The drought-stricken community of Tibooburra in far western New South Wales is celebrating its wettest March day on record.
- Some parts of far western NSW are celebrating first significant rain since drought began
- The town of Tibooburra has received a year’s worth of rain in one day
Farmers in other parts of the state say full extent of damage and stock losses won’t be known for days
While heavy downpours have wreaked havoc elsewhere in the state in recent days, Tibooburra residents welcomed the rain after missing out for so long.
“I’ve nearly measured 140 millimetres, which in old scale is six inches. Our yearly average is seven so it’s been so lovely,” said the owner of Tibooburra’s Corner Country Store, Vicki Jackson.
Mount Stuart Station manager Jack Anderson said 115mm had fallen in the rain gauge by early yesterday afternoon.
Rain could set up a ‘good winter’
Moruya beef producer Keith Dance said farmers are preparing for more rain, with another 100 to 150mm forecast for the NSW South Coast.
“I think it’s the perfect autumn break. If we get a decent fall of rain now we’ll build decent subsoil moisture up,” Mr Dance said.
“It gets us set up for a good autumn which runs us into a good winter, following on from last season we had a pretty good autumn and winter after those devastating fires,” he said.
“More rain will make Moruya very wet but there’s high enough ground, even with another 150mm in the catchment it’d be a one-in-20-year event but we’d be OK.”
Other farmers ‘devastated’
The rain is devastating news for farmers in other parts of the state.
Farmers in the Hawkesbury Valley north west of Sydney fear major stock losses and critical shortages of feed as the flood crisis worsens.
Agricultural supplier Graham Williams has been moving stock to higher ground and says fodder has been hard to come by.
“Cattle are following me, making lots of noise and looking for me to give them some kind of dry feed which I can’t access until probably the end of the week,” Mr Williams said.
He said many farmers would not know the full extent of the livestock losses for days.
“I think we could find cattle caught in fences and all sorts of things once the water subsides, when we can finally see what’s happened.”
Dairy Connect chief executive Shaughn Morgan said the group expected more than 20 dairy farmers along the coast to have suffered major flood damage.
He also said minor flood damage was widespread.
“We’re aware there’s approximately 150 dairy farmers that have been affected in the region,” Mr Morgan said.
“I understand about 20 farms have been severely impacted, ranging from Oxley Island all the way up to Lismore and Taree.
“Today we’re looking at getting more heavy rain, up to 90mm. That’s massive.”
Meanwhile, Edgar Muscat who has a turf farm on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Freemans Reach has compared the inundation to the 1990 flood event.
Mr Muscat said he had experienced four or five floods in his 41 years of farming.
He said he was feeling “alright” but the bottom storey of his two-storey house was inundated.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen after the flood. We don’t know the damage yet, whether it’s damaged the farm,” he said.
“It’ll be a week’s time or so when the water goes down before the damage to the turf can be assessed.”
The polo fields on the Richmond Lowlands were quickly flooded as the Hawkesbury River spilled its banks over the weekend.
Adam Buchert, from the Windsor Polo Club, estimated about 200 ponies were evacuated from the various clubs in the area.
While the majority of the polo ponies were safely trucked to higher ground before the water levels rose, Mr Buchert said he had heard some harder to catch horses had to be left behind, and were later swum to safety by volunteers using jet skis and tinnies.
Other horses were taken to the Hawkesbury showground, only for the area to also flood. The horses were safely moved to the Castle Hill showground.
Mr Buchert said the polo community was “devastated” after a bleak 2020.
“The whole Hawkesbury was on fire alert, we then get COVID, so polo was cancelled, and now we’ve got floods,” he said.
“So it’s been a couple of pretty torrid years.”