Farmers in parts of West Australia’s Mid West are struggling to seed paddocks strewn with powerlines felled by Cyclone Seroja.
- Western Power is asking farmers to communicate with it if they plan to seed around fallen infrastructure
- The company says the powerlines lying across Mid West paddocks must be treated as if they are live
- An eight-metre gap must be left between powerlines and farm machinery
Ferocious winds tore a 150-kilometre-wide, 700km-long path from Kalbarri to Merredin, damaging at least 130 transmission poles, four substations and 80 feeder poles.
Two weeks after the storm approximately 3,000 homes remain without power.
Grain farmers throughout the region are working to capitalise on the sole benefit of the storm – the widespread rainfall – by seeding the moist soil as fast as possible.
But Yuna farmer and Shire of Chapman Valley president Anthony Farrell said the fallen lines were cluttering paddocks and blocking access roads.
“Most guys are seeding right up to them, staying a distance away from them, of course, but certainly when you have controlled traffic and that sort of thing it causes a few headaches for farmers,” Mr Farrell said.
“On our property alone, we have 10 poles and two of them are down so that’s a rough indication of the numbers of wires down across paddocks and poles and stuff like that is pretty huge.
‘Probably not the best thing’
Electricity distributor Western Power has urged people to avoid lines and leave at least an eight-metre buffer between power infrastructure and people or machinery.
Despite the inconvenience, chief executive Ed Kalajzic said staying clear was crucial.
“We never assume that it is safe and that it is off, so therefore you want to make sure that you are safe always,” he said.
But Mr Farrell said the Chapman Valley Shire was unable to hire a Western Power-registered electrician to test and decommission supply to some households.
“They said that is their infrastructure and you can’t touch it,” he said.
“We eventually got them cleared there, but I believe in some areas people have taken matters into their own hands which probably is not the best thing that could be done.”
‘Please call us’
Western Power said its key priority was always the safety of the community.
An essential part of that, it said, was ensuring that its infrastructure was safe before it was worked on, meaning all contractors had to be authorised to work on the network.
Mr Kalajzic said it was vital farmers kept in close contact with Western Power and informed it if they intended to seed paddocks with powerlines or poles in them.
“If you have an immediate challenge where you need to be seeding in the next 24 to 48 to 72 hours, please call us,” he said.
“Ring us on 13 10 87 — that would be fantastic, and even if you’re not going to be there for one or two weeks, that is great information for us.
Mr Kalajzic said he was still determining when the infrastructure would be removed from paddocks, but said when the time came the company would be careful.
“We are very conscious that we are entering into growers’ paddocks during a very busy time of year, and they would have already invested some money into those paddocks,” he said.