Carnarvon clean-up underway

30 Dec, 2010 08:13 AM
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FLOOD waters in the Gascoyne area have subsided but it will be a while before things return to normal.

Carnarvon shire chief executive officer Maurice Battilana said last Friday that within the Carnarvon area, there were still around 200 services without power, predominantly in the South River Road horticultural area.

Horizon Power could not get access to some properties on South River Road as the roads were still closed and would be for some days.

He said while the roads at either end of South River Road were open, damage to driveways and crossovers was also hampering access to properties but there was access to plantations along North River Road and by the Bibbawarra Road crossing.

The town had limited day-time access to the north on the North-West Coastal Highway, but access to the south was still closed and would be for some days as there was significant road damage there.

Helicopters were being used to determine road access to pastoral properties which was a priority for shire, but Mr Battilana said that access could be some time away.

Some of the 20 to 30 pastoral properties in the area needed to be checked by FESA before power could be safely restored.

The town of Gascoyne Junction is without a water supply as are many stations.

Bidgemia station owner Lachlan McTaggart is staying in Gascoyne Junction as his homestead is uninhabitable at the moment.

"We've got plenty of bottled drinking water and we're being well looked after for provisions, but we're not allowed to use water to shower in," he said.

"We're in the ludicrous situation where there's many millions of fresh water, albeit carrying clay particles which make it look brownish, but the Water Authority won't let the shire authorities pump it into the system.

"So the town has literally run out of water with millions of gallons of rainwater running past the front door.

"I would have thought that some water would be a lot better than none, but apparently no water is better than the legal ramifications of using water that might make someone ill."

The total flood damage bill is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars across the Shires of Carnarvon and Upper Gascoyne.

Horticultural grower and chairman of the processing company and cool stores, Gascoyne Gold, Denis Durmanich, said he still had no mains power and had lost all the grapes stored in his coolrooms.

Ninety per cent of the buildings across his four farms were up to 300mm to a metre under water, all his crop had been lost and there was a lot of structural damage to netting and irrigation, not to mention roads.

"Equipment and everything else can be replaced, but if you don't have topsoil, you don't have much chance of trying to grow a decent crop that the supermarkets ask for these days," he said.

As one of the major suppliers to the Canning Vale markets, his packing facility was up and running again with power from a portable generator but trucks would have to travel an extra 2200km to transport goods to Perth.

"We're looking at about 125pc trade increases for the next 10 days," Mr Durmanich said.

"Every day that goes by, it gets worse and worse."

Mr Durmanich said there were a lot of people worse off than himself and it would not be worth repairing their farms.

"They either get some government assistance or they just walk off and get nothing," he said.

He said tempers were starting to get a bit edgy all round because of the frustration of being without basics like power, and lack of a good night's sleep.

Mr Battilana said they were working with the Upper Gascoyne shire on a joint approach to dealing with the recovery.

"We know they're hurting and hurting badly but we've got to keep their mental state at a level where they can have another shot at it," he said.

Opposition Leader Eric Ripper has criticised the State Government's failure to complete Stage Two of the flood mitigation works in Carnarvon.

"There is no doubt that if the Barnett Government had not delayed funding in these vital works the flooding and damage to plantations would have been reduced," he said.

"The Barnett Government must act now to ensure the region does not fall victim to flooding of this severity again in the future."

"Now we're going to have a larger bill than what those levies would have cost to build," Mr Durmanich said.

"It looks like it's going to be a pretty bleak Christmas."

Mr Battilana said he was confident now after talking to the Premier that there would be a high priority given to getting the next stages of the flood mitigation works started.

The Premier has asked the region's local members of Parliament, Ken Baston and Vince Catania, to liaise with local government, community, businesses and growers to assist the community to get back on its feet as soon as possible.

"The State Government will provide financial assistance and support to help those who have been affected," Mr Barnett said.

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