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Farmers on WA's south coast still unable to access properties after floods

By Andrew Collins, Alice Walker and Leah McLennan, Monday March 13, 2017 - 17:32 EDT
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Damage caused by flooding a month ago has left some properties near Ravensthorpe unrecognisable. - ABC

A month on from the floods in the Ravensthorpe Shire on the south coast of WA, some farmers still cannot access their properties due to damaged roads.

Bridges and roads were damaged by floodwaters in early February, isolating Ravensthorpe and surrounding towns from Albany and Esperance.

Sam Valance, who lives in Jerramungup but has a farm on the edge of Fitzgerald River National Park, has not been able to access her property since the floods.

When she visited the area surrounding her farm she was shocked by what she saw.

"We absolutely could not believe the devastation," she said.

"We couldn't recognise the landscape."

"There have been trees there for over 100 years … they've been completely flattened and there's about two metres of silt on top."

Ms Valance said she was concerned about the financial impact of the damage.

"We have very expensive trees, pistachios and things … we have 300 acres out there and we've spent a lot on infrastructure, so we've got a lot of our life savings in it."

Her neighbour's farm had also sustained damage.

"Our neighbour Bernie can't get through to his place, so I have concerns for him about how he's going to deal with the sheep," Ms Valance said.

"Bernie had proper concrete tubes running through his property and spent $7,000 after the floods last winter and now it's all gone — all his trees have gone."

Repairing roads a slow process

Shire of Ravensthorpe CEO Ian Fitzgerald said crews were gradually restoring the secondary roads and crossings in the area.

"We've managed to fill in a couple of small creek crossings and get people some very basic access," he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said some areas, such as Ms Valance's farm, were impossible to access at present.

"We can't do anything, the silt and the water is so bad we can't get our machines there," he said.

"We are going to look at the potential of coming up from the National Park and see if we can get people access from that way.

"We are aware people need access but until the water subsides there's not much we can do, unfortunately."

Volunteer maintenance teams ready to help

Volunteer fencing organisation BlazeAid had started working with farmers in the area to repair their properties.

They have set up a meeting place at Lake King Sports Pavilion, 72km north of Ravensthorpe.

Volunteer Judy Bland said around a dozen farmers had registered for help.

"We've got close to 50km of fencing so far registered, and after that who knows?" she said.

While the organisation's main focus would be re-establishing boundary fences, they also helped with containment and internal fences.

"For those farmers who feel they don't qualify because they haven't lost boundary fences, then please come and see us anyway," Ms Bland said.

"Everybody who is affected by the floods is eligible for help — there is no hard and fast criteria."


© ABC 2017

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