston for allowing us to use their property so we all have access."
It's a great lesson in self-determination, Lyn says. It was exceptional circumstances, but in consultation with council the community was able to get back functioning in a very short time. "Forty three families live along this year - they work, own businesses."
"To have that relationship, it takes collaboration - when we work together we can move mountains."
It was an amazing effort by the whole Upper Lansdowne community. And they are celebrating, Lyn said on Thursday, April 1.
So here's the team who helped the Upper Lansdowne community, using their own equipment - Brendan Walker, Franz Wiemes, Peter Heldon, Scott Webb, Bob and Dave Frampton. The earthmoving contractor was Alan Ryan and Cameron. Thanks go to MidCoast Council's Dan Parkes and Peter Hatton, plus council outdoor crews. And the women behind the scenes who helped Lyn, Pieta Laing, Brenda Santiago and Sam Lazzarotto.
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