Major flooding has dealt a savage blow to drought-stricken farmers by destroying their first decent crop in years.
- Major flooding has destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops
- The inundated farming region has been in drought since 2014
- Farmers are blaming the BoM for inaccurate and slow flood information
Flooding inundated farms and decimated millions of dollars worth of crops on properties beside the Dumaresq River along the Queensland and New South Wales border.
Farmers are also accusing the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) of failing to provide accurate or timely flood warnings and river height data.
Two floods and drought in a decade
Mr Cleeve lives at Mascotte, 10 kilometres from the border town of Texas. He he said on Wednesday the flood destroyed his entire 300-hectare crop.
Mr Cleeve’s crop, based on current prices, would be worth between $1 million and $2 million, and he said it was the first decent crop he had grown after years of crippling drought.
The area where the Cleeves farm on the Dumaresq River is part of the Goondiwindi Regional Council.
The region has been drought-declared since 2014 and experienced its last major flood back in 2011.
After an optimistic seasonal forecast, Mr Cleeve finally dared to do a full planting of irrigated cotton this season with the hope that good river flows would return.
“After having absolutely nothing in 2019, we thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a pretty good forecast and surely we’ll get a bit of a run in the river at some stage,'” he said.
Farming on the same river system but just upstream from Texas, Dennis Rush saw 137 millimetres of rainfall on his property in just 24 hours, which destroyed almost 150ha of irrigated cotton.
“It’s done considerable damage to our farming country,” he said.
“It has also done a lot of good to underground water sources and to our trees and just the overall health of our country.
Accusations of BoM failings
Dougal Finlay farms at Emu Plains near the NSW border town of Bonshaw and said there was a six-hour difference between BoM’s updates on river heights.
“They’re just failing to report on a regular basis,” he said.
“You’re trying to make decisions on what sort of water comes down, you’re trying to gauge what tributaries are rising and fallings.
Mr Finlay and Mr Cleeve both unsuccessfully tried to contact and access the website of water agency WaterNSW for more information on river volumes to help prepare for the flooding event.
A WaterNSW spokesperson said BoM was responsible for providing public flood information and the agency assisted by providing it with flow data.
“The WaterNSW Real-Time Data website experienced slow response times earlier this week due to very high traffic, including many national and international observers of the event,” the spokesperson said.
River peaks above warned height
On Wednesday, Mr Cleeve received a BoM flood warning telling him to expect the river to peak at 7 metres and it ultimately reached 8.4m on Wednesday evening.
Mr Cleeve said inaccurate information about flooding events were of concern for people on the ground who had to prepare.
“That’s why we don’t rely on people in offices,” he said.
“Because they never seem to get it right, but it’s been incredibly difficult this time round.
“We still have a real data shortage to allow people to prepare, which is unfortunate.”
BoM declined a request for an interview and instead provided a statement that read:
“The bureau works collaboratively with a range of government and local council partners to install and manage flood observations equipment,” it said.
“The bureau is working with its partners who own and manage the assets to resolve the issue.”
The BoM spokesperson urged residents in the Qld/NSW border region to monitor flood forecasts and warnings via its website.
Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud yesterday announced disaster assistance for flood-affected local government areas of Goondiwindi, Lockyer Valley, Quilpie and Southern Downs in southern Queensland.