Trail of storm chaos leaves dairies counting the cost

IMPROVED preparation and changes to managing power outages are likely in the wake of a severe storms that cut off electricity supply in some regions for almost two weeks.

Storms across the state in early June left approximately 20,000 Tasmanians without power and many farmers suffered significantly as they waited for TasNetwork’s repair crews to reach their regions. TasNetworks has acknowledged the difficulty farmers have faced in the past fortnight and say they are committed to liaising with industry groups to better prepare for outages in the future.

It took up to nine days for services to be restored in some areas. In some cases dairy farms were unable to milk for several days and other farmers had interrupted irrigation and water supplies for crops and livestock. “We’re very aware of the impact the storm damage and power outages have had on farmers,” TasNetworks chief executive Seán McGoldrick said. “We have to fix outages methodically in deciding which order to prioritise them, but we have kept a close eye on the needs and concerns of farmers and factored it into our planning. “Outages are often more severe and harder to reach and fix quickly in remote and regional areas – exactly where our farmers and primary producers are located.”

Concerns around animal welfare, livestock and produce losses saw the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association work closely with farmers and TasNetworks to source generators and other alternative power sources. “Myself and other leaders have liaised directly with groups like the TFGA and Dairy Tas, to keep their members informed. “I really appreciate how strongly that relationship functioned over those difficult days,” Mr McGoldrick said.

“In particular we’ve kept a close eye on the 20 to 30 dairies that struggled without power for up to three or four days. “It’s been crucial to liaise very closely with that industry about realistic restoration timelines, so farmers could make informed and cautious decisions about the welfare of their animals. “Back-up generators for individual properties are a good protection against extended outages. “We’re happy to liaise with the TFGA and other groups about the best way for farmers to access and manage generators.”

Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer received daily updates on the progress. “It’s been a very trying time and I know that the majority of our dairy farmers were able to get power up as quickly as we possibly could because everything was thrown in this situation, which included people coming in from leave, other crews coming into the state, everything that could be done has been done,” Mrs Palmer said.

The TFGA expects the damage bill to run into the millions while farmers are bracing for a hike in insurance premiums as a result of their claims