Flood damage estimated at more than $100 million
The flood peak may have passed through the Southern Riverina, but its effects will still be felt for several weeks.
The floodwaters inundated businesses and farms as they swept through the Murray River and its tributaries with such force that levee banks broke in several areas.
Paddocks, crops and homes were flooded, and Tocumwal producers Rob Locke and Genevieve Scott said the cost is enormous.
They estimate the damage on their Lower River Rd properties — ‘Yantara’ and nearby ‘Moroco’ — at about $600,000, and said the cost in the Murray Valley irrigation region would be ‘‘upwards of $100 million’’.
Mr Locke estimates at least 85 per cent of the 7000 acres of winter crop has been decimated.
He said the crops were in fantastic condition and likely to yield high, adding the emotional and financial stress has been ‘‘debilitating’’.
Pastures are also all under water, creating additional stress about how their cattle will be fed.
Like many other producers in the region, Mr Locke and Ms Scott said while the floodwaters were expected ‘‘nothing could have prepared us for this’’.
‘‘We knew we would get cut off from town (due to flooded roads) but I was not prepared to be inundated by water and for the water to cause so much devastation to us and our neighbours,’’ Ms Scott said.
‘‘It is heart breaking and very emotionally taxing.
‘‘I’m at home with three children surrounded by water, worrying about my husband who is up to his waist in floodwater trying to move stock to higher ground.
‘‘I know the water will go down, I know we will all be fine, but I hate waking up every morning feeling sick in the stomach wondering what the day will bring.’’
Mr Locke said his $600,000 damage estimate could easily be higher as he is not yet able to assess the real damage caused by the floods.
With the help of Damian Sexton last week, Mr Locke and worker Rodney Arnold got a glimpse of the devastation by air in Mr Sexton’s helicopter.
‘‘I was pleased to go up but what I saw was a kick in the stomach,’’ Rob said.
‘‘For me it was just devastating. When we got up in the helicopter and flew along one levee bank, I could see 10 breaks in the bank before I decided to stop counting. It’s too heartbreaking.
‘‘Our pasture’s potential is destroyed by flood — everything is.
‘‘If you think of economics, not only do we not have an income from the crops, we have to put in the hours (of work) clearing tress which have dropped like flies in the mud onto fences and fix them too, as well as foot the bill.
‘‘We’ll potentially have to stop our contractor coming, so he’s affected as is our bloke who carts grain, as he won’t be using us.
‘‘We can’t cut hay because we can’t access those paddocks and given not much has been cut, it will be too expensive to buy.
‘‘Our low level crossings are damaged and will need to be fixed. It’s all the time and cleaning up we’ve got to consider too.’’
Flooding at Mr Locke’s properties has come from the Native Dog and Bullatale Creek systems.
The other end of the property was impacted by the Murray River and he said its floodwaters moved in mysterious ways.
‘‘Even on the Murray River side of our properties levees have blown, but they’ve actually blown back into the Murray.
‘‘This is probably because as properties to the east of us had banks blow it’s filled up other paddocks and pushed the water back out.
‘‘The Native Dog Creek has been the most problematic for us though, and I can’t understand it.’’
With the floodwaters coming up quicker than expected early last week, Mr Locke said herds of his cattle were stranded.
He was forced to wade into the floodwaters to assist them to higher ground.
Mr Locke and Ms Scott say while they have been overwhelmed with sadness at the devastation, the community’s willingness to help has lifted their spirits.
‘‘Damian’s been absolutely fantastic flying us and lots of people about and dropping off supplies, we really appreciate it,’’ Mr Locke said.
‘‘Thanks to Ann Logie too and people like the Murray Local Lands Services, everyone’s been great,’’ he continued.
‘‘It is always amazing how kind and generous people are when things like this happen, it reinstates your faith in human nature,’’ Ms Scott added.
Mr Locke said this recent flood event has shown water management in the Murray-Darling Basin is not as effective as it could be.
He believes the Murray Darling Basin Authority has the ability to mitigate flood risks through proper management of the Hume Dam, but failed to do so.
He said despite the area receiving record rainfall, the Hume was kept at 97 per cent capacity, which he said exacerbated the flooding situation.
‘‘Common sense would have said we need to keep some level of air space in the dam,’’ he said.
‘‘Instead reduced flows of 25,000 megalitres a day were let out of the Hume Dam, and it increased to 80,000 megs in a short space.
‘‘When I was filling sandbags trying to save levees on the Native Dog Creek I felt this wall of water.
‘‘Until then, we thought we were prepared but after that we knew our battle was over.’’
Millie, Lizzie and Charlie Locke at their family’s flooded property.
An aerial shot of Rob Locke and Genevieve Scott’s flooded crops.