A Sapphire business owner has praised the efforts of the local SES and Sergeant Paul Cognet on their swift responses to the major floods early on Wednesday morning.

Blue Gem Tourist Park owner Ewan Letts was woken to the news about 3.30am there had been a huge downpour in the catchment of Retreat Creek and he needed to evacuate his guests.

There was around six vans in the park that needed to be moved to higher ground.

“We were able to evacuate them without a drama,” Mr Letts said.

“The creek had risen dramatically to what it normally was … they had something like 217mm in the lower catchment … it was a very intense rainfall which resulted in the creek coming up very quickly.

“It was pretty exciting there for a while, it was still coming up when we were evacuating people and we didn’t know where it was going to finish.”

Overflow from the dam at Anakie, across the road from the transfer station. Pic: Debbie Cognet.
Overflow from the dam at Anakie, across the road from the transfer station. Pic: Debbie Cognet.

It was the first time in the eight years Mr Letts has been there he has had to evacuate.

Knocking on caravan doors at 3.30am, Mr Letts said the guests took the shock news well.

“When I explained what was going on they were calm and did a great job at lowering their annexes, hooking up their trailers and getting out of the park …. they are well seasoned travellers,” he said.

A tight knit community with a population of 500, Mr Letts said the public support had been incredible.

“The phone doesn’t stop ringing, are you okay do you need any help?” he said.

He also commended the help from emergency services and the Central Highlands Regional Council.

Policemens Creek at Sapphire by Luke King.
Policemens Creek at Sapphire by Luke King.

“Sergeant Paul Cognet was up and about alerting everyone in the wee hours of the morning and the response from Kris Nilsson and the SES, they go over and above,” he said.

“We’ve had good support from council, Mayor Hayes came out, just had a bit of time with him and some managers.

“They were able to have a look at the flood damage first-hand, which was great, quick response.

“We were pretty well looked over.”

Some properties along the creek have been inundated but Mr Letts’ caravan park has fared fairly well, with just some mud to clean up.

“We have got some cleaning up to do just on the perimeter and fingers crossed we don’t get another big event tonight,” he said.

There is some concerns more rain will fall on Wednesday night.

“Our biggest concern at the moment is if we get another rainfall event this evening, 10 or 20mm would wash all the mud off the leaves of the grass,” Mr Letts said.

Renae Mills took this photo of Retreat Creek behind the Blue Gem Tourist Park at Sapphire.
Renae Mills took this photo of Retreat Creek behind the Blue Gem Tourist Park at Sapphire.

While some roads were cut for a few hours, they had reopened again on Wednesday and he had no concerns of getting deliveries.

“We are not new to floods but when have a business like ours with accommodation, service station and grocery store, your customers are relying on you pretty heavily,” he said.

While it was more than what they would have liked, they have been praying for some rain to make for a good fossicking season.

“We got out of jail with this one but it’s bought a wonderful flush down the creek, I am expecting a lot of visitors will come now,” Mr Letts said.

It is good timing ahead of the winter and tourist months and just before Easter.

The rain washes up all the gems, creating the ideal fossicking.

“We have been wanting this for some time … that is a real positive from it all,” he said.



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