David Tunstead helping rescue, then recovery and now clean-up efforts in Port Macquarie

WHILE David Tunstead delivered hay bales to stranded farmers and plucked people off the top of caravans in rising flood waters, he has had to deal with devastating personal news.

Two weeks ago, the family were told his father Peter had stage four melanoma which had resulted in a tumour on his brain and spotting on his lungs.

It makes the NSW Hastings Valley Vikings forward's efforts over the last five days even more incredible when you consider the family oyster business is one of many affected by the floods.

He still hasn't fully assessed the situation at the Tunstead's Oysters shed on Hastings River Drive, Port Macquarie on NSW's North Coast.

"Helping others has taken my mind off the pretty shit situation the oyster industry is going to be in," Tunstead said.

"Dad's an oyster doyen ... he's done it all his life.

"We used to butt heads all the time about how to grow oysters; I was trying to do things quicker and he was trying to do things the proper way.

"I've got a lot of mates who can help when it comes to the clean-up."

Affectionately known as Tunny, the fifth-generation oyster farmer was out rescuing people at Telegraph Point on Friday afternoon.

David Tunstead

David Tunstead

From that point on he has ferried generators, fuel, household items and many other important goods to residents cut off by flood waters across the Port Macquarie-Hastings region.

Then there are the evacuations and rescues.

"You don't do it for the fame, you do it to shake farmer's hands that are in tears and the cuddle I got off the girl in the rescue ... that's why you do it," he said.

"It's been overwhelming the amount of people who have reached out and said can they help, but I can't fit 300 people on the boat."


He has barely slept a wink in the last week and knows the time to be emotional about the clean-up and where to start will come.

But he is confident the oyster industry will survive.

"Australian farmers are resilient and tough and have survived drought, bushfires and now floods so we'll survive again," he said.

"It just may hurt a bit."

But in the meantime, helping people who need it most is what "Tunny" does. He doesn't do it for the accolades.

"It's the Australian thing to do," he said.

"I'd hope someone would do it and help me if I needed it. I can't save my oysters at the moment, so I may as well help some other people who are struggling."

The 38-year-old felt his community service over the last week should have earned him enough brownie points around town.

"Maybe they might let me back in to Down Under when it opens again," he laughed.

"But this flood is going to break records; I went under the Tele Point bridge on Friday night and I could touch it with the top of my hand."

Vikings teammate Adam McCormack has played alongside Tunstead for the last 19 years and the pair even lived together in Darwin for a season in the mid-2000s.

"He is currently putting his own devastating circumstances aside to assist everyone else which shows the type of man he is," Mccormack said.

"He is doing himself, his family, his club and his community proud."

Former first grade coach Mark Howard said Tunstead's selfless actions over the last five days were an insight into his personality.


"For someone who has lost so much to be able to forget about themselves and worry about other people - people that he doesn't even know - is a tribute to the bloke," he said.

"He's larger-than-life, Tunny, that's for sure and his mates love him.

"As a teammate and a Viking we're all really proud of him."

As a result of the East Coast Flood disaster, numerous GoFundMe pages have been set up. To donate to any one of them, click here.

This story Meet the man in the tinny who came to the rescue of so many first appeared on Port Macquarie News.