Whether he wanted it or not, Jock Martin was the face of the response to the devastating flood crisis in Manning Point.
The Manning Point Bowling Club manager was instrumental in coordinating the response, ensuring all residents were catered for and kick starting the recovery.
Without his dedication to the community and intelligent decision-making, the outcome for many residents stranded from the mainland could have been detrimental. This is his story.
Flood threat looms
Following weeks of rain and the threat of floods looming, Jock and other locals started to sandbag properties on Friday March 19.
Speaking with long term residents, it was determined any immediate threat of flood wasn't going to top the now infamous 1978 flood.
His neighbour, a resident of about 40 years, said that flood only reached the centre of Main Road.
"Everyone said '1978 was big so it's not going to get that big again' so we sandbagged what we thought was going to be enough," Jock said.
Jock was awoken the next morning by a call from a colleague. He soon determined the severity of the situation and realised any damaged caused by flood 43 years earlier had already been surpassed. Further along the road at the Weeroona Caravan Park, water had quickly risen and some vans were at least one metre under water.
"I went straight to the caravan park and we evacuated everyone," Jock said.
"The water got so deep in places, fridges were floating up to the roofs of houses."
As other residents fled their homes, the bowling club became the makeshift coordination point and evacuation centre.
"We brought everyone out of the caravan park over the course of the day into here (the bowling club)," Jock said. "Everyone was here and the road was cut off at the 'Mad Mile' and Cowans Lane (Oxley Island)."
Stranded without supplies
With the only way out of town cut off by flood water, the near 250 residents were left stranded.
"We had no land support, we had nothing," Jock said.
"It happened so quick, we didn't have time to prepare and what we had with us was what we had to work with."
Being a local of about 50 years, Jock had plenty of contacts with people who could help with the dire situation.
One of his first calls was to Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead.
Jock explained how the club was full of elderly residents who were without vital medication, wallets and other necessities.
Within two hours, a helicopter landed in the club's car park with police officers and a police liaison officer on board.
"She (liaison officer) sat them all down and wrote down the medication they needed," Jock said.
"I don't know how she organised it without scripts but within another two hours that chopper had been, collected all the medication and was back that afternoon."
Before the sun set, word got around that temporary accommodation was needed for displaced residents.
Without hesitation, all holiday homes and cabins were opened.
"We housed everyone on the first night, no one slept in the evacuation centre," Jock said proudly.
Over the weekend, he arranged back-to-back trips from a helicopter to deliver food and supplies.
Residents rally together
A table was set up with sheets of paper for residents to write what urgent supplies, items or assistance they needed.
Another sheet provided contact details for local trades people.
Jock then matched each need with the suitable person and delegated jobs.
He was confident this was the best approach to the flood response.
"Everyone rallies together here and I think we were better off on our own rather than someone come in from SES and try to run it for us," he said.
"I think because I knew everyone and knew what they could do, it worked so much quicker."
There was enough food at the club to keep everyone fed until the roads to Taree and Old Bar reopened.
"People who were flooded emptied their fridges and freezers and brought it to us," Jock added.
Jock wasn't the only person to go above and beyond during the flood crisis.
Whether it was Adam from the Manning Point General Store driving through flood water to drop supplies to the bowling club or Vicki and Tony from Hideaway Holiday Cabins cancelling bookings to house permanent residents from the Weeroona Caravan Park, everyone played their part.
"It hasn't been easy, I probably had two to three hours of sleep for the first few nights," Jock admitted.
A sense of normality
The Easter holidays should be a prosperous time for Manning Point businesses.
The town experienced a lack of tourists in 2020 due to the global pandemic, so it was even more heart-breaking to see empty campsites and a deserted beach in the wake of the floods.
The floods 'killed' the holiday season, according to Manning Point Bowling Club manager Jock Martin.
But it hasn't all been bad news.
Jock said the Ocean Shores Holiday Park was recently at full capacity while Good Friday saw the bowling club have its best day of trading to date.
We'll be better prepared if it ever happens again.Jock Martin
This has created a sense of normality around town and, of course, the local watering hole.
He said Taree, Old Bar and Wingham residents have made the journey out to support locals and the club.
The sight of dozens of bowlers on the green and the return of live music, raffles and flowing beer taps puts a smile on his face.
Jock acknowledged the cooperation of the community throughout the disaster.
"They were so resilient and everyone bonded together... it's been unbelievable," he said.
"We'll be better prepared if it ever happens again."
As part of Operation NSW Flood Assist, Australian Defence Force personnel helped with the clean-up along the riverbank, Weeroona Caravan Park and damaged houses.
A recovery outreach centre was set up at the bowling club by Service NSW to provide support and advice for affected residents while charities Blanket Patrol and Turbans 4 Australia dropped off clothes, linen, toiletries and food.
A tribute to our local hero
Manning Point Bowling Club bar manager Jock Martin recently featured on ABC's 7.30 Report, in a story about his aid to the community when the flood hit.
The following poem about our "local hero" was written by Stephen Leonard of Bellambi, after watching the report.
Jock Martin: 7:30 Report
Jock Martin is a hero
He hails from Manning Point
And when the local feared the flooding
He vowed to get them out
He runs the local bowling club
He is loved by one and all
He is a leader in a community
He answered to their call
He used a tractor with a bucket
He carried them without fail
He carried them to safety
They live to tell the tale
He organised a helicopter
To bring medical supplies
The locals owe him everything
There are tears in their soft eyes
Jock doesn't wear a well-cut suit
He doesn't drive in a government car
He seldom seeks the media
He's not known by those afar
On that island in the Manning River
Not remote in a Canberra bubble
Jock goes about his daily life
Not a sniff of Canberra trouble
So go Jack down to Canberra
And show them how its done
Show the authentic leadership
Your time has surely come
Teach them about integrity
And manhood and dignity
About honest conversation
And not the bullshit that we see
Teach them leadership in the real sense
About service of community
Not the booze and sex subculture
That we see on our TV
Teach them about humility
You teach them well and good
And tell them we are disgusted
Hang their heads they should.
Our main man, Jock
This was posted on the Manning Point BOWLO Facebook page on March 22.
There's one person we all need to thank, and shout a beer once this is all over.
Our main man, Jock.
This man has worked tirelessly around the clock, ensuring everyone's health & safety is looked after.
Coordinating something that is so new to us all, and doing it beautifully.
He has gone above & beyond to accommodate people, to reassure people & he has lent a helping hand wherever he possibly could.
He doesn't have a dry piece of clothing, and absolutely stinks like an old mouldy rag from being chest deep in flood water.
He's guided helicopters in & out of our Carpark and he's had his phone to his ear constantly organising support for our town.
He's our go to man, and nothing is ever too much of a hassle.
If we can count on anyone, it's Jock Martin and bloody hell are we lucky to have him in our little community!
When you see this man, give him a hand shake or a high 5. I don't recommend a hug, unless you also want to smell like an old mouldy rag!!
Thank you Jock, our local legend
Kirra & the team
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