Lismore - one year on
Lismore Model Flying Club – One Year On
In February 2022 three major rain events, over a period of four days, created Australia’s biggest natural disaster since Cyclone Tracy. The total cost to insurers of the northern rivers floods turned out to be the second costliest event in the world for insurers in 2022.
Each of the three rain events would have resulted in significant flooding in their own right, however the combination of three in four days was catastrophic.The speed of the rising water overwhelmed all throughout Lismore CBD, Girard’s Hill, East Lismore, South Lismore and North Lismore. I am sure many of us saw the news coverage of the flotilla of local residents' boats assisting our totally inundated emergency services.
Priority naturally went to aiding those seriously affected - any concerns for club property and facilities, such as Lismore Model Flying Club, was a very long way down the list.
The rapidly rising water prevented any access to LMFC and literally everything at the club was affected; the runways, pit area, shed and contents reportedly some 6 metres underwater. Our container, used to house mowing equipment, and located on higher ground well away from the runway area, was also flooded and floated away from its footings. Access to the LMFC field was initially totally cut off for a number of weeks, noting also that the nearby sewerage treatment plant was completely flooded with damaged pumps and remained out of operation for several months, with raw and low treated sewerage discharging into the Wilson River and waterways in and around our club. The pictures below are taken at a considerable distance from our club, hence the poor resolution, however the sailing dinghy is roughly on top of the clubhouse.
The club executive started to list the losses and put together a plan for the lengthy recovery process - and then on day 21 after the initial flood, disaster struck again. Evacuation orders were again issued for Lismore as 79mm fell in the first hour with the ground everywhere too wet to absorb any more rain.
The photo below shows the roof of the clubhouse with the main runway between the clubhouse and the first row of trees. Beyond the underwater tree line is a drainage canal, another row of trees and then open fields before getting to the hills well in the distance. This is the start of the hill seen behind the sailing dinghy in the photo above. Bearing in mind that this is the second flood, 21 days after the first. The club portaloo was ripped off its concrete drilled footings and can be seen wedged under the roof of the clubhouse. This is after it had been recovered by vehicle winch and towing only days prior to the second flood! The force of the flowing water also tore the roller door from its guide rails.
The LMFC committee looked at a range of flood mitigation and flood recovery options. Top of mind was always that member access to the field for flying was the number one priority with facility repair and improvement coming in second and this was followed by the reestablishing of club flying and social events. A detailed plan was drawn up covering the above priorities and a range of projects created to address the plan. We agreed to give individuals total ownership of various projects with both a very limited budget and club volunteer assistance. It was quickly evident that club funds alone would not go near achieving what was required and a range of funding options was investigated.
LMFC was successful with its application to the MAAA for the Club Assistance Scheme, which saw $5,500 being made available towards the overall project to further mitigate the effect of major rain events on our runways, taxiways and pit area at the club field. In addition to this the club matched these funds through the hosting, in quick succession, of three Lismore Bunnings Sausage Sizzles, noting that Bunnings itself went 2 metres under water with 100% of stock having to be written off.
Many businesses found out that the rapid mould growth on nearby stock that was not flooded meant that all stock had to be written off and was not available for sale. Lismore Bunnings has been an exceptional supporter of our club. Securing three sausage sizzles basically in a row, with a fourth planned for May, is normally unheard off. Combined with the MAAA CAS, this provided sufficient funds for the three stages of the field drainage project and the replacement of some basic clubhouse items such as water tank, chairs, tables, shelving etc. A large range of club maintenance and facility equipment such as generator, air compressor, mower spares, gazebos, signage, etc has fallen outside of available funds and cannot easily be replaced.
Flood Mitigation Project
The project was broken into three stages being:
- Runway drainage. Purchase of soil and the hire of excavation equipment for the construction of several major drains to help divert water around the runways towards a larger drainage system around the perimeter of our field. This stage was completed as soon as we could get machinery onto the field as flood water subsided. Noting that the newly created drains continued to flow ground water for over four months following the second flood.
- Perimeter drain clearing. Whilst the runways continued to dry out, the next major hurdle was the clearing of the perimeter drains to allow the constantly building water to flow towards the nearby stream and river system. The perimeter drains were completely blocked by the large number of coral trees that have formed stands in the low lying wetland areas. This task was well beyond a normal club working bee and contractors were brought in to complete the felling and clearing. Access was then possible for the excavation equipment to return and complete the clearing of the drains. Remaining coral tree stumps were chemically treated via cut stump stem injection as advised by NSW Department of Primary Industries.
- Additional field drainage. The final stage saw additional drains being dug to further link the outfield with the perimeter drains, along with more filling, topsoil, levelling and re seeding of the runways.
The photo below shows the work being done over several months to complete the flood mitigation project.
All up, members lost 13 weeks of flying time before access to the field was once again possible. This was then followed by ongoing cleaning, rebuilding of shelves, building a new kitchen area and the installation of a donated solar system with the new batteries coming out of club funds. On top of this was the repair of flood damaged mowers, blowers, trimmers and other club equipment noting that a number of major items were not recoverable.
Has it Been Worth It
Several people have questioned the effort that has gone into rebuilding our field, given that history dictates that we will flood again. No amount of fill will lift the field to a point where we are flood proof, however significant drainage will help get rid of the water more quickly. Further flood proofing has also been undertaken inside the clubhouse with the use of materials that survive flooding and locating critical equipment as high as possible in the shed. All electrical equipment has quick disconnect features which allow for immediate removal given that Lismore is being equipped with a range of new early warning devices that will hopefully provide residents with more time to prepare in the future.
Our field was put to the test in October with a flash flood on the 25th October. You will see some interesting photos below and yes, the photo on the bottom right shows a bull shark peacefully swimming the length of our main runway. This is probably not a typical model flying field hazard! The water was very clear and numerous large catfish were also spotted. We have drone footage showing this. Thankfully our new drains worked with flying and mowing recommencing just three days later with no facility damage. Equipment was removed from the clubhouse, however the water was less than knee deep and everything was reinstalled as soon as the water subsided.
The End Result
The transformation of the field over a period of nine months is bordering on unbelievable. The MAAA CAS grant and fund raising combined with tireless effort by many club members, has delivered an exceptional end result.
We have a postcard perfect field, mown to nearly bowling green standards, with a range of facilities to make time at the field very enjoyable for members and visitors. The solar system provides 12 and 24v outlets for charging of batteries along with power for the fridge. Endless tea and coffee is always available along with pressurised water from the new tank and a clean and efficient kitchen. BBQ facilities top this off to make a great flying field.
The last four months have seen significant activity at the Lismore Model Flying Field. We were nominated as a practice field for the F3A 2022 Australian Masters World Cup which was held at Casino. The practice event received great coverage with a Channel 7 news article including interviews with competitors and our club President.
Just prior to Christmas we had Daryl Woolfe (ANSW Safety Officer) join us for a morning of flying where we hosted a BBQ and Daryl briefed our members on many aspects of safety in our hobby and how it affects all of us. Daryl commented in a recent ANSW newsletter that the Lismore field was a great example of how a flying field should be safely setup.
Our club Christmas Event, held at the field, was attended by nearly all our members along with partners and visitors. A large screen displayed photos of the club recovery process and a social morning of flying was an important part of the event.
Early February saw us host Janelle Saffin, Member for Lismore in the NSW Legislative Assembly, for a morning tea and model display at our club. Janelle addressed all members by complementing us on the recovery work done and recognition of the important service our club provides to both community and club members who often just come out to watch the flying and join us for tea and coffee.
We recently marked one year on from the flood event and we saw Michael Hobson run an IMAC bootcamp over the weekend for our club. Interest from club members to both participate and also to come and watch, was significant with six member signing up to join the Northern Rivers IMAC event being hosted by the Lismore Model Flying Club on 6/7th May 2023. The club extends an invitation to all who might like to spend a weekend in the area and come and watch or participate in the event. All catering will be done by club members to help make this a successful event and contribute to club funding.
The following photos show some of our members’ models.