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Red centre stations go green in Trevor's wake, but 'heartbreak' for those who missed out

By Jack Price, Tuesday April 16, 2019 - 06:22 EST
ABC image
Jason 'Jacko' Black at Ooratippra Station in grass that has been boosted by rains in March. - ABC

Heading north along the Sandover Highway in Central Australia, you can see the point at which three weeks ago.

Fresh buffel grass shoots up from the side of the road and the trees look healthier the further you get from Alice Springs.

Driving through the bright green paddocks of Ooratippra Station, about 400 kilometres north-east of town, it's clear how much impact one big downpour can make.

Stockman Jason "Jacko" Black said the cyclone — which dropped 165 millimetres of rain on Ooratippra over two days — had given new life to the property, which had been struggling through a long, dry summer.

"It was brown, very brown and bare — looking good now though," Mr Black said.

"We were getting green a couple of days after it all started.

"It's been two weeks now and you can see that it's knee-high.

"All the gum trees were looking sick, real unhealthy — ever since that rain they've all bounced back, they're all starting to go green again … it's amazing."

Mood boost for man and beast

Mr Black said it would make a "huge" difference to the way the station would operate over the coming months.

"You don't have to stress or worry about feed for a while, you can put more cattle on," he said.

"All along the river there are little waterholes — some might last a week, some might last a month … it just takes a bit of pressure off the bores.

"[The cattle will] boom after this … you can start to see a difference now — a little bit of condition on, the coats are all going shiny and they look happier."

Mr Black said the cows weren't the only happy ones, with the sight of green grass lifting the mood on the station.

"It makes a big difference getting up in the morning and seeing green feed instead of the dead feed or brown feed," he said.

'Business as usual'

About 100km down the road at the neighbouring Ammaroo Station, owner Stewart Weir said the rain from Cyclone Trevor would allow them to get back to "business as usual" after a tough dry patch.

Cyclone Trevor dumped 130mm of rain on Ammaroo, while another station of his, Arapunya, got up to 240mm.

Mr Weir said he was fortunate to have received a good amount of rain, with others in his family among the many who missed out.

"My brother's got property south of Alice Springs and he missed out, my father and mother-in-law have got property west of Alice Springs and they've missed out," he said.

"Probably next time we'll miss out and they'll get a bit of rain — that's just how it is."

Mr Weir said while the cyclone's downpour had helped his stations, more rain in the coming months was needed to ensure the green feed stuck around.

"What this rain's probably done for us — as a family and as a business — is it's given us a kick along," he said.

"We're a lot better off than a lot of other people but we just need another rain, so hopefully everyone else can get one as well ... that's just what we need here in the centre."

'Didn't get a drop'

Not every station along the Sandover benefited from ex-TC Trevor.

A couple of hundred kilometres south-west of Ammaroo, Aileron Station manager Sarah Cook looks over a dried-out dam near the homestead.

Little more than two years ago it so was full of water that the family had joked about getting jet-skis, but Ms Cook said the station was now doing it tough, struggling to find quality feed for their cattle and getting weak prices on the market.

"When we heard about Cyclone Trevor and saw it on the weather charts we were really excited," she said.

"We got some phone calls from the local police — there was a state of emergency apparently in our region — which is about the point where we started getting our hopes up.

"We got a lot of wind, we had some stormy cloud build-up, but we didn't get a drop and I think that's what broke our hearts.

"We were all feeling so [much promise] and it was just such a deflated feeling."

Ms Cook said she was happy for those who were lucky enough to get a good downpour, and she hoped there was more rain on the horizon for Central Australia.

"We are so grateful some people in our region received rain," she said.

"It's good for them, it's good for the country, it's good for the economy ... but for those of us who missed out it's bloody tough.

"We need people in the district to have rain to keep those cattle prices strong, so it's all swings and roundabouts and it comes to us in the end."


© ABC 2019

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