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Byron Shire
September 29, 2023

Take the ‘L’ out of flood; it’s all about the food

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Story and photo: Vivienne Pearson

Most of us were affected by the recent ‘ECL’ (that’s East Coast Low for those more into food than weather), but few more than those in Billunudgel, who experienced its worst flood since 2005. I visited to check out how the food businesses in town fared.

Billi Indian Restaurant consider themselves fortunate that the water stopped rising before it came inside, especially as they have recently redecorated. The outside area flooded, but only after staff and customers had heeded warnings to evacuate.

Also fortunate were other businesses on slightly higher ground – those in the Industrial Estate, and the Humble Pie Garden Café (though, unsurprisingly they had a fair bit of foliage debris).

The Bilinudgel Hotel was not so lucky. By 10.30pm on the Saturday (4 June), the water was a foot high indoors. It fell as quickly as it rose though, so was down and out by 2.30am. ‘It was not too bad in the scheme of things,’ says manager Craig Barnham. Having seen a few floods in their time, the staff and customers knew what had to be done. ‘The boys here all chipped in to lift the pool table up onto some kegs,’ says Craig nonchalantly.

This ‘just get it done’ spirit continued into Sunday morning for the cleanup.

A relative newcomer to the area, Michael Langtry of New World Foods (with offices in the centre of town), was impressed as he watched people arrive with shovels, brooms and mops. ‘They just turned up and knew exactly what to do,’ he recounts. This response doesn’t surprise local stalwart Wally Walsh, who has lived in Billinudgel for the better part of 70 years. ‘We all get on well, and help each other out,’ is his succinct description.

This was so much so that the pub was open on the Sunday and The Billinudgel Store from Monday. ‘A lot of people were surprised so see us open,’ says Jim Hedditch, from the Store. 

By the time I visited, nearly a week later, there was no sign of water; only bright sunshine, the clink of glasses on the pub’s verandah, green oasis calm at Humble Pie, and a queue of people in the Store. That evening, as the winter chill took hold (thankfully without any rain), diners expressed their gratitude for Billi Indian’s bright lights, open fire, outdoor heater and warm food.

Craig and Graham showing the water level

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