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Ingham recovers from flood and mud

Charlie McKillop, Thursday April 17, 2014 - 13:06 EST
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Cane grower Michael Waring was surprised how quickly the floodwater receded around Ingham - ABC

It's the possible double whammy of flood damage and the mysterious disease, yellow canopy syndrome, that are really worrying cane growers in North Queensland.

As floodwaters recede around Ingham, north of Townsville, farmers are cleaning up and assessing costs to crops and livestock.

The horses and cattle bred by North Queensland grazier Mick Naughton are ankle-deep in water this week, seeking refuge on islands surrounded by water in paddocks on his property in the Upper Stone, near Ingham.

But you won't hear Mr Naughton grumbling too much about his predicament. While he's concerned about the welfare of his animals, and has plenty of work to do fixing flood fences on his property, his first thought is for his drought-stricken neighbours to the west who missed out on a drop of rain.

"Obviously the drought is the worst of the two... we get over the flood, we fix our fences, and we get on with it, the grass will grow,'' he said.

"But the drought, it's high impact, there's sort of no way out of it... you just keep on feeding and feeding as much as you can I suppose ... it's just devastating for those people.''

Wet yellow cane causes concern

Michael Waring is a second generation cane grower at Trebonne in the Herbert Valley and has sections of yellow cane, some of which were fully submerged when the Stone River broke its banks on Sunday in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Ita.

"This year it's in different paddocks to last year... it's a bit strange in that regard, why it changes paddocks and why one gets it and the other doesn't. But stress does seem to bring out the symptoms."

"(Flooding is) definitely exacerbating the situation, because I think we were looking at lower yields because of yellow canopy, and now with flooding and these sorts of things we're probably reducing our yield again.

"The potential for a decent crop is slipping away fairly fast."

Only eight weeks away from the crushing season, Mr Waring knows the full impact of the flood won't be known until the harvesters are in the paddocks.

"With that silt in the cane, obviously some of that ends up in the bin and goes to the mill, so that's a higher dirt load that the mill has to deal with and it's also more wear and tear on the harvesting machinery."

As residents of Cordeliah and Halifax continue the clean up, questions are being asked of authorities as to whether more can be done to prevent the all-too-familiar scenes of devastation that have unfolded in recent days.

Residents want river 'fixed'

Hinchinbrook Shire councillor Dave Carr says a report prepared for the Herbert River Improvement Trust has some of the answers, but it needs State Government support.

The hydrology report concludes remedial works could lower the flood level in the Halifax area by 170 millimetres and alleviate the impact on local residents who have suffered a sixth severe flood in as many years.

"We've identified there's a series of sand islands below the Halifax bridge that are badly vegetated and they've built up with a lot of sand," Mr Carr said.

"We've spoken to government agencies about getting some permits in place to clear the vegetation and look at the sand removal down to the high tide level."


© ABC 2014

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