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Saga is not over for soggy farms

Massie farmer Bill Bowen in front of what once was a thriving crop.
Massie farmer Bill Bowen in front of what once was a thriving crop. Candyce Braithwaite

NEARLY two months later, Massie farmer Bill Bowen is one of many in the region still trying to pick himself up after the Australia Day weekend floods.

Mr Bowen's property felt the full brunt of the floods when the water from Glengallan Creek met the Condamine River.

Mr Bowen lost more than 80 hectares worth of crops and most of the fences surrounding the lower parts of his property.

Yesterday some much needed help arrived on Mr Bowen's doorstep.

Through an initiative of the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin Committee, volunteers came knocking to help with the flood clean up.

Mr Bowen said without the help of the volunteers he would still be cleaning up in years to come.

"I was still cleaning up from the 2010 floods when this one came along," he said.

"It's a big job, there are a lot of fences to clean and fix, a lot of paddocks to spray and replant.

"But while in clean-up mode we need to be mindful we're not in the clear zone yet, if the ex-tropical cyclone (Tim) comes this way we may need to do it all over again."

Mr Bowen said they had begun cleaning the higher ground first just in case there was another flood soon.

"We may get another flood," Mr Bowen said.

"I don't want to disrupt anything close to the creek yet because I don't want to change the course of the water."

Volunteer Charles Gibling was out on his hands and knees in the hot sun yesterday pulling debris off fences and helping to rebuild them.

Mr Gibling's day job is a Brisbane-based motorhome builder, but is dedicating many hours to help our farmers rebuild.

"We don't even think about the effects of flooding in the city," Mr Gibling said.

"People don't realise how long it takes these farms to recover.

"I help out because one day I may need help too."

Mr Gibling said it was important to get our farmers back on their feet.

"Where would this country be without farmers?" he said.

"It's a big, long hard road ahead and I'll help out any way I can."

With at least 250 landholders facing the heartbreaking reality of yet another massive clean up, the contribution from volunteers will be even more critical this time around, Queensland Murray-Darling Basin CEO Geoff Penton said.

"For many farmers this is the fourth major flood event to devastate their livelihood since 2010," he said.

"It's no understatement to say some are at breaking point.

"But that in no way lessens the impact on those farmers who have been flooded for the first time in recent years," Mr Penton said.

Mr Penton said they could not replace drowned livestock or obliterated crops but they could help farmers restore fences, remove debris, cart rubbish and replant trees to protect their precious soil in the future.

He said the arrival of willing and able volunteers not only helped landholders get back into production sooner; it provided an enormous boost to morale.

"It's a mental battle as much as it is physical," he said.

"History has shown us the spirit of lending a hand is what keeps the bush going."

Working with Landcare and Catchment Management Queensland and Volunteering Queensland, QMDC is spearheading the recovery effort by dispatching its Dirty Gloves in teams of four onto farms and into rural communities for periods of one day to one month.

All volunteers are welcome, no experience is necessary and all meals, camping accommodation (as well as powered caravan sites where possible), tools and safety equipment is supplied - including the gloves.

"All you need is sun protection, time to spare and the willingness to get a bit dirty," Mr Penton said.

Craig Turner from the QRAA said more than 30 small business owners and primary produces from the Southern Downs had received financial assistance through grants to help with the flood recovery.

"We've already handed out over $150,000 to farmers in the region," he said.

"There are plenty of applications we are still yet to go through."

Mr Turner said the QRAA was continuing to work in the affected regions.

"Yesterday we were in Killarney meeting with farmers and next Tuesday we will be in Yangan."

If you would like to meet with someone from QRAA to discuss the possibility of attaining a grant or taking on a low interest loan to help you recover from the floods phone 1800 623 946.

To find out more about the Dirty Gloves program phone 0427 500 187 or visit qmdc.org.au.

Topics:  farm flood clean-up floods property rain



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