Wilberforce shopkeepers go above and beyond to restock during flood

Community spirit: Craig Munro, Chong Lao, and Barry Munro outside Munro's Quality Meats in the Wilberforce Shopping Centre. Picture: Sarah Falson
Community spirit: Craig Munro, Chong Lao, and Barry Munro outside Munro's Quality Meats in the Wilberforce Shopping Centre. Picture: Sarah Falson

A duo of family-owned businesses went above and beyond to ensure the Wilberforce community had access to fresh food and supplies during the flood.

The town of Wilberforce was among numerous suburbs cut off from accessing supplies easily, when a landslide cut Bells Line of Road, further marooning suburbs that were already cut off from the south side of the Hawkesbury River due to flooding on Windsor and North Richmond Bridges.

Craig and Barry Munro of Munro's Quality Meats in the Wilberforce Shopping Centre made two trips to Sydney via the Putty Road - up around Singleton and down the M1 motorway, a round trip of 12.5 hours.

"We had planned on the Monday night to head up the Bells Line of Road to meet up with some of our suppliers to pick up our stocks," Craig Munro told the Gazette.

That's when the landslide closed the road, and shortly after, a second landslide closed the Putty Road exit.

"We ran out of stock," Mr Munro said. "We went to bed on Tuesday night feeling sad and embarrassed that we could not serve our customers that we had been looking after for so long."

Fortunately, the Putty Road landslide was fixed quickly, and the Munros set off in their Hilux van on their first trip to bring enough meat back to sell to the community until the first bridge - North Richmond - was opened on the Sunday.

"We left at 9am Wednesday and by the time we got around, loaded everything up and came back down the Putty it was 10.30pm. We uploaded, went home, had dinner, had a couple of hours sleep and left at 1am the next day for a second trip," Mr Munro said.

"We wanted everyone to feel comfortable that even though they were stuck on this side of the river, they had enough food and plenty of options available to them."

While they were driving back the second time, they drove into the Hawkesbury behind Chong Lao, the owner of The Friendly Grocer in Wilberforce, who was making the first of two trips back from Flemington to secure supplies for the town.

Chong Lao has owned the Friendly Grocer in Wilberforce for 29 years, through numerous river floods. Picture: Sarah Falson

Chong Lao has owned the Friendly Grocer in Wilberforce for 29 years, through numerous river floods. Picture: Sarah Falson

"It was such a stressful time, spending all those hours on the lonely road, that when we passed Chong it gave us a little boost seeing a friendly face," Mr Munro said.

Mr Lao told the Gazette, "I did what I had to do".

In the 29 years that he has owned the grocer, he has made numerous trips up Bells Line when the bridges have flooded, but he had never had to resort to going around the Putty.

"We sold out of most things, frozen and fresh, pasta, milk, I think people were in a panic," he said.

"They bought me out twice, potatoes, tomatoes. We sold all two pallets of milk in one day and had to go back [to Flemington]."