It could take years to recover from the deluge

MAJOR flooding has left Tasmanian farmers with huge amounts of damage across their properties after the second record rain event in six years brought widespread devastation.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association president Ian Sauer said the severity and extent of this flood event meant it would take years to recover. Mr Sauer said many farmers were now assessing the full extent of the damage as flood waters recede.

“This has been a huge event and I think it will take a long time to get over this,” he said. There are reports of major infrastructure damage stretching from the North-West right through to the Central Midlands. This includes large-scale fencing losses, bridge and road wash outs, pumps and pump sheds being washed away. Losses of large amounts of topsoil, in some cases whole paddocks, are also being reported.

TFGA Membership Manager Kellie Morris said the feedback from farmers had centred around damage to infrastructure and schedules. “From what we’re gathering, the biggest impacts to farmers have been logistics, Ms Morris said. “Especially to dairy farmers, who are trying to get feed onto the property and milk off with blocked roads and damaged bridges. “We’ve been coordinating with these farmers, getting information to and from the ground to the relevant councils and making sure they knew where was safe to go.”

Ms Morris said that the damage caused by the floods was on par with previous weather disasters in the region, but seasonal pressures may be compounding problems for some farmers. “We have dairy farmers trying to feed calves and manage high-production cows with pasture that is all bogged up or washed away.”

In the devastating 2016 flood event, inadequate warnings left many farmers unprepared for how severe the rain event would be, which saw large numbers of livestock lost. This time, however, an improvement in the warning systems and communication meant farmers were able to move stock to higher ground and prepare much earlier. “It was repeated a number of times that farmers were thankful and very fortunate of the early warnings given to them. It is in stark contrast to the floods that did so much damage and took so many by surprise in 2016,” Ms Morris said.

Latrobe dairy farmer Geoff Heazlewood as one of many farmers who lost livestock in 2016 when the Mersey River reached record flood levels. He said while most of their farm had once again gone under during this flood, the water had not quite reached the 2016 level.

Mr Heazlewood said the water had ended up just a short distance from the front door of their house and this time and they had still been able to keep milking their herd of Jerseys in the dairy. However, the flood did see them lose about 350 bales of silage and there are extensive repairs to fencing required across their property. “The cows are on one paddock at the moment, and it’s called the whole farm,” Mr Heazlewood said.

“They’re having a lovely time free ranging, but we’ve probably got about three weeks of fencing to be done.” Mr Heazlewood said one ongoing problem was a lack of accurate information about exactly when the floodwaters would peak. He said luckily this time the peak had coincided with low tide, which meant the floodwaters had continued to flow out of the river system.

Cressy farmer Will Green said they had also been impacted significantly by the floods. He said water levels at their property rose higher than 2016 floods and had left large areas of destruction. As well as fencing losses, Mr Green said they had also suffered a large amount of topsoil loss in paddocks that were ploughed ready for planting and a major landslide had occurred at the back of the property. “You just don’t expect that amount of rain at once and not at this time of the year either,” he said. The weather event has also caused widespread damage to community infrastructure including roads and bridges.

The Department of State Growth is reporting that major landslides will most likely see the Poatina Road, south of Poatina, closed for at least several weeks as further investigations are required. Frankford Road is also closed after the Saxons Creek Bridge was been significantly damaged. Structural engineers will inspect the bridge.