A series of significant rainfall events occurred from August 2010 to January 2011, with falls of 600 to 800mm in many areas and 400 to 600mm in the central region. This compares to averages for the Hamilton Airport (27 years of records) and Beaufort (120 years) of 284 and 322mm, respectively, for the spring-summer period.
This heavy rainfall resulted in record stream flows in August, September and December 2010 and January 2011. The January 2011 flood was the highest flood on record in the Hopkins basin and the most significant in the region since the landmark March 1946 flood.
Communities affected by flood
These rainfall events resulted in various levels of flooding throughout the catchment, causing major disruption to some communities and damage to property and infrastructure.
Impact on agricultural enterprises
From August 2010 to January 2011, extensive agricultural areas were inundated, with damage to fencing, pasture, crops and creek crossings, andcausing erosion. Livestock was lost along the entire length of the Hopkins River, Mount Emu Creek and Fiery Creek and fencing damaged along the Wannon River.
The CMA undertook an extensive program of works in response to this damage. In addition to the impact of the floods on the delivery of CMA projects, the difficult seasonal conditions had an ongoing and significant effect on the agricultural sector. It is those people with whom the CMA partners, and who the CMA relies on for the successful achievement of environmental projects.
Extreme rainfall and ongoing humid conditions resulted in severe and long periods of fly strike for lamb and wool producers. The same conditions made for a lengthy and difficult grain harvesting period, which also had flow-on effects for resowing programs. These issues were overlaid with several significant locust outbreaks, mostly in the northern areas of the catchment.
It has been an incredible journey over the last 12 months of learning about and helping the affected communities that were impacted upon through and post the 2011/2012 flood events. The achievements completed by the program have been significant and varied ranging from picking up rubbish strewn around towns to constructing kilometres of rural fencing, community work and the planting of over 100,000 indigenous trees.
The Program started back in June 2011 as it was quickly recognised by the Glenelg Hopkins CMA that it was not just farm land that had been affected by the floods but the whole community had been impacted upon in some way. This meant that the flood response crews would be needed to help these local communities as a whole get back on their feet, in whatever way possible. As a result a successful $1.5 million funding bid by the GHCMA to the State Government was realised initiating the start of the FREP.
The initial aims of the FREP were to look at and come up with solutions to help the local communities recover from the flood impacts, both financially and emotionally. One solution was to offer employment to local farmers and other rural workers directly affected by the floods. As a result of this, four 4-person crews were established across the catchment offering employment to 20 FTEs for a period of 12 months. Two crews based out of Warrnambool, one crew at Hamilton and one at Ararat. Those employed under the program would be involved in working on areas including: re-fencing and revegetation of riparian protection zones previously fenced post floods, the removing of various debris from waterways and flood plains, woody and other weed control programs, rabbit warren and other pest habitat destruction, community clean up works around towns and other infrastructure and other general works as required.
The program has been effectively delivered across our region in partnership with other government agencies including the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Under the FREP we were able to train and up skill around 30 local people through them completing a number of trade recognised courses such as Chainsaw handling and Chemical users Certificates which hopefully will result in these people finding it easier to find other employment within their local communities. Over the 12 month period of running the 4 FREP crews across our catchment we were able to significantly over achieve the programs' targets set out in the proposal. Currently we still have one 4 men crew active within our catchment working on various tasks as required continuing to build on our achievements. It is expected that some members of this crew will continue to be employed until mid December 2012 when the program will officially come to an end.
One of the more recent significant projects that the crews have been involved with has been to work with the Tarragal Landcare Group located in the Southwest of our catchment involving the planting of around 10,000 native seedlings and approximately 8 km of fencing. This project also included working with the International Student Volunteers (ISV), program bringing in the extra benefits of interacting and exchanging of ideas with people from totally different cultures and beliefs. A number of other case studies have been developed and published over the life of the program all highlighting the importance and positive significant impact the FREP has had across our rural communities. A number of thank you letters from people directly receiving help through the FREP have also been received and documented.
Some of our feedback comments from landholders:
Trevor Perry ‘ALLAMBI' Maroona area, "Without this help the work would have simply been deferred adding angst to the situation". Trevor also recognises that the much valued help has had a significant positive impact on the business.
Tony and Rose Jackson ‘IRAK' Maroona area, "The crews' help was not only valuable but curtail. Without this help the work would have simply been completed ad hoc resulting in huge pressures added to the day to day work requirements across the farm and possibly resulting in the loss of our stock integrity through stock wondering away and returning to the property. The Hopkins River is the "Lifeline" of Irak as it supplies most of the stock water distributed across the property. Without it, we just couldn't farm."
David and Mary Currie ‘Lyndoch Park' Warrock area, "An amazing fete by these crews, 8,000 trees planted and guarded within 5 days, they were so organized, quickly developing an efficient system by the second day that they were here to the extent of keeping me on my toes just to keep up. They were just fantastic; their help has been invaluable to our business, both financially and emotionally".
Stan Ross, Ellerslie farmer has praised the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority for its ongoing commitment to flood recovery. "The response following the 2011 flood was the best in the district's history. The flood response program reduced pressure on already under resourced farmers and landholders. It meant we could focus on our own properties and not feel like we had to be everywhere at once. It was quite a sight to see the water lapping at the bottom of the old bridge. I saw it go under in the '46 flood, and I think there's a good chance I'll see it happen again.
Tim and Georgie Leeming, farmers at Pigeon Ponds. "We would like to express or appreciation and thanks for the recent works performed by the FREP crew on our property. All the work was completed to a high standard and all crew members were courteous and pleasant to work with. The FREP crews are a great asset to our region and we must commend the GHCMA in having the crews available to us in restoring and improving our farm assets and the environment".
Comments from some of the crew members involved with the program include:
"This program was great, just what I was looking for to get work".
"The new skills learnt will go a long way towards my future employment prospects within the local communities".
"Great comradry within my crew and other crews, made a couple of new friends".
"Good to know what the farmers have been dealing with, great to work on all the different properties".
"New skills learnt will be with me forever".