Devastated town sees light in the tunnel

Winton battles back from February floods

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A team works outside Winton to excavate an astonishing set of dinosaur footprints, which could have been lost if not removed before the floods.

A team works outside Winton to excavate an astonishing set of dinosaur footprints, which could have been lost if not removed before the floods.

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'It's looking good,' says Mayor Gavin Baskett.

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Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett flew over the region at the height of the flooding disaster to see firsthand the scale of destruction.

"What I witnessed was absolute devastation," he said at the time.

"Words and pictures can't do justice to this unprecedented disaster. Families are hurting and our shire is suffering."

Cr Baskett watched the tragedy unfold, but he also had a front row seat as tough little Winton got back to its feet in the days, weeks and months since.

Today, Cr Baskett is clearly focused on the future.

"It's looking good," he said.

"It was an ordinary few months but now we are seeing a bit of light at the back of the tunnel."

Through years of drought Winton has been developing other industries, such as film making and tourism, as a way to shore-up the local economy.

Those decisions are paying off, with a handful of popular events scheduled in Winton throughout the year helping fill the local coffers.

One such event was the popular Way Out West country music festival at the end of April.

"We had about 4000 people in town, helping us forget about all the drama and giving a big hit for businesses too," Cr Baskett said.

"Last year's Way Out West Fest had a direct spend of $1.9 million, and we'd hopefully be looking at something similar this year.

"I went around a week or two after the festival and spoke to businesses and they said they had gone as good or better as they did during the festival last year."

Restocking was a major priority for the Winton region.

Restocking was a major priority for the Winton region.

Although tourism is important in Winton, traditional agricultural industries such as beef production are still crucial to the town's fortunes.

"We need to get the properties restocked because that has a flow on effect when they spend money in the town," Cr Baskett said.

"Local agents say things are moving well, both in terms of stock sales and other things like fencing equipment."

Cr Baskett was full of praise for the way both state and federal governments had worked to help the region in the aftermath of the floods.

"The state and federal governments couldn't have done more. It's been great," he said.

A rare piece of good news for Winton during the disaster was the discovery of an astonishing set of dinosaur footprints.

The footprints were excavated throughout December and likely would not have survived the floods if left in the ground.

David Elliott, the executive chairman of Winton's Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, said visitor numbers had been slightly down after the floods but these would soon start to crank up again.

"Numbers are down maybe 10 to 20 per cent on last year, mainly because of the floods," he said.

"Natural disasters do tend to make people stay away a little bit.

"But, it's the best time of year to have a lull. There are so few people the impact isn't felt as much."

Way Out West Fest helped rejuvenate Winton in the wake of the floods.

Way Out West Fest helped rejuvenate Winton in the wake of the floods.

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