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East Gippsland caravan parks rise above flood, fire and drought and reach for a fishing rod

July 12, 2007
East Gippsland caravan parks rise above flood, fire and drought and reach for a fishing rod

GoSeeAustralia based itself at Swan Reach as we made an editorial tour of the area at the weekend. Our base was a friend's property on top of a hill which overlooks the Tambo River about 4km upstream from the Swan Reach pub.

Flood peak levels at Swan Reach were about 3m lower than the last floods in 1998 we were told. Swan Reach locals also told us that coincidently the 2007 floods were within days of the last event.

Sections of the Tambo River banks we saw are seriously eroded by the force of the water.

But flooding didn't wash out fences this time at Swan Reach. Water rose to about 1.5m on the river flats where the water still lies. Many farmers have seriously eroded driveways and the sudden rush of water burst the dry cracked banks (walls) of some farm dams.

But there is always a bright side and that includes -

Bream fishing will be great within the next two months when the waters clear a bit.

The floods will flush out the lakes system and help wash away sandbars where the Gippsland Lakes system enters the sea at Lakes Entrance.

Boating access to the waterways will be easier with higher water levels.

Caravan Parks are operating normally in East Gippsland today. Mitchell Gardens, at Bairnsdale is the exception but is cleaning up and Shean Banson said from the low-lying caravan park that he expects to be open in about a week. Editors Note: On August 19 the park said it was operating normally.

We visited Lealow Tourist Park at Johnsonville- all is well there now. They are on top of hill, but the local boat ramp and carpark went under. Lealow is situated at Johnsonville, halfway along the Princes Highway between Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance.

It is central to all the attractions of the Gippsland Lakes area both by water and by road. The park is on the banks of the Tambo River adjoining the boat ramp and picnic area. The verandahs of the deluxe cabins have magnificent views overlooking the river and the golf course.

Wendy on the Princes Highway at Nicholson River Tourist Park says all is well there too.

Carol and Barry Harman at Resthaven Caravan Park in Gilsenan St, Paynesville says they are away from the river and all is ok there but the town and Raymond Island was cut off for a few days.

Paynesville says it is the Boating Capital of Victoria about 10min drive from Bairnsdale along the banks of the Mitchell River.

Resthaven is set among native trees and grassy sites with native birdlife. It is an easy walk to shops, restaurants, the waterfront, boat ramp and jetties.

The main ferry was not operating while we were in Paynesville due to the high water levels the punt, however, was transferring cars back and forward to Raymond Island. The skipper used the footpath area next to the ferry terminal to load and unload cars over the kerb and channelling.

Paynesville has fine fish and chips on the forshore so we stopped with our Caravan Guard Dog Chloe and half a bottle of wine from the Engel - wonderful place and town was bustling with tourists even though the shops at the yacht club end of the street were still closed.

Allawah Tourist and Boat Park which backs onto a canal at Paynesville had floodwaters over cabin ground level pavers, but this did not enter the cabins. There is no flooding now. Overall there is a 98 percent recovery from flooding already the Lakes Entrance Information Centre said late last week.

Boat ramps on rivers and the Gippsland Lakes chain should be treated with caution. Many are still underwater.

The low-level Mitchell Gardens Caravan Park at Bairnsdale is an Oz Parks member. They were worst hit of the East Gippsland caravan parks and are cleaning up but it is a big job. The caravan park is closed and we will keep in touch to report their re-opening.
At Stratford Top Tourist Park in McMillan St only the camping area on the bank of river went under and there was about 5cm of water around the cabins at the flood peak, but there was no major damage.

The Top Tourist Park, three hours from Melbourne, is open and there was a phone number on door to call the manage. It was late on Sunday evening so we did not ring Shuan and Louise Perrett and kept on travelling to Sale. On the banks of the Avon River, it is a family run park and has large shaded sites, free barbecues, camp kitchen, free access to council pool when it is open, playground and immaculately clean amenities.

At Sale Motor Village Leanne and Floyde Murphy have the caravan park going strong. Sale Motor Village is a particularly well positioned park by the Princess Highway (in town), with fully self contained cabins.

It isset back from the road and within walking distance of Sale shopping centre, hotels, restaurants, take-aways, sports facilities and the Port of Sale. It has covered barbecues and playground.

Activities in and around Sale include: Boating, bowls, bush walking, croquet, fishing, golfing, greyhound and horse racing and sailing. Sale is an excellent base for trips to the mountains (Tarra Bulga National Park to the west) to the sea (Seaspray, Ninety Mile Beach, Loch Sport, to the south east).

On route back to Melbourne westayed overnight in a pleasant pet-friendly dedicated cabin (with Chloe) at Park Lane Tourist Park, Traralgon. Park lane is very pet friendly and even has a small enclosed run where dogs can be left while their owners tour the Tarra Valley National Park or attractions like PowerWorks. There is a big leash free area at the back of the park as well.

Pets are allowed at the managers discretion. They must be on a lead at all times. Park Lane recognises that many people love their pets and want them with them on the road. There are also a small number of Pet Friendly cabins available for travellers.

Park Lane has been transformedthrough the practical knowhow that goes with people like owners Graeme and Chris Hellings and the caravan park management skills of Barry and Denise Stewart. This happy combination has propelled Park Lane from two stars to a AAA Tourism rating of four and a half.

Park Lane's Lodges with spa hold their own with any Australian touring accommodation option we have used and the cabins run away with the game in a price comparison with many hotels and motels. Children do well too with modern games room, pool and playground. The TV room includes lounge chairs which allow a feet-up approach to the screen scene.

For complete relaxation for body and mind Barry has completed the launch of a serious all-weather outdoor spa under its own gazebo roof. GoSeeAustralia believes that the major requirement for successful caravan park managers is that they must be able to turn their hand to anything.

Barry fills the bill and as far as the bubbling spa is concernedclearly takes special pride in his work. GoSeeAustralia notes that in our eight-seater spa picture (below)the head at left in line with the hand-rail looks like Barry's. Which might explain his enthusiasm for spa maintenance. We could be wrong of course!

The caravan Ensuite sites are effective, drive-through and fit easily into the thoughtful development of Park Lanes caravan and motorhome movement plan. The revamped Top Tourist Park member is installing more new cabins and a house is being built for managers Barry and Denise to live on site.

Stratford Top Tourist Park
Stratford Top Tourist Park

VICSES State Operations Director, Trevor White, asked travellers to help the people of Gippsland fight back from the triple impacts of drought, fire and flood.

Spare a thought for the people affected by this spate of natural disasters. Support the people of East Gippsland by visiting the area and spending your tourist dollars where they are needed most.

All flood levels continue to fall and fluctuations in the lakes are stabilising Victoria's State Emergency Service says. VICROADS information on highway and roads should be obtained from VICROADS web site.

Due to undermining of some roads by flood waters pot holes are appearing and motorists should take extreme care when traversing roads in the flood affected areas.

The amount of daily rise and fall of floodwaters will depend on the combined interaction of tides, wind, and inflows from various lakes and rivers as the water finally flows to the ocean.

Mosquito numbers are starting to be recorded at high levels and repellent together with suitable protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts should be worn.

A number of snakes have also been located having been washed down in the flood waters and great care must be taken when in the flood area.

Paynesville Bairnsdale Road within hours of reopening Sunday  July 8
Paynesville Bairnsdale Road within hours of reopening Sunday July 8
The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Victoria reports today that -

Flood Warning Summary
Issued at 10:07am today Friday July 13.

The following warnings are current:

Flood Warning for the Gippsland Lakes.
Minor Flood Warning for the Macalister River Downstream of Lake Glenmaggie.
Minor Flood Warning for the Thomson River at Sale.
Final Flood Warning for the Snowy Rive around and downstream of McKillops

Flood Warning for the Gippsland Lakes:
Issued at 10:04am today, Friday, July 13.

There is still a large volume of water flowing into the Gippsland Lakes.
During Friday west to southwesterly winds 10 to 15 knots increasing to around 15 knots during afternoon before easing to around 10 knots in the evening.

Rain periods tending to showers with local hail and thunder possible. High tides at Lakes Entrance are expected at 8:01am Friday and 7:52pm Friday. Today's evening tide will be higher than the morning tide.

The high inflows to the Gippsland Lakes, are expected to lead to continued highwater levels in the Gippsland Lakes, with the levels also falling and rising with the tides. High water levels will continue in parts of the Gippsland Lakes.

Communities including Paynesville, Raymond Island, Lakes Entrance, Metung, LochSport,Hollands Landing and Seacombe are at risk from flooding from the Gippsland Lakes.
Oz Parks Mitchell Gardens Tourist Park Bairnsdale
Oz Parks Mitchell Gardens Tourist Park Bairnsdale

States are working together in Australia's run of natural disasters. Deployments of VICSES volunteers assisted NSWSES with their flood and storm recovery.

They went to one of the worst hit areas in NSW the area around Gosford and Wyong north of Sydney tarping roofs and clearing fallen trees.

In East Gippsland and the Gippsland Lakes flooding rivers and a king high tide on Saturday, June 30 brought an end of financial year peak 1.33m above normal levels at Lakes Entrance.

Raymond Island, Burrabogie Island, Loch Sport and the Hollands Landing Caravan Park were evacuated the State Emergency Service said. Golden Beach did not require evacuation.

Some parts of Paynesville, Raymond (about 350 people) and Burrabogie Island were isolated.

It is only five months since East Gippsland people faced some of the biggest bushfires in Australian history. Now this is being followed by storms in NSW and Victoria and flooding rain along the East coast of Australia.

Bushfires last summer have made the flood conditions worse. More than 1,000 bushfires menaced Victorian communities over 69 days during a blazing Australian drought summer. Millions of hectares of land was blackened, in Victoria, NSW, SA and WA. In Victoria's north and east communities were hardest hit.

Raymond Island barge is running
Raymond Island barge is running

State Emergency Service spokesman John O'Brien told ABC radio with nothing to hold it and allow natural soaking in storm rains which hit blackened, drought stricken East Gippsland poured off the ground and into creeks.

What has changed is that instead of a gentler release of water from the forest areas or the catchment areas, it has run immediately to creeks and then run immediately down the systems and it hasn't been retained in the vegetation, he said.

In 1998, the Victorian government declared a state of emergency as some of the worst flooding in the region's history inundated farms and towns, leaving a damage bill estimated at $45 million.

In 2001, floodwaters in Gippsland caused the Tarwin River to burst its banks, isolating several hundred people in the fishing community of Tarwin Lower.

Flooded pasture and damaged fencing
Flooded pasture and damaged fencing


Victoria Police remind all road users to obey road closure signage.A $113 fine can be imposed for unauthorised entry to restricted areas.

Information for road closures can be obtained from the VicRoads website

Stay tuned to ABC Local Radio and the online stream for the latest updates.

Please do not drive your car in floodwaters.

Please do not go sight-seeing in flood areas.

Emergency and general information numbers:

For general enquiries about the floods, call VICSES on 1300 842 737

In case of immediate emergency call the SES hotline 132 500

Editor's Note: Also See -

Paynesville Foreshore
Paynesville Foreshore
Park Lane Tourist Parks new spa
Park Lane Tourist Park's new spa
The Pet Friendly Park Lane Tourist Park Traralgon
The Pet Friendly Park Lane Tourist Park Traralgon