What more in store for a flooded Moree?

By AG STAFF 25 October 2022
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As the flood waters start to abate, residents are left high and dry in their water ravaged homes, and unsure when the next inundation will hit.

“We just don’t know what’s coming next,” says Moree resident Sascha Estens. “The flooding began on Saturday night and the water is still up in homes [Monday afternoon], and with more rain forecast and the Copeton Dam spilling, people don’t know whether to start cleaning up or brace for more flooding.”

Sascha’s father, who planted out paddocks with citrus trees the week before last year’s big floods, has once again lost it all. So too have many others around the north-western NSW town. But it’s not just the farmers. “It’s impacted everyone,” Sascha says. “The farmers and their cattle and sheep, of course, and their crops; but it’s the whole community, the tractor business that services the farmers’ machinery, the local produce store and supermarkets that feed families, the local clothing shops, cafes… when years are good out here everyone prospers, and when they’re not, everyone suffers.”

The biggest flood since 2012, and the fourth worst in recorded history, has challenged the tight-knit community – 4000 homes were evacuated as the Mehi and Gwydir rivers burst their banks and water rushed into homes, businesses and paddocks almost ready to harvest.

Flooded Moree, 23 October 2022. Image credit: Rabbit Hop Films

Local agronomists estimate the grain-growing hub has “conservatively” lost more than 120,000 hectares of wheat, as well as barley and canola. And the planting window for summer crops, such as sorghum and cotton, is all but lost too. That equates to millions of dollars of lost crops on top of the estimated $42 million farmers spent on growing them.

Harrowing is how Sascha describes it. “We’ve been through floods before but, to be honest, this is the most emotional I’ve ever been. When the flooding began on Saturday I saw a property with sheep and the owner couldn’t find anyone to help move them out of harms way, so he herded them up onto a high mound on the property. He asked me if I could find help, but, understandably, everyone I asked was doing their best to keep themselves and their properties afloat. And emergency services, rightly so, said people were their priority. Later, I was up in a helicopter and they were all gone, I assume washed away – it was heartbreaking.”

With more rain forecast over the coming days, Sascha says Moree is bracing itself, again. “People have been calling me, crying, asking if the rivers’ are going to go back up, if and when the spill from Copeton is going to hit us. It’s the not knowing… that’s the worst.”

Inundated paddocks (top) and the Mehi River, that cuts through Moree, in flood and drought. Image credits: Rabbit Hop Films