Fred and Karen Hewerdine outside their rebuilt Woolooga home yesterday.
Fred and Karen Hewerdine outside their rebuilt Woolooga home yesterday. Renee Pilcher

Praise for town neighbours

"YOU won't recognise the house," Karen Hewerdine said yesterday, one year and two days on from the virtual destruction of her Woolooga home.

She was right.

We knocked on the door of the unoccupied house next door before realising that the almost completely renovated and unrecognisable Hewerdine house was now on high stumps (to put its flood level above even the new unprecedented flood level).

A much-relieved Mrs Hewerdine welcomed The Gympie Times in for a bit of country hospitality, in the form of tea and cake.

The cake came with a particular irony, since that was what Mrs Hewerdine promised Queensland Reconstruction Authority chair Mick Slater last year, when he paid a surprise post-flood visit to the then-devastated town.

The flood, which government officials claimed did not happen, devastated the tiny Kilkivan district town in the dead of night.

By morning, when the government helicopter took aerial photographs of flood areas, the water had gone down, leaving residents to face disbelieving officials and even threats of prosecution for fraud.

A distraught Mrs Hewerdine took full advantage of the Major-General's visit, helping a handful of other victims to convince him their claims were genuine.

After a few minutes of private conversation, accompanied by note taking and mobile phone communication, Maj-Gen Slater told her: "I think I can get a result for you."

Mrs Hewerdine and husband Fred yesterday sang the praises of all the people who helped them, particularly near neighbours and fellow townspeople.

"But really, we had help from all over Queensland and all over Australia," she said yesterday.

Not quite so fortunate was Woolooga publican Brendan Clark Coolee, who said the business, run by him and his twin brother Bill, was out of business for months after the flood.

"We still haven't got insurance. They say it was rising water, which we were not insured against. But it was run-off, rushing down the hill," he said.

"We're headed for litigation and we're just going through the last of the preliminary steps now."

A nail in the wall of the public bar and another one outside show the height of the flood.

Meanwhile, Mrs Hewerdine has a confession to make. When Maj-Gen Slater promised results, she promised to bake him a cake, which she never did.

But she had cake for The Gympie Times yesterday. It was beautiful, thanks Mick.

Gympie Times


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