Queen Elizabeth outside the Gollan Hotel in Keen Street, in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth outside the Gollan Hotel in Keen Street, in 1954. The Northern Star Archives

Our commitment: We're for you

IT must have felt like a long way from Buckingham Palace when Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Northern Rivers of NSW in 1954.

The young queen and her consort were put up in poshest corner room of the Gollan Hotel.

There were pictures published in The Northern Star of the modest furnishings in the room. God only knows what the Queen must have thought of the little table with flowers and the bed, which was hardly palatial in size.

School children in their hundreds bussed in for the day as the royal visitors took a tour and were paraded around Oakes Oval in the city centre.

But if you talk to anyone who was there that day, all they can remember is the rain, the relentless rain. And the mud, the thick oozy mud.

The Queen barely made it out of Lismore before it flooded.

She flew out just in time from the aerodrome at Evans Head, which during World War Two was used as an important training base for Australian forces.

No one had ever seen a flood like 1954: faster, more powerful, and more deadly than any other deluge in the region's history.

Just about everywhere you go on the Northern Rivers there are strange markers on walls, trees, poles and inside older buildings with a set of numbers - year and water height.

People visiting the area don't know the special significance those figures hold.

They are there to remind residents of historic floods that dominate the psyche of everyone who's spent any time in the region.

There's the mark for 1954, 1974, and now markers for the 2017 flood, which the city is still reeling from.

Lismore is a flood town, it sits on the elbow of two major rivers, the Wilsons and Richmond Rivers.

Perhaps last year's flood is not the biggest, but it was a one in 40 year event, and the first time the town had flooded since a levee protecting the CBD was completed in 1989.

It was also the first major flood this newspaper has covered in the digital age.

The storm, associated flood warnings, road closures and the initial stories of rescues were rich fodder for readers of The Northern Star.

It was 'news that you could use'. Thousands of readers were glued to their screens throughout that night and long days ahead. Four reporters lived out of the office, partly to be part of the event; partly because they couldn't get home.

Amid this unfolding disaster there were literally life-saving moments. Our photographer Marc Stapelberg was on the spot to capture what may be, arguably, the defining image of all the photos taken during Cyclone Debbie.

A homeless Aboriginal man trapped against the steps of a church had to be pulled across white water rapids by a member of the police's fastwater rescue team. It was an image that once released on our website and associated media went instantly 'viral'.

Record numbers flocked to the website and in the vacuum of leadership following the floods the newspaper championed the efforts of volunteers to set up a permanent flood hub in the disused Lismore train station. We called for and helped establish the main crowdfunding campaign for flood relief which went on to raise $250,000.

We did it because we're for you.

It's what we've done for 141 years, marked history and plotted the future.

It's what we'll continue to do.

We're for the community in good times and bad.

When William Kellaway published The Star's first edition in 1876, he could not possibly have envisaged the changes that were to follow, both to the paper and the community it served.

The physical newspaper is just one of the platforms we publish on and in the digital age and we now have one of the largest stories than in any time in our history.

So we're for covering big breaking news stories when they happen no matter what time of the day or night it is.

We're for making the Northern Rivers better prepared than any other regional area if another flood strikes.

We're for making sure the region gets its fair share from governments in Sydney and Canberra, particularly to fix our killer roads.

We're for bringing new industries to the Northern Rivers like medicinal cannabis and innovative energy and food production.

We're for supporting jobs and our iconic companies like Norco and the Casino meatworks.

We're for helping understand the size of the prize with Byron Bay tourism and how we turn some of those 2 million tourists inland by championing the rail trial.

We're for an open discussion about how we manage shark mitigation in the face of an unprecedented inundation of these majestic yet dangerous creatures.

We're for leading the discussion on the future of the Northern Rivers and what that looks like, including a comprehensive look at public transport options.

We're also looking for new ways to tell your stories which is why soon you'll be seeing footage shot from The Northern Star drone.

But as the oldest continuing business on the Northern Rivers we're going to continue doing what we have done best for the past 141 years and that's tell your stories on whatever platform you choose to read.