25 March 2021

Couple saves cattle from Braidwood bushfire only to lose them in flood

| Hannah Sparks
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Peter Bowie and Tracia Milton's three-bedroom cottage floats down Manning River.

Millions of Australians watched Peter Bowie and Tracia Milton’s three-bedroom cottage float down Manning River on television. Photos: Supplied.

A year after fires burnt their Braidwood property, Peter Bowie and Tracia Milton have watched floods wash away cattle and a three-bedroom cottage from their second farm in Mondrook near Taree on the Mid-North Coast.

The couple was thrown into the spotlight by the media this week as images emerged of the cottage floating down the Manning River.

Ms Milton said it was “surreal” watching the cottage lift off the bank.

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The low-lying building was rented by a young couple, Sarah Soars and Joshua Edge, providing Mr Bowie and Ms Milton with an income while they lived in another house further up the property.

“It was a beautiful, very old house. It had been fully refurbished and had a massive deck around it. To see it pop off and float like a houseboat was devastating,” Ms Milton said.

However, it’s the loss of 192 cows worth $350,000 that’s brought the couple to tears.

So far, two cows have been found at a beach 30 minutes away but none of the 53 cows the couple rescued from Braidwood have been found.

Mr Bowie was driving around the area with neighbours and a horse float on Wednesday 24 March in search of the cattle.

Floodwater on Peter and Tracia's doorstep on Saturday, 20 March.

Floodwater on Peter Bowie and Tracia Milton’s doorstep on Saturday, 20 March. See the comparison below. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s very devastating. We spent in excess of $100,000 restocking after the drought as we were down to 60 cattle and then we moved 53 from Braidwood to here because there was no feed after the fires,” Ms Milton said.

“It’s a massive loss but I’d like to think we can get a third back.”

What’s more, the couple has no flood insurance because they were relatively new to the area and said they weren’t aware of the flood danger.

Floodwater on Peter and Tracia's doorstep on Wednesday, 24 March.

Floodwater retreats from the couple’s doorstep on Wednesday, 24 March. Photo: Supplied.

“Most people don’t get flood insurance anyway because it can cost up to $30,000. The locals are used to it but we aren’t – we were the least prepared. I mean, this is a one in 100-year flood,” Ms Milton said.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the couple, the community is rallying behind them and Local Land Services is helping however it can.

However, Ms Milton and Mr Bowie won’t know the full extent of the damage until the water recedes.

“It will be a massive rebuild but we can’t get to the land at the moment. I’m sitting at the house now and looking at the farmland which is completely flooded,” Ms Milton said on Wednesday.

“The first thing will be finding the cattle and then we will need help once we can access the land. There’s so much debris that’s come from upstream – I can see a metal object sticking out of the water now that I know isn’t ours and we’ve got six kilometres of fencing to replace.”

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The house that the couple lives in was spared from the flood and they had moved a tractor from the river bank to their house before the river rose.

They also have 150 bales of silage to feed the cattle they find.

However, along with the physical impacts comes the emotional cost after three natural and devastating disasters.

Sylvie, Tracia's pet cow.

Sylvie, Tracia’s pet cow, has been found since the flood. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Milton said it feels like she can’t come up for air.

“The fires were quicker – we knew they were coming and as soon as it hit us it was through within hours. But the floods took hours. It rained and rained and nothing changed, so I thought it was going to be fine, but then the river came up in a matter of hours,” she said.

If you would like to donate to Peter Bowie and Tracia Milton, visit the Go Fund Me page here.

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