Empty shells of houses. Rubbish piled up outside homes.
Waterlogged Woodburn is drying out.
In week three since the floods, the sound of dozers and trucks echoes though the empty streets removing the rubbish piles, one at a time.
There was one place where there were a lot of people – a queue of them.
The Woodburn Wurlitzer Bakery opened today, March 21.
Sandra Aarts and her team put everything into making sure the bakery could serve pies, cakes and coffees again.
It was a symbolic and significant moment for the business community in its flood recovery.
The rest of the main drag in Woodburn was quiet. The shops are cleaned out, some sit with broken windows, bedraggled walls and look nothing like the shops they once were.
But there is movement.
At the Rod ‘n’ Reel, publican Daniel Simpson was preparing the bar to reopen by Saturday for a planned community gathering.
There are frames but no walls inside the pub. The pokie machines are now scrap metal. Daniel though, is determined to get the beer flowing by the weekend.
After Saturday, the pub will be open 3pm-7pm every day.
The problem for the reopening of any business is that most residents are living elsewhere, he said.
The damaged houses they used to live in are being assessed structurally. There is no furniture in the house. Nowhere to sit, nowhere to sleep.
Daniel hopes the community will gather at their local pub this Saturday.
The Woodburn Pharmacy staff were slowly restocking the shelves, cleaning windows and planned to be open by the end of this week.
Rosie’s Takeaway is likely to reopen in a week.
The Woodburn Visitors Centre stands solid with no obvious flood damage to its exterior yet the rubbish piles out the front of the building grows as it is cleaned out.
There is still so much to do to bring life back to Woodburn.
Opening the bakery is an important step. Getting the beer flowing at the local pub is another.
Bit by bit, the river town is fighting for new life.
Not every business will reopen, not everyone will return to their homes.
For those that do, there is a sense of making it through.
Being able to have a pint down the pub again will be a luxury. To meet in the park for a coffee and watch the Richmond River flow by harmlessly will be a treat.
This article appeared on indyNR.com on 21 March 2022.