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Upper Kandanga Creek farmers rejoice as waterway starts to flow after Queensland rain

By Jennifer Nichols, Friday February 14, 2020 - 10:25 EDT
Audience submitted image
Julie Nixon despaired about her brown paddocks in January 2020 but by February, they were green again. - Audience submitted

A month ago the spring-fed dam on Roz Mercer's Queensland farm was running dry and the challenge of watering her livestock was starting to look insurmountable.



But after rainfall in the South East region the pastures are bouncing back and the Mercers have mowed their lawn more often in the last few weeks than they did for most of last year.

The relief at the sight of water flowing down Kandanga Creek has been manifested in the vibrant new colour of the landscape.

"Everything's a lot brighter," Ms Mercer said.

"Brown is not happy colour — green is a lot nicer on the eye.



"The spring-fed dam was getting too low and too many cattle were relying on that.

"It took its time coming, but it's certainly been big for everyone, I'm sure, in the district, in the state, and wherever we have had rain.

"I just hope that it fills in for anyone that hasn't had it."



Before the rain, the Mercers could no longer irrigate from the dwindling waterhole in the creek, which had not flowed reliably for two years.

With their dam running dry, the Mercers were to water the 100 stud bulls on their home farm at Upper Kandanga, in the Mary Valley, but situation was even more desperate at their Moonie property on the Western Downs.

Caretakers there were hand-feeding 300 valuable breeding cows and their calves, but the dams and rivers there have now filled.



Saving platypuses, cattle and relationships

Several kilometres upstream, a jubilant Craig and Leslie Hanson breathed a huge sigh of relief when the water began flowing a day before it reached the Mercers' Kandanga farm.

"We were so excited we went back home and had a glass of wine," Ms Hanson said.

Since the Hansons took up chemical-free and rotational grazing after buying a beef cattle farm at Upper Kandanga seven years ago — Perseverance Property has proved to be well named.

Last year was the driest in 37 years of rain records kept at the farmhouse.

"Only 568 millimetres fell and our average is usually 1,000-1,200 millimetres," Ms Hanson said.

The couple had feared for the future of platypuses stranded in isolated waterholes.

"It's just exciting to see the creek moving again.

"We can actually use it now without a great deal of stress, so it's a good feeling, a really good feeling."



Ms Hanson, as a Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee Water Watch member, said the monthly visits to a testing site to bear witness to the dryness of the creek had been depressing.

"It was getting so stressful and it plays on your relationship," she said.

"The slightest thing would set you off and you might snarl at each other and and then you'd worry about the cows.



"We want to be sustainable farmers and it wasn't in our nature to go out and buy fodder, but we had to.

"It was very scary, we were really worried."

The couple had planned to start carting water to try to save what little creek water there was left for the platypus when the rain started falling.

"We had 127.5 millimetres in January and we've had 110 millimetres for February so far," Ms Hanson said.

"We're so excited."



'Far from over'

The drought-declared Gympie and Sunshine Coast regions are lucky in comparison to other parts of the Sunshine State.

In December, 67.4 per cent of the land area of Queensland was deemed to be in drought.

Although widespread rain has fallen, some areas have missed out, and it will take a lot more to bring certainty to many regional communities.

Local Drought Committees will meet at the end of the wet season — after rainfall statistics for March are finalised — to assess conditions and make recommendations to Queensland's Agriculture Minister.

"The drought is far from over," stud cattle owner Julie Nixon said.

"Nowhere near it."

She shared two starkly different photos on a popular Facebook page called Who got the rain?

In early January, the view from their homestead was brown and barren.

One month and 150mm of 'beautiful' rain later, green grass fills the same frame, along with the bellies of the Gelbvieh and Hereford cattle the Nixons breed at Weetalabah Stud.



"It makes a massive difference," Ms Nixon said.

"It completely changes and you can put a smile on your face now."

Ms Nixon and her husband had more than halved their herd, with numbers reduced to 40 head on 323 hectares.

They even made their own fodder machine and were feeding their cattle by sprouting increasingly expensive barley.

"It was frightening," Ms Nixon said.

"I was worried for the whole country."

The weather extremes continue, this time with floods.



February records tumbled on the Sunshine Coast which received more than 230 mm of rain at the airport on Wednesday night — half of that falling in just two hours.

The clean-up continues at Robert's Turf Supplies at Chevallum where fields and a shed were flooded.


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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