Kent St in the Maryborough central business district. The levee overflowed about 1am on Tuesday, January 28.
Kent St in the Maryborough central business district. The levee overflowed about 1am on Tuesday, January 28. Robyne Cuerel

Six months since devastating floods hit the Fraser Coast

EXACTLY six months ago, the Fraser Coast woke up to complete isolation and the biggest flood in almost four decades.

The Mary River swept through 150 homes and 50 businesses as it worked its way to a peak of 10.7m.

Maryborough Chamber of Commerce president Paul Smith said most flooded businesses had now traded their way out of the tough recovery period.

He praised businesses such as Muddy Waters cafe, which reopened in a new home in the Portside precinct after flooding five times in the past three years.

Mr Smith said others had adapted their business plan or even created new partnerships out of the floods, such as Michelle's Cutting Edge and Kelley's Nails of Excellence.

The two beauty businesses operate as separate entities but now work under the same roof after the original home for Kelley's Nails of Excellence was heavily damaged.

Their innovative recovery approach led to being named Fraser Coast Business of the Year earlier this month.

"The biggest thing for the town to recover is for people to spend money," Mr Smith said.

"All they need to do is support local business."

The most widespread economic impact for the Fraser Coast was not caused by floodwaters, but by a natural gas outage.

Hotels, dry cleaners, takeaways and restaurants became unexpected flood victims when the gas supply was cut off for almost a month.

About 450 businesses and 550 homes across Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Bundaberg were cut off after the main pipeline was heavily damaged where it crosses the Burnett River.

It forced dozens of small businesses to stay closed until the gas could be restored.

Bigger operators such as the Carriers Arms Hotel and Consolidated Linen Service paid for temporary equipment changes to avoid having to close down.

Mr Smith said the loss of revenue would be felt by many businesses in their profits, and income, for the past financial year.

"You can survive but it's not a particularly good way of life," Mr Smith said.

The question being posed to Fraser Coast residents now is whether they are prepared for the next wet season.

Fraser Coast disaster co-ordinator Mal Churchill said it had been impossible to predict what this summer would bring.

The official start of the wet season on November 1.

Constant rainfall through winter has kept water levels high and made recovery difficult for farmers and graziers.

"The ground is still wet, the water table is still high," Mr Churchill said.

"It doesn't take long to raise floodwaters."

He said people must plan for either self-evacuation or to be self-sustaining in the event of another isolating flood.

Every town on the Fraser Coast was cut off from each other in the January floods.

Smaller coastal towns such as Poona and Maaroom were cut off for a second time only weeks later.

"There is a message in it for all us," Mr Churchill said.

"To be resilient, you need to be prepared.

"Be ready in case the call is made."

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