'Tinnie Army' saved many from Lismore flood catastrophe
When his North Lismore neighbours needed help amid record flooding, Aidan Ricketts answered the call and put his tinnie into action.
One year ago he and his adult daughter Kudra heard their neighbours calling for help because they were already knee-deep in water.
"I live in the flood zone, so I'm used to floods and we always have the tinnie ready to go," Mr Ricketts told AAP on Tuesday.
But at 3.30am, it was too dark to launch a rescue.
At first light, which came later than usual because of the vast cloud cover and torrential rain, Mr Ricketts took to the water.
First cab off the rank was neighbour Val Axtens, a 92-year-old woman.
"From the moment I stepped foot into that tinnie and started rescuing people I completely just focused on that," Mr Ricketts said.
And he wasn't alone, with the SES and police overwhelmed by calls for help.
That's when the 'Tinnie Army' and people with jetskis, canoes, kayaks and surfboards stepped up.
During the escalating natural disaster, when people who were trapped in their houses couldn't get through to emergency services, community networks went into overdrive.
Mr Ricketts, along with fellow rescuer Tim Somerville and other members of the tinnie army, were getting message after message with pleas for rescue.
They had no way to triage, so they just went house to house.
"It was literally impossible," Mr Ricketts said.
"There was a person on every roof."
One year on, Mr Ricketts said he feels unusual in that he feels fully recovered while also "witnessing a massive mental health crisis in our community".
Amanda Pines and her partner Sandro had only been living in North Lismore for four months before the flood.
Like most residents, they went to bed prepared for a 'normal' flood but not the monster it turned out to be early the next morning.
When the water continued to rise quickly, the pair loaded up one of their two boats with daughter Calypso, 9, and a couple of their neighbours.
"There were about six or seven we got out straight away," Ms Pines said.
When they went back home to get their kelpie Diesel, he'd gone.
"He didn't know we weren't coming back so he must have just jumped out," she said.
"Me and Calypso were just bawling our eyes out."
They took the boat out many times, rescuing dozens more people and looking for Diesel.
"There were two ladies clinging to a gate with bugs all over them, the water's flowing all around them, they couldn't swim, if they'd let go that was it," Ms Pines said.
More than 10 long hours later, Ms Pines took a welcome call.
"They'd found Diesel, our dog, caught in a fence - and someone swum through flood waters to rescue him."
While many flood-affected residents have moved away from the Northern Rivers, unable to find affordable housing or too traumatised by the natural disaster, the couple decided to stay.
"Today we got an oven," Amanda said.
"We've been living off a hot water system with a barbecue gas bottle, cooking on the butane.
"But we're not selling our house and we're not leaving."