Queensland is home to many of Australia’s Big Things but one you may have not yet visited is the Golden Gumboot in the town of Tully in Far North Queensland.
Why is there a golden gumboot in town? Because of Tully’s incredibly high rainfall figures — it claims to be one of Australia’s wettest towns.
The Golden Gumboot is a competition between the Far North Queensland towns of Tully, Innisfail, and Babinda in Australia for the wettest town of Australia. These towns are located in the Wet Tropics and on land that was previously covered by rainforest. These areas experience some of the highest levels of rainfall in Australia through monsoonal rain and cyclones. The winner for the competition (since 1970) was awarded a rubber boot.
Despite the fact that Babinda has had more rainfall than Tully in the last 40 years, The Golden Gumboot monument was erected in Tully by the Tully Lions and Rotary Clubs on 10 May 2003. The project cost, including in-kind contributions, was $90,000. The official opening took place on 10 May 2003.
The boot stands at 7.9 metres (25.9 ft) and represents the record rainfall for Tully in 1950. This is despite the fact that the floods that Tully experienced in 1967 and 1973 were greater than 8 metres (26.3 ft). The boot is composed of fibreglass and has a spiral staircase to the top of the boot that allows a view of the town. Historical photographs of floods in the district are displayed on the walls inside the boot for visitors to view as they climb to the top. The Gumboot was designed, fabricated and installed by Brian Newell.
Tully holds a Golden Gumboot Festival annually.
The Golden Gumboot was closed after Cyclone Yasi in 2011, but was reopened early in 2012 by Andrew Fraser, the Acting Premier of Queensland. Restoration was funding through an insurance claim and a $20,000 donation.
The wettest town rivalry
Fierce competition over which town could be called Australia’s wettest has existed between Tully and Babinda since at least 1950, when Tully recorded 7898.0mm (310.9 inches) – the most rain to yet to fall on any measuring gauge in the country.
But Babinda’s long-term average of 4279.4mm (168.5 inches) is higher than Tully’s 4103.9mm (161.6 inches).
Tully Rotarian Ron Hunt, who was instrumental in getting the town’s giant Golden Gumboot statue built in 2002, said he would only be willing to move the structure north if Babinda ever received more than 8m (26.3 feet) of rain.
He said that in the early days, Tully locals would joke about Babinda men urinating in that town’s rain gauge to help it beat Tully.
“It was only tongue in cheek stuff. We built the gumboot originally because Tully was the wettest town in Australia.
“Then in the early 2000s Babinda crept ahead of us, so we couldn’t really claim that fame and we switched it to the record of 1950.”
Babinda District Community Association president Debra Quabba said she wasn’t surprised her home town had once again taken out the title.
“Certainly it cements our place in history as the wettest town,” she said.
Over the years, there have been occasional calls for a giant umbrella to be built in Babinda to rival Tully’s gumboot, and Babinda cane farmer Angle Mustafa said he was all for it.
“We are the wettest town and sorry, Tully, you are second. Tully claims their gumboot, we say we’re the golden umbrella,” he said.
Tully's Golden Gumboot is getting a makeover!
The golden gumboot that greets visitors to the far north Queensland town of Tully - arguably Australia's wettest town - has fallen into a state of disrepair.
In 2002 when Tully erected a monument its claim to being Australia's wettest town was all but cemented. In 1950 Tully unofficially became Australia's wettest town, recording a total of 7,925 millimetres (312 inches) — of rainfall.
To this day it is still the most amount of rain that has fallen on any populated area in the country in a calendar year.
Over 15 years of tropical rain and sunshine have not been kind to the giant gumboot, so much so that its golden paint has faded and oxidised to a pallid green.
Ron Hunt has lived his whole life in Tully and remembers 1950 well.
"That particular year, I tell you, the animals were walking around hand-in-hand looking for a boat," he said.
"We've always had trouble with the final colour. Whatever we put on there started off as a dark gold and ended up as an oxidised green," Mr Hunt said.
While holidaying with his son in Vietnam, Mr Hunt came across an area full of gold Buddha statues.
"I asked the question and they said that paint had been on there for 12 years and it looked like brand new really.
"We tried to get that paint out here but it didn't have the necessary stamps of approval … the last thing we wanted was to have it condemned at the wharf."
After returning to Tully Mr Hunt showed an Australian paint company pictures of the Vietnamese Buddha, and the company agreed to match it with a guarantee on its durability.
"They mixed up a brew and would you believe it's called Gumboot Gold, so it's a special paint that's been made for our gumboot," Mr Hunt said.
In 2017, Tully's mayor John Kremastos said the council secured funding from the State Government’s Works for Queensland program to refurbish the iconic Golden Gumboot as part of a $3.77 million allocation that includes town centre refurbishments, road projects, foreshore pathways and more.
Deputy Mayor Rick Taylor said Tully Rotary was also contributing to the Golden Gumboot project including sourcing the golden paint for its final two coats...
“This is good news for Tully - the Golden Gumboot is an icon that draws people off the highway and into town,” Cr Taylor said.
“You always see people at the gumboot and up the top of it. It’s been great working with Tully Rotary which has been a driving force on this project.”
Tully Rotary’s Ron Hunt said he was excited to see the project happening...
“It’ll look schmick when it’s finished.”
Video: For over 70 years, two towns in Far North Queensland have been fighting over which is Australia's wettest town. But which will prove to truly be the soggiest? Samsung helps them decide!