FRANK McKee cracks. But only for a second.

"A bit devastated," he says he feels.

Then he starts to cry and turns to hug his wife Barbara.

The town fire warden pulls back quickly and wipes his eyes.

There's no time for tears. There's work to be done.

A crowd has gathered at Builyan State School in the Boyne Valley.

Industrial services company Phoenix Group CQ is leading the charge.

It's 8.30am Saturday.

The goal: to get in and fix what the recent floods destroyed.

"What are we waiting for?" Renee Keightley asks. "We're burning daylight."

Ubobo local Kaye Pownall explains that Renee's property has taken a real hit.

She lives out on the Monto side of the Valley, about 10 minutes past Many Peaks.

Kaye's family has roots four-generations back in this area.

Her brother Paul runs a cattle property with their parents in Builyan.

He estimates the water knocked down 20km of fencing.

"Some is unsalvageable - it's so minced up."

He had 300 head of cattle. On Saturday only 100 had turned up.

The Valley copped 200ml of rain on Australia Day alone.

The four townships - Nagoorin, Ubobo, Builyan and Many Peaks - were completely cut off.

The power went off. Landlines were down.

And there's never any mobile reception out here, disaster or not.

"It just wiped any beast out on the river flats," Paul says.

His dad is 80-odd and has never seen flooding like it.

"That's a pretty good record," Paul says.

He adds that the priority for now is re-fencing the roads.

That way, the cattle can be herded up.

"It's going to take a long time."

But Paul says he's taking it all one day at a time.

"(Otherwise) it's just too much, it's overwhelming - you just go blank.

"It's like being stuck in a nightmare."

The Paish family feel the same.

Leonie and Dave run the only dairy in the Valley. It's called Velvet Waters.

The numbers say it all.

The shed out on the paddock was built to the level of the '47 floods.

The water went two-and-a-half feet (76cm) higher this time.

They've lost 70 head of cattle. Two of those were the couple's best show cows.

Several water tanks have been swept away.

Dave's got word that one's turned up at Mount Castle Tower National Park in Iveragh. The 5000 gallon tanks cost a couple grand a pop.

With the road out of town under, there was no way to get the milk out.

But that didn't mean the work stopped. The cows still had to be milked. And 19,000 litres of the stuff had to be dumped.

"We still had all the expenses, all the input and work," Leonie says.

When asked how she feels, Leo, as she's known, is frank.


Dave says the community spirit has been fantastic.

Councillor Leo Neill-Ballantine generously donated 80 bales of hay.

Fellow Boyne Valley farmer Shane Mossman gave them a further 100.

It's been a life saver as all the paddock feed washed away.

As grateful as they are, Dave and Leo predict the supply will last just a couple weeks.

They are yet to gauge just how hard they have been hit financially. When asked if the dairy can recover from this, Leo shrugs. "I just don't know ..."

The Paish family desperately needs water tanks and troughs. Can you help? Email


Did you know?

  • The Boyne River actually starts in the Valley, not at the Awoonga Dam wall.
  • Boyne Valley's population fluctuates between 400-420. At last count, 76 residents commuted out of town to work.

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