Sarina Range case study

Sarina Range Reconstruction of critical infrastructure and restoration of community wellbeing have been vital to the recovery of the Sarina Range district following the impacts of Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

As a result of Category 4 cyclone in March 2017, Marlborough-Sarina Road (which connects the Sarina Range to Mackay and nearby towns) suffered two major landslips, forcing its closure and isolating approximately 500 people who live on the top of the range.

The road closure extended travel times on average by up to one hour each way when travelling to Mackay, with locals having to use unsealed roads in other parts of the range. The commute was not feasible for 30 students who attended Swayneville State School, with the Department of Education forced to split the school at the bottom of the range into two campuses; with a temporary campus erected on top of the mountain.

Reconstruction of the road was complex due to the extent of the landslips, with more than 10,500 dump trucks full of debris and excavated material removed from the site, and a 50-metre stretch of road requiring excavation to a depth of six metres.

The construction of a reinforced soil wall, completed in September 2018, was the first of its kind in Queensland, and enabled the re-opening of the road to one lane of traffic.

Full restoration of the road was completed in December 2018 at a cost of $30 million, funded by the Commonwealth and State through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

While the Marlborough-Sarina Road was being repaired, a Community Development Officer was appointed to the region through funding from the NDRRA’s Community Recovery Fund (Category C) to assist with the recovery and reconnection of the district’s people.

A series of assistance measures were developed to overcome fear for property and life arising from the disaster, anxiety about safety on unsealed roads, and financial stress related to increased travel costs.

Programs ranged from first aid courses, delivered by the Red Cross, to access to Queensland Health’s Post Disaster Mental Health program and support for community events to alleviate feelings of broad-scale isolation.

A centerpiece of the recovery effort was a mural created by students and teachers of Swayneville State School. Two of the panels were painted by the 30 students at the ‘top campus’ and the third by the children at the ‘bottom campus’, as a way of facilitating an ongoing connection between the separated students.

The seven-metre mural now serves as a teaching aid and a permanent reminder of the community’s resilience and recovery from Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie.