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NSW north coast begins flood clean up -

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flood up

Reporter: Simon Santow

PETER CAVE: The severe floods which hit northern New South Wales on the weekend are beginning to
slowly recede.

That's left the huge task of cleaning up houses, properties and shops inundated by the swollen

The State Government has appointed the former police commissioner, Ken Moroney, to oversee the
rebuilding effort and to coordinate the various levels of government.

He'll divide his time between the major centres of Kempsey, Grafton and Lismore, and the smaller
towns and outlying villages where homes and remote farms have suffered some of the worst damage.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: Smithtown sits between Kempsey and the ocean, but right at the moment it's a village
partly submerged by the floodwaters.

Lyn Brown runs the Smithtown General Store right in the thick of it.

LYN BROWN: We've got a four-wheel drive, and we've managed to - we know a few back roads - so we've
managed to get in and out of town, and get a little bit of stock back in the place for the
customers and that.

So, it's been pretty busy today, and we've had to take away up and going to feed all the hungry
people (laughs).

So it hasn't been too bad, and like, it's sort of the centre area of town, and everyone stands out
the front and discusses their stories with everyone else, and yeah. (Laughs)

Oh, there was one fellow - a funny story that was told - one fellow; his parents were away so he
was going around with his video camera to just do some videoing for his parents.

On video, he has this shark fin going up the street. Because in the river, you get little gummy
sharks and things. And it wasn't a real big shark, but any shark's big enough. And he just videoed
this sharkfin swimming up the street.

Another lady caught a nice big mullet in her garage (laughs). So we've got lots of funny stories,
and that helps a lot, mmm.

SIMON SANTOW: She says she can find the funny side, even in the midst of what would drive many
people to despair.

While the shop remained dry, the clean up in her house will take some time.

LYN BROWN: We've had to pull up the lino from the kitchen and take that out - that's all ruined and
damaged, it was just floating at one stage. So we've got cement floors in there now.

We were lucky that we managed to get everything up on milk crates; our fridge and our oven and a
few cupboards in the bedrooms and that, we didn't have enough for those, so they had to stay down.
But they're okay - we're cleaning the mud out of them at the moment, as we speak.

Still hosing out the mud from all the house, off tiles and polished timber boards and things like
that. The yard's still a write-off of course, but we fared a lot better than some people, I'm sure.

SIMON SANTOW: When you say the yard's a write-off, what's happened there?

LYN BROWN: It's just mud from the river. All the mud comes into town, and while the water's there -
I mean, that's got its own problems and it's bad enough - but once the water settles down, the
roads are all ripped up, they've got holes in them everywhere, logs laying around.

SIMON SANTOW: Ken Tassell runs a real estate agency in the seaside town of South West Rocks.

It's cut off by the floodwaters, and his own farm has lost fencing and will have damaged pasture
once the water recedes.

KEN TASSELL: I believe that most of our cattle will be pretty right; they'll be a little bit hungry
and pretty waterlogged, but we do have flood mounds in places there.

But the objective will be to get them off there as quick as possible after we can get access to

SIMON SANTOW: And what about fencing and that sort of thing?

KEN TASSELL: Oh, fencing's all damaged. It's funny you should ring now Simon, I've just come back

I've gone down and cut a lot of the fences on the river bank proper, on our property, because it's,
they've all washed down and collected a lot of debris, and there's logs and different other things

So it will be a matter of sitting down with neighbours and saying, 'Well, what day are we going to
go and put them back up?'

SIMON SANTOW: While the worst appears to be over for now, the effects will be felt for some time.

KEN TASSELL: We've had a quite a substantial drop in the river. I've just come up from looking at a
few cattle, and the lower part of the Macleay - they'll be suffering for quite some time now.
Particularly the people that have got a few cattle down there, or a bit of livestock.

They're going to suffer, because the grass won't return until the summer months, because now we're
going to get cold. The ground will be waterlogged, and the cattle will definitely suffer.

SIMON SANTOW: The north coast of New South Wales and the rivers that flow into the ocean are no
strangers to damaging floods. There's a reluctance to even rank the disaster with other disasters
of the past.

At the same time, there's a plea that authorities will come through with their promised help when
the help is needed.

JOHN BOWELL: We're still waiting on the support that we made application for from the March event.
I was told this morning that the support for the 2001 event took 12 months.

Now look, something's got to be done to speed up these processes, because if there are individuals
out there that need support, they want it now.

John Bowell is the Mayor of Kempsey; he says these floods are taking a toll because they've come on
top of other recent damaging weather.

JOHN BOWELL: We'd gone through a flood, well a flood in February, a flood in March - of smaller
proportions, but nevertheless, that's one of the contributing factors to what's happened on this
occasion. All of the low-lying areas were full. And so therefore the opportunity for water to
spread was not there as much as there would have been, say, in a dry time.

So therefore the farmers that haven't got stocks of hay - and I'm not too sure there'd be too many
of them, because look - they're resilient, they know that these things can happen, and I think that
they're probably prepared for such an event. But it's disappointing that it's come on with winter
just round the corner.

PETER CAVE: The Kempsey Mayor John Bowell ending Simon Santow's report.