The 2022 Moree Floods – Moree in New South Wales is the state’s most productive agricultural shire and is one of Australia’s largest. Towards the end of October, the area experienced incredibly high rainfall and unimaginable flooding. Along with Victoria, huge amounts of water rushed through towns and wiped-out farmland, livestock, crops and infrastructure.
The town has seen homes with over a metre of water running through them and staff of local businesses rushed to help those in need. We felt very grateful to have some locals who experienced the flood take the time to revisit what happened and share their experience through this natural disaster.
Lisa Orchin is a Councillor on the Moree Plains Shire Council, she is also a partner in a large-scale broad-acre farming enterprise that also consists of small irrigation and livestock operations. For over 30 years the family have lived and worked in the community.
“A big result for us with these floods is the damages to infrastructure and road networks. They’ve been destroyed, and that is where the ag sector needs the biggest input to help them remain sustainable long into the future. The speed of the water going across the roads has lifted bitumen and so much has gone, that to me is the biggest effect on the agricultural sector,” said Lisa.
“Our kids are also being deprived of basic education because of the inability to actually get to school due to the roads. Every kid deserves an education and because of our road network they’re not getting it.”
“The Moree Plains Shire agricultural sector has experienced a loss of approx. $500 million of income as a direct result of the flooding. The expected income was more in the vicinity of $1 billion.
It’s had a massive impact, not only because of the crops being destroyed by the floods but the inability to get onto the ground now to sow our summer crops. From our standpoint, there is going to be 12 months before we receive another income, that’s devastating in its own right.”
“Moree is a township, and the villages around are all built on the ag sector. If farming is having a bad time financially, it directly affects businesses in town. That’s right across the business sector; agribusiness, chemical sales, trucking industries and corner stores or clothing shops as people aren’t going to town much to spend money during these times. We are so inter reliant on each other.”
“This flood has seen people isolated for weeks at a time. When you start having people isolated for that long you start to worry about people’s mental health and their ability to pick up once this is all over.”
John Adams runs a contract farming business in the Moree area, Heavy Western Farming Co., and has been operating for about 7 years. For his family and business, it was the fear of the unknown that comes with flooding and the timing of harvest.
“It was getting very late for harvest for us anyway, it had been a pretty wet period leading up to these floods and it was already long past when we’d expected to start. It’s the fear of not knowing what would happen with the crops and what would be left after the water resided. It’s actually pretty impressive to see where the water gets to,” said John.
“We had four headers, tractors and people already lined up to work. There is so much involved in making sure you can make repayments for that machinery. We also have jobs that we’d usually be starting straight after but we’re only just starting here.”
“There were some people who were within a week of harvesting and the finish line was so close, but then it vanished right in front of them.”
“It’s been hard waiting to start; it has affected other areas of our business too. For the most part, it’s been tough but there is a bit of silver lining – there’s going to be enough moisture in the soil for planting next year.”
Sascha of Rabbit Hop Films captured the flood over 5 days, running off adrenaline and working as the eyes and a source of news for those stranded on farms outside of town, sending footage to news stations daily and giving vital updates to her Facebook followers.
“My day started around 2:30 am as I would shoot all day for the news stations and use the night to edit and prepare for the next day. I wanted to show the most significant parts of the flood and capture what also impacted me. The stress and pressure were pretty intense so I wouldn’t sleep much,” said Sascha.
“There were some sheep that were constantly on my mind. I’d sent a drone over them and could see they were clumped together and calling out, and the water was rising. I had met the owner who was concerned for them and had built a mound for them. I approached the SES but they were too busy dealing with the evacuation of people, so I spoke with some people in a vehicle I had seen access that side of town (where the sheep were) earlier. They went as close as they could to try to save them, but they couldn’t get to them.”
“Everyone was going through their own form of stress, wondering if their stock were ok, wondering if dogs that had gone missing would return, how far the water had gone through their homes and what they’d lost. There was an SES member that I found slumped out the front of my house, leaning up against my car, he was just empty. He said he’d been running off 1-hour sleep a night for the past three days.”
We are constantly keeping those affected by these floods in our thoughts. Small communities rally together during tough times and show what it means to look out for one another. In times of extreme stress and fear, they are there for their neighbours, it’s a mentality that rings true in these rural communities and one we should all aspire to carry.
If you know someone who is needing support and wanting someone to talk to, please reach out to the below.
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 13 11 14
13YARN 13 92 76
Moree Floods 2022 from Rabbit Hop Films on Vimeo.