Friday, 14 January 2011


We have an idea of what Queenslanders will be facing in the aftermath of the flood. Months of stench. Its the pits.

As a young reporter and mum we lived through the 1984 Southland Flood and the ensuing stench still lingers as the most dominant  unpleasant memory of that tough time. It was bloody awful and the area was a stinking mess for weeks. I rang an old Southland  mate who now lives near Brisbane to check he was okay as the Brisbane flood started to gather speed. .He said the event had reminded him a lot of the flood of '84 in Southland.

Here is how the 84 flood unfolded in Southland 

  • This weather flow was then met by a southerly front and resulted in a heavy deluge on the lower-lying parts of Southland.
  • By 9:00 pm that night the amount of rain which had fallen had caused some surface flooding in the streets of Invercargill, and the nearby towns of Riverton and Bluff.
  • The water was too much to be held by streams and rivers, and their banks were soon overflowing. Attempts were made to contain the water with sandbags and pumping, but with little success.
  • The level of the floodwaters grew higher until houses began to be flooded. Emergency services prepared to take action.
  • By 4:00 am on Friday morning the flooding was so severe that a state of emergency was declared by the Mayor of Invercargill.
  • In the morning light it could be seen that houses, streets, factories and shops were under water. Invercargill was a city cut in two by the flooded Otepuni Stream.
  • The rain kept falling and now the flooded rivers were unable to drain out into the Invercargill estuary, particularly at full tide. The water level grew higher and higher.
  • People were evacuated from houses all over Invercargill, but not only the city was affected. Throughout Southland the water levels rose, and the state of emergency was extended to cover all of the province.
  • By noon on the Friday the rain stopped and the sun began to shine, but the floodwaters kept on spreading.
  • Army and Air Force personnel were sent south to help the local Civil Defence workers.
  • Roads and railways lines were under water in places, cutting the province off from the rest of New Zealand. Invercargill airport was flooded with the water up to 3 metres deep, and with 10 light aircraft partly submerged.
  • Over 5000 people were forced to leave their homes and go to the evacuation centres that had been set up to help the refugees and keep records of where people were.
  • Helicopters were used to rescue people who had taken refuge from the flooding on the roofs of their houses. Some cattle were also moved to a safer place by helicopter, but thousands of sheep and cattle drowned.
  • 143 mm of rain fell in Invercargill during this time, almost twice as much as the average rainfall for January. On 26 January alone the rainfall was a record 84.8 mm.
  • No human lives were lost, but there were huge losses in livestock and in damage to buildings and services.

and here are some of the pertinent stats

  • A relief fund was started with a government grant of $1 million.
  • Some people had to wait for more than a week while the floodwaters receded before going back to their homes. 1,200 homes were now unliveable.
  • More than 5000 tonnes of personal belongings which were damaged beyond any form of repair were dumped.
  • More than 12,000 sheep, 100 cattle, 334 pigs and 75 deer were lost, as well as 170 kilometres of fences and 52 farm bridges.
  • About $55 million was paid out in insurance claims.

It was a tough time and for almost a year the stink hung heavy in the air. We shifted cattle and sheep over about 12 hours during the flood through  filthy  rising water. It was a slow creep kinda flood. We nursed boils on our legs for days.

So one can imagine that with the extra heat it can only be worse in Queensland.

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