The Flood Survivors

The Flood Survivors

“We had three nights… before we lost everything”- Mark Davis

Mark Davis is the co-owner of the Commercial Hotel, Broadwater, which was almost totally submerged during the 2022 floods. This is his story.

“So, I guess, about three or four weeks ago, some friends approached me with the idea of purchasing this pub.”

“It was actually possibly going to be knocked down. So we had the idea to try and save the pub for the community. When we bought it, we closed it down, did lots of cleaning and it took about three weeks to really get it up to a standard that we were happy with.”

“We had our opening night on a Friday night. It was great. There were over 200 people here, which is probably not a lot for some pubs but for this particular pub… well, some people who have lived here their whole lives said they’d never seen this many people here, ever.

“So it was really nice to see the community getting behind us.”

“We operated for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then over those three days it was raining a little bit and raining a bit more and a bit more.”

“Then by Monday it actually started flooding here. So we had to evacuate.”

“Initially, nobody was really that concerned about the level of flood water that was predicted. But we quickly realised over the next couple of days, it was just rising and rising.”

“We ended up with two and a half metres of water inside the pub.”

“It was about 30 centimetres from the ceiling. We also have nine motel rooms, which completely went under.”

“All the floor furnishings were carpet in the motel so we had to rip all those out and all the plaster fell off the walls and the ceiling and things like that.”

“Obviously all the bedding and mattresses and things had to be thrown out, all the electronic equipment and aircon units and TVs and all that kind of stuff – fridges – all that’s gone.”

“So we had three nights of operation, basically, before we lost everything. It was devastating to be honest.”

“We were planning on doing a few little renovations just to tidy it up a little bit. But unfortunately, now that’s all going to have to go to replacing everything that was destroyed.”

“Even our tap systems – there was a big double-door fridge that was full of beer which floated up and when the water receded, the fridge was on top of the tap system on top of the bar, which bent it all.”

“[Setting up the pub again will] be literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Insurance… one of my business partners was organising insurance and I don’t know whether it was unavailable to us, or whether the cost was just completely prohibitive. Some places, for businesses, it costs you $150,000 per year for insurance if you want flood cover.”

“So it’s just not possible for a business to operate. Paying that sort of money every year, you can’t do it.”

“There are a few grants… [and] I have heard a rumour that the federal government will be having an interest-free loan up to $150,000. But I have heard those loans, even though they’re government backed, are exceptionally hard to actually get a hold of.”

“I think… the federal government didn’t really step in quick enough.”

“There’s a lot of red tape that stops funds from coming to people who need it now and it would be nice for the federal government to make access to grants and funding a lot simpler, and in a more timely fashion, for sure. It’s not flowing through at all.”

“We [also] need trades people sent up from other areas and materials sent up. Really quickly. We need shipping containers of building materials sent up to a central point, so people can actually go and rebuild their lives.”

“A lot of people are willing to come and help clean, we had a huge amount of people come here and clean for starters, which was so helpful.”

“Everyone just wants to pitch in and help and it’s been really so good to see because we’ve come out of the COVID period where everyone is trying to stay away from each other, and I guess if there’s any sort of silver lining in a devastating event like this, is that it’s actually bringing communities back together again.”

“We might look down the way of having some sort of temporary bar system to see if we can at least open, just for the community as well – we’re the only pub in town, really, that operates on a regular basis, and there’s no other food offerings, the local community have nowhere to go.”

“We intend to try and open up, even at a limited capacity.”

“Just to open for the community to come in and talk about what happened, because this is going to affect so many people and really have a lasting impact on their mental states.”

“A lot of people around here probably won’t go and seek professional counselling and that type of system, whereas people can come to a pub and have a beer and talk about things and discuss it and that’s what we want to do for the community.”

“My goal here is to get rid of all the gambling type things… [and] bring the families back in, open up the back so we can have a beer garden and a kids play area – kid friendly, family friendly, dog friendly. Everyone friendly.”

“The beers that we want to put on, I intend to have just the Northern Rivers local breweries.”

“I’d like to actually do a little bit of brewing myself here and maybe put one of our beers on tap here as well, and open up the kitchen again, and have some great food sourced from local produce.”

March 2022, Broadwater, NSW, Australia