Once-in-a-decade weather event

WILD weather has wreaked havoc on Tasmanian farms causing millions of dollars of damage and leaving thousands of property owners without power for several days. It left some dairy farms unable to milk for up to three days with generators brought in to help with the emergency while others struggled to get water supplies to crops and stock.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association worked throughout the weekend and during the days that followed to assist those in need while TasNetworks staff attempted to restore power to the hardest hit areas in the state’s North-West. Winds of more than 100km/h left a trail of destruction over the weekend with thousands of trees and hundreds of power poles going down across the state, leaving some 10,000 Tasmanians without electricity.

TasNetworks said it was the worst storm damage it had faced since 2014 and conditions made it difficult for workers to carry out repairs. “It’s a once-in-a-decade scale, if not rarer,” the energy provider said. “It’s a reminder that even modern networks are no match for nature at its wildest.”

TFGA president Ian Sauer said the unprecedented storm event affected farmers across the industry. “The damage to powerlines is horrendous. TasNetworks have told us there have been trees moved 20 metres and areas of 20km with trees over the lines,” Mr Sauer said. “We’ve got farmers in areas that have been without power for three days, cows that haven’t been milked in that time, livestock outside in temperatures that dropped to -8C. It’s an animal welfare problem too. “We don’t want to forget this isn’t just affecting dairy farmers.

We’ve seen pivots ripped out of the ground or have trees over them, solar panels pulled from roofs, power also supplies water to livestock.” He said hundreds of farmers were feeling the effects and he expected the damage bill to extend into the millions with long-term insurance ramifications for farmers.

One of those affected was Cressy farmer Will Green. Mr Green said infrastructure damage was putting significant pressure on his cropping land. “We expected snow. The day before I was thinking I’d just wake up early and feed the cattle and sheep a little extra, but you get out there and it was all blown away, trees over fences, shed roofs gone,” Mr Green said.

“I lost 23 span of pivot, off six pivots which covered around 300ha of land. “We think we position the pivots in a way that is safe, but when the gusts come from every direction over 100km/h, there’s not much we can do.” Mr Green said while his infrastructure would recover from the storms, the time lost in the turnaround could be detrimental to his season.

“Insurance will fix it, but it’ll be 14 weeks before we are able to get parts, maybe 16 weeks before we get them in the paddock. “Then we have to rebuild the pivots themselves, that brings us into September where we’re building 23 span of pivot. “I’ll be driving around these things on the ground for months, that’s without the irrigation I’d usually be doing. “We’ve lost pivots before, twice in the last 20 years, but nothing as bad as it was on Saturday night.”

Mr Sauer said the effects of the storm would be felt well beyond when the power is restored and the roads are cleared. “There will be a whole host of issues that won’t become apparent until much later. We’ll have farmers filing insurance claims. It’ll drive up premiums, there will be flow-on effects for months,” he said. “We’ve been contacting our members, trying to find out what’s happening on their farm, the barriers that have stopped them getting help so far, what problems they’ve encountered.

“We want to make sure the response and our preparedness is first-class.”