Towns across New South Wales have been turned into islands by flooding as residents in one small community enjoy their freedom after 10 days of isolation.
- Happy Wee Waa residents are free to travel after 10 days of isolation
- Business owners are welcoming increasing trade
- Farmers are assessing the damage to crops
The community of Wee Waa had been cut off by road closures after the Namoi River reached major flood levels.
But the roads are now open, and the town is busy again, just in time for Christmas shopping.
Inside Jan Harrison’s shop, it was quiet while the town was isolated, as many locals remained on farms and travellers were unable to stop by.
“I had to cut my hours back, so I was only opening half a day. Business died for the first three or four days,” Ms Harrison said.
While isolated, supplies were brought in by boat or helicopter.
Ms Harrison said for residents, life continued as normal, and everyone was looking out for each other.
“I had phone call after phone call saying, ‘I know you’re stuck in town; do you want to do something,’ so the community spirit is great,” she said.
Farmers count the costs
Early estimates from the Department of Primary Industries suggest flooding has caused more than one billion dollars’ worth of crop losses across the state.
Cotton Growers Services (CGS) branch manager Adam Hatton says although festivities and excitement are abundant inside of Wee Waa, the flooding is a sombre affair for the surrounding farms.
“A lot of winter crops that were yet to be harvested have gone completely underwater; some [were] just written off,” he said.
“Most of the wheat is just going to be used for feed now.
“Towards the north of town, where it hasn’t gone underwater, may be OK, but it’s still looking at being downgraded.”
Crop downgrades are predicted to reach up to $100 per tonne.
Before the rain, wheat was sitting at $350 per tonne, now downgraded to feed produce which is worth $200-250 per tonne.
Yields have also been affected.
“Crops that would have seen five or six tonnes to the hectare are now looking [like], at best, three or four,” Mr Hatton said.
Dylan Armitage manages a farm at Spring Plains, near Wee Waa.
He was one of the lucky ones able to harvest his crops, but some of his neighbours were not so fortunate.
“The water has come up quick and spread further than it usually does from what I’ve heard, so they’ve lost a lot of good crops … it’s disappointing to see them go under,” Mr Armitage said.
Future crop outlook good
Despite the devastating losses, farmers are positive about the future.
With full water storages, there will be plenty of opportunities to sow crops in the coming years.
Mr Armitage said the extra water security was good news.
“There’s a lot of planning that can be done now, knowing you have security,” he said.
Mr Hatton said farmers remained optimistic, with conditions conducive for irrigation and seasonal planting.
“With that moisture there, it’s now an opportunity for summer crops like mung beans and sorghum to thrive.”
Water storages that hadn’t been full in a decade are now brimming.
“The price of pumping water from a bore is coming out of your own harvest. So, it’s great to have water storage for an irrigator,” he said.
“It’s what this area thrives on.”
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