A month ago, Greg ‘Hollywood’ Hartley was spruiking his idyllic Hawkesbury hideaway. Now, it’s been wiped out.
A month ago, Greg ‘Hollywood’ Hartley was spruiking his idyllic Hawkesbury hideaway. Now, it’s been wiped out.

Paradise lost: Former league ref’s flood heartache

HIS cabin was saved by just one inch - not that Greg Hartley is celebrating.

This was Hollywood's heartache.

The refereeing legend has been left shattered after floods destroyed 52 of the 64 cabins inside the Leetsvale Caravan Park, a cluster of caravans where Hartley lives 83km northwest of Sydney, on the Hawkesbury River.

Just last month Hartley opened up to The Daily Telegraph about the "absolute paradise" he had found in a cabin near the water with dog, Elly.

Hartley, 78, has now been left to help clean up the damage which "wiped out" his caravan park neighbours during last week's floods.

"Paradise isn't paradise anymore," Hartley said on Tuesday.

"We got wiped out. I've never seen devastation like this, I have never seen a flood like it. This is just unbelievable.

"People's whole lives are shattered. It's total devastation. Only 12 caravans survived, the rest, water was up two, three, four feet.

Before: Former NRL referee Greg ‘Hollywood’ Hartley and his dog, Elly, at his home on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Leetsvale. Picture: Toby Zerna
Before: Former NRL referee Greg ‘Hollywood’ Hartley and his dog, Elly, at his home on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Leetsvale. Picture: Toby Zerna

"It missed me by one inch. My place was on the high ground at the back so somehow it survived but the rest were absolutely gutted. In some places, it came up nearly four feet. It will take six months to fix this."

Hartley has developed his caravan into a small yet comfortable cabin just a 30m walk to the Hawkesbury.

Hartley is one of three people who live in the park full-time, the remaining residents arriving on weekends and public holidays. Those coming for Easter will be left shocked.

"A lot of cabins are still standing but they're just ruined. It's covered in brown mud, from my place right down to the water. My son's place went under, so did my daughter's," he said.

After: Hartley says 52 of the 64 caravans in Leetsvale were destroyed by the recent floods.
After: Hartley says 52 of the 64 caravans in Leetsvale were destroyed by the recent floods.

 

Floodwaters were lapping at people’s front decks.
Floodwaters were lapping at people’s front decks.

"Some of the people further down steam were completely wiped out. Caravans were floating down the river, half houses were floating down the river.

"About six, seven, eight boats went under. I don't know where they go for insurance?

"We had 30 people from the fire brigade and SES here the day before yesterday and they are supposedly coming back today. The whole place is black with mud."

Gutted and weary, the caravan park residents have vowed to fight back and rebuild their destroyed cabins.

"We'll fight back, mate. Everyone in this park is so stoic," Hartley said. "A lot of people are starting to rebuild now," Hartley said.

The damage from the floods is immense.
The damage from the floods is immense.

 

The clean-up will be long and costly.
The clean-up will be long and costly.

"Everyone is saying: "If you think this is going to slow us down, well it ain't, because we're going to build this place bigger and better."

Last month, Hartley was so relaxed and enthusiastic about his future at Leetsvale.

"I have been around the world but at 6 o'clock in the morning, I don't think there's a better place in the world, when the mist comes across the water, water skiers coming from the mist," Hartley said.

"I don't have to answer to anyone. I will live here until they cart me out. I have no reason to move."

Originally published as Paradise lost: Former league ref's flood heartache



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