Dairy co-operative Norco re-opened the doors to its flood-recovered ice cream factory today after a $100 million build-it-better campaign.
Employing 130 people with more jobs in the new year, the historical factory footprint became a focal point after the last year's inundation over whether Lismore rebuild or walkaway.
Of course, this wasn't the rivertown's first flood, only its worst by far. The need for funding was real.
About half the money came from combined Federal and State grant money, in particular $34.7m from the $59m Anchor Business Support Grant Program, pushed through the expenditure review committee by former minister for emergency management Bridget McKenzie.
It was welcome money that helped Norco's Lismore factory back to its feet, and also leant a hand to three flooded cane processing plants belonging to the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative.
Today the Lismore factory is flood-proof to 15m - one below ultimate potential and one above last year's extreme event, 2m above the prior record.
There were lots of things to consider in the re-design, not only isolating electric switching boards up and out of harm's way but also isolating the vats of product and ingredients within a water-tight vault, capable of withstanding hydraulic-pressure all around.
Then there were the Chep pallets - $500,000 worth floated away. Now the flood plan includes relocation to member farmland out of the rising water.
Not everything can be moved to height, so while machinery can expect a flood, motors can be removed or replaced along with bearings while the difficult and expensive electrics are housed at the very top of the building.
Flood affected dairy producers also welcomed the re-opening of the value-add facility.
Dairy farmer and Norco director Paul Weir lost cattle in the sudden inundation. His feed went, machinery too but in the wake of disaster the family came together, his son Matthew is back, "keen as mustard" and with solid farm gate prices the enterprise has turned around.
"We're at record production," he said. "We have good irrigation.
"The river's your friend in the dry."
Co-operative member Andrew Wilson, Woodlawn, is part of a multi-generation dairying family and after "1000mm in 30 hours" on top of saturated country, also experienced massive inundation with 6m over his of paddocks and an instant step-up in livestock management. A previous decision to invest in a feedpad made a big difference as did the purchase of woodchip for bedding, delivered for the equivalent price of a small car.
Today the pastures along Coopers Creek are green and bountiful. Farm gate money is good, but necessary with bank repayments the least of his worry, considering the cost of inputs.
Norco, meanwhile, is proving a good partner and he praised its CEO for bringing a "certain skill set" to the enterprise.
"Michael Hampson put the right people in place to cut costs and strengthen the business," he said. "And it's been great to have community support behind the rebuild."
Federal member for Page, Kevin Hogan recalled the flood disaster, waking to the deluge early on the Monday morning and answering a phone call from Norco CEO Michael Hampson 24 hours later. The urgency in his voice resonated and from the start this recovery was as much inspirational, as material.
"It was a desperate situation. Norco is psychologically a part of Lismore and Bridget McKenzie got that," Mr Hogan recalled.
Lismore Mayor Stephen Krieg re-iterated the fact that the historical Norco footprint needed to bounce-back, or the vacant riverside block would send the wrong message to a mourning community.
Meanwhile the flood recovery program continues to work with those who qualify for relocation, settling with 191 home owners while 438 offers to purchase are being considered by the home owners. Another 668 offers have been made to affected residents.
Labor at federal and state has inherited the on-going flood recovery, a $1b effort with $150m invested in 36 short-term mitigation projects.
Member for Lismore Jannelle Saffin with NSW and federal agriculture ministers Tara Moriarity and Murray Watt, were on hand to cut the ribbon.
"This is an important day," Mr Watt said. "It is the best outcome and a symbol of progress."
Meanwhile, as bushfires destroy homes on the other side of the nation, the federal minister acknowledged that the flood affected regions as a whole required a "huge amount of work still to be done".