Story By Rodney Dekker

Like many Queensland residents, David Dennis of Waltham Station, near Clermont, could only watch as the rain he’d waited so long for stormed through the heavens and flash flooded his cattle lands. “A drought creeps up on you and you can give it a fair shake,” he says. “But, with this particular flood, we were caught within 24 hours – the cattle never had a chance. It’s a bit gut-wrenching, but you just have to get on with it, haven’t you?”
Clean-up efforts in central Queensland peaked over the Australia Day long weekend, and Waltham Station, like many in the region, acted as a temporary base for emergency helicopters. At one point, 15 choppers were flying in and out of David’s property, collecting bales of hay dropped off by two of the Australian Defence Force’s Black Hawk helicopters. According to Ian Burnett, from AgForce Queensland, about 6000 bales were delivered to stranded cattle in the Belyando and Nogoa valleys.
So far, it’s estimated that the loss of agriculture, stock and infrastructure will amount to $80-100 million.
In total, 2700 people fled to friends’ homes or evacuation centres staffed by Australian Red Cross volunteers. John Lennon, of Emerald, was one of many who returned home to find his house devastated. With only the framework intact, he’ll be living in his shed for two years while saving money to rebuild. “Week by week, I’ll buy another piece of gyprock,” he says. “It’s going to be a long, slow process but that’s just the country we live in. And whether it be brown, green or underwater, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #58

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2008