Far North Coast Canoe Club in Lismore has been severely impacted by the major flood on 28 February 2022 and a second flood, about a month later.
We are used to floods and normally evacuate our club house on the Wilsons River at least once a year. Water comes into our clubhouse at even a minor flood level. We have an ideal location close to the river. Our storage area is cool and friendly to fiberglass boats, even in hot weather. This makes up for the need to evacuate regularly and hose the flood mud out when the water goes down. The February 28 flood was 2 metres above the level of previously known record floods. Of course, it was going to have more of an impact than normal. However, our paddling woes are nothing compared to the impact the flood has had to those who have lost their homes and businesses. We are still living in a major disaster area and things are not even close to be back to pre-flood normal.
We put our boats up to an upstairs level a few days before the flood. We had no idea at this stage how major the flood was going to be. However, our instincts told that we better be safe and fully evacuate the lower ground floor level. The problem then became that we couldn’t access the level where the boats were stored as waters began to suddenly rise. The plan had always been, that even if the water level came up to this floor, the boats would just float up and float down again. As it happened that water rose to cover the ceiling at this level and halfway up the third level above.
When the waters went down, and it was safe to enter the town, we checked on the boats. It looked like a complete mess. To our surprise no boat had significant damage. There was some cracking and a bulkhead in a sea kayak developed a leak. So basically, the plan worked.
We have not been able to resume normal paddling on the Wilsons River. Untreated sewerage from the Lismore and Casino treatment works is still pouring into the rivers. The whole Richmond- Wilsons River system is unsafe for paddling downstream of where the sewerage enters and perhaps even upstream if the incoming tide overpowers the outflow. Even Ballina and some of the offshore beaches are still unsafe. As our clubhouse is 5 kilometres upstream from the Lismore treatment works, we are going to cautiously return to paddling on Saturday 23 April and paddle only in the upstream direction.
The club is very grateful for all the messages of support from other clubs, and from state and national organisations. We are also grateful for the leadership and compassion from PaddleNSW. The PNSW Directors have waived the FNCCC membership fees in 2022/23. Furthermore, CEO Peter Tate recommended to Paddle Australia to extend the terms of the PaddleOn Foundation beyond COVID-related pressures to include natural disasters, which was accepted by the other States and PA. Many of our members will be taking advantage of this fee relief. Our clubhouse and gear may not have been affected, but every club member has been, and continues to be, impacted by the events of this last eight weeks.
How to Help
1. Next time you renew, consider including donation to the PaddleOn Foundation. It’s a very real way that we can all support other paddlers who have been caught up in natural disasters.
2. Donate to the Lismore City Council fundraising https://lismore.nsw.gov.au/donate-to-the-lismore-flood-fund
3. When our town has infrastructure again, enough to put on sporting events, we’ll be hosting a marathon. It may not be in this winter’s competition – there is still no electricity in parts of Lismore even now, and so many businesses are not up and running yet.
When we have our race, we invite you to make a road trip and take part in our marathon, early next year. Watch this space.
Far North Coast Canoe Club member