Recovery begins after cyclone

Recovery begins after cyclone

 Munda station owner Michael Thompson hand feeding one of his cows that had been bogged after severe flooding due to Tropical Cyclone Veronica last week. Mr Thompson said some parts of the station were still under water a week on from the event and he had to fly to get around and assess infrastructure and livestock. Photograph supplied by Michael Thompson.

Munda station owner Michael Thompson hand feeding one of his cows that had been bogged after severe flooding due to Tropical Cyclone Veronica last week. Mr Thompson said some parts of the station were still under water a week on from the event and he had to fly to get around and assess infrastructure and livestock. Photograph supplied by Michael Thompson.

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The clean up begins for pastoralists after they were smashed by Tropical Cyclone Veronica.

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PASTORALISTS are cleaning up and getting on with their lives after the devastating rains and flooding caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica in the Pilbara recently.

Veronica made its mark on the coastline between Karratha and Wallal Downs station - although the "one in 100" event occurred at a Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) station north of Marble Bar, which received a whopping 360 millimetres of rain during the event.

BoM reported that Carlindie station, between South Hedland and Marble Bar, recorded its highest rainfall for March in 82 years at 419mm, with a new daily record for the station on March 26 of 176mm.

Wallareenya station had its highest March rainfall for at least 20 years at 340mm.

BoM recorded rainfalls in Port Hedland of 370mm over four days, with Port Hedland Airport recording its highest rainfall day in March since 1988 at 179.4mm.

Pardoo station received 182mm over two days and Marble Bar received about 278mm over three days.

While Veronica failed to make landfall, its impact on the West Pilbara and the inland areas around Marble Bar caused widespread flooding, blocked roads and temporarily cut off homesteads and towns.

Despite the damage to infrastructure like fences and roads, pastoralists also lost livestock, which had nowhere to go to avoid the flood waters - some of which were found washed up on the coast.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has reported that "stock losses appear to be mainly confined to low-lying areas between Port Hedland and Karratha, however in some areas they are significant with approximately 1500 at Karratha (Whim Creek area) to date and approximately 500 head in the Port Hedland Coastal Plain region".

DPIRD officers are making contact with pastoralists to assess impact and provide support where possible, although many areas are still inaccessible.

Preliminary reporting indicates some agricultural infrastructure has been lost or damaged, including fences and sheds.

"Weather and flooding resulting from ex-Tropical Cyclone Veronica has impacted on pastoralists already contending with dry season conditions," DPIRD said.

"Rainfall is being welcomed by some Pilbara pastoralists following an unusually dry wet season."

DPIRD said Yandeyarra station had received significant rainfall and officers would inspect the property for infrastructure and livestock losses once accessible.

Munda station owner Michael Thompson said Veronica was the perfect storm, hitting the coast while there was a seven metre Spring Tide, causing a tidal surge, as well as dropping so much rain.

He said Munda station recorded more than 270mm in the rain across the property.

Mr Thompson said the homestead, located 100km south west of Port Hedland, had to be evacuated during Veronica's reign, although it wasn't lost to the floods.

Munda station copped some of the worst of the flooding with "water as far as you could see".

Almost a week after the flooding Mr Thompson said the station was "still under water in places" and there was 34km of roads damaged and at least 10km of roads lost due to the "shear movement of water".

"It's the first time I've seen the road suffer like that in 24 years," Mr Thompson said.

"There's also 30km of fencing down in both directions.

"We still haven't checked out the full extent of our loses in terms of infrastructure."

Mr Thompson said the cement water troughs looked "pretty sound from the air".

The biggest losses during the cyclone were livestock - which he said could amount to 500-600 head - although he wouldn't know the full extent until mustering.

"You can't replace livestock," Mr Thompson said.

"We've lost generations of lost production if you think of it in terms of a four-year breeding program from a calf born to then having a calf.

"We don't mate until the cows are two-year-olds.

"We've lost breeders ranging in ages from three to 10-year-olds.

"But it's also lost income of cows.

"It's possible we have lost up to 500-600 head which is about $1 million, plus their calves."

Mr Thompson said he had counted 100 bodies from the air, mainly on the west side of the fences - which he felt perished due to exposure because of the rain, temperature drop and relentless 80-90km per hour winds, "with gusts up to whatever".

"We don't know how many were washed out to sea, we won't know until muster," he said.

Mr Thompson said the station had recorded 50mm of rain in the past 14 months before Veronica struck and while there were plenty of negative things that he could dwell on, he was grateful for the rain.

"We've got to look at the positives and be grateful for the rain we got," he said.

"It's a financial disaster and an animal welfare disaster, but the upside is that what stock survived are going to get good feed the next three to four months."

Mr Thompson also paid tribute to the Droughtmaster cattle which had survived the dry period well and that were so "hardy and adaptable".

"I've got the utmost respect for what they endure and their resilience," he said.

"It just proves what a great breed the Droughtmaster is.

"It (the breed) can live in Tasmania or Darwin, it can live in any part of Australia and do well.

"They are so adaptable and useful."

Mr Thompson has given himself and staff one month to get the station up to standard.

He hopes the local shire, the State Government and Main Roads could pitch in to fund repairs on the North West Coastal Highway and replace some of the fencing to ensure the safety of road users and livestock.

Munda station is one of many that have had below-average seasons for years and he hoped that the weather could "string some consistent years together" to reduce the pressure that pastoralists have been enduring.

Hedland Export Depot owner Paul Brown said the depot saw a "one metre flood go through", which covered the weighbridge and destroyed 20 tonnes of pellets and 40t of hay.

He said there were no cattle in the yards at the time and no staff on site.

"We got a bit of damage, but it's not the end of the earth," Mr Brown said.

"We fared very lightly compared to others.

"It could have been a lot worse if it was category five, not category three."

Mr Brown said he would be working to repair any damage to the yards, as well as erosion and washouts this week in order to be ready for any live export opportunities that may arise.

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