Wide Bay producers picking up the pieces in the wake of Seth

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
Updated January 12 2022 - 8:41am, first published 8:00am
Steve Turner and daughter Carly Turner, Y3K Brahmans, Calgoa, are discovering the full extent of the damage to their fencing. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher

"We were flooded before we even realised we were flooded."

The experience of Steve Turner of Y3K Brahmans at Calgoa over the weekend symbolises the shock felt by the greater Wide Bay-Burnett region after it became a roaring sea of water when ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth made landfall on the Fraser Coast last Friday and moved inland.

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The rain depression dumped up to 900mm of rain in a 36-hour period, resulting in what has been described by many as an unprecedented volume of water trying to get away.

Steve Turner, situated between Woolooga and Biggenden, became aware of the extent of the disaster unfolding at around 9.30 on Friday night when he went to measure the rain yet again.

"I could hear this roaring and the torch showed water was up to my gateway - I thought, this is major," he said. "We rushed to save our dogs - the water just couldn't get away."

So quickly did the water rise in the night that machinery stored in a shed further down the hill was underwater before they knew it.

All up, the Turners recorded 824mm. The family has been on the property for 115 years and Mr Turner said they saw water reach places it had never been to before.

"The creek bank has only been breached twice before, in 1954 and 2013," he said.

Carly Turner sits on what remains of a causeway connecting the family's property. Without it they are struggling to reach parts of their land. Picture: Lucy Kinbacher

By Tuesday evening, operating off generators, Mr Turner said the amount of silt left behind and damage to causeways meant they were still struggling to gauge the extent of the damage, but their first priority would be to reinstate boundary fencing.

Expecting that materials would become as scarce as toilet paper, he was counting himself lucky to have sourced 500 split posts early in the piece, via social media.

He was not sure about the status of his stock, saying that as far as he could tell, the main breeder herd was intact but he hadn't been able to get to his bulls and better cows.

"There's a couple of solid months of fencing ahead to get it all back together," he said. "We'll get there - we're safe and the bulk of our herd is safe."

Muddy mess

Rob and Kirstie Orphant of Seymour Droughtmasters at Gunalda, near Gympie, didn't have a clear picture of the damage at their place by Tuesday but had been able to inspect lucerne country on flat ground under 30cm of mud, which will cost six to eight months of lost production.

Before and after photos of the Orphant's lucerne paddocks, drowned under a sea of water and mud. Pictures contributed.

They have also lost a valuable stud bull, found washed about eight kilometres downstream.

"We had all our cattle up, we're not sure how he ended up in it - the water must have risen so quickly," Ms Orphant said.

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They expect to have lost calves as well, which are worth a considerable amount of money at present.

People upstream of them recorded 800mm or more while they had 530mm all up.

Feedwise, some of their pasture is inedible at present so they've begun the juggling act of moving stock around to manage available resources.

"We've done it all before, we can do it again," Ms Orphant said, at the same time saying she didn't think anyone could have predicted the enormity of the deluge that swept through them this time.

They've begun the familiar task of flood fencing, and have joined a social media group sharing information of where stock have been found alive washed up downstream.

"It looks as though a lot of them are starting to find their way back home," Ms Orphant said.

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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