In just over a year, NSW’s mid north coast endured floods, fires, more floods – and a global pandemic. A cluster of catastrophes you might expect to wreak much more than physical devastation.
Earlier this year I was able to visit the region and speak to some of our agribusiness and business banking customers who were hit by the extreme rainfall that led to widespread flooding.
Described as ‘a once in a 100-year flood’ many of the towns inundated were still recovering from the bushfires that occurred less than 18 months before.
The devastation was far-reaching. But when I spoke to members of these communities I was inspired not only by their sheer resilience but the tremendous sense of community spirit that’s alive and well and even more apparent during times of significant adversity.
Cassegrain Tea Tree Oil, which has been producing, distilling and exporting tea tree oil since the mid-90s, was hit hard when the floods came through but like so many of the people I met Managing Director Thomas Cassegrain didn’t let the floods dampen his spirit.
“Our plantation is located in a swampy area. It's low lying land. So we're susceptible to flooding and we've been flooded in the past,” Thomas says. “The great thing about tea trees is that they thrive in swampy areas. They're very hardy.”
Thomas admits while they’ve seen these types of floods before they’ve never been impacted quite so badly. Being completely submerged in water meant the trees were covered in dirt which was the main concern for Cassegrain.
“The trees need sunlight but if they're covered in dirt the light can't get through,” he says. “So what trees do when they're stressed is drop leaves and that's what happened.”