Farming family trapped by mud, sand, debris due to flooded causeway issue with no solution





Updated

February 14, 2020 08:30:05

When it rains at Glenn Walker’s property in the Baerami Creek valley, in New South Wales, a ride on the tractor is the only way in and out.

Key points:

  • The Baerami Creek farm gets blocked any time it rains due to mud and sand caught in a creek causeway
  • Glenn Walker’s daughter cannot get to school, and if an emergency takes place services will have to helicopter in
  • Muswellbrook Shire Council says the oft-blocked road is an entire catchment issue with no easy solution

Mud, sand, and debris more than 2 metres deep blocks entry and exit to their 1,600-hectare property, 60 kilometres west of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter.

“We’ve got one causeway we go across in the valley that is below the sea level,” Mr Walker said.

“So any time we get rain or any water in the creek, that causeway is unpassable because of the sand build up on it.

“It locks us in and people can’t get in to work in the valley at all — my daughter can’t even get to school sometimes.

“We can’t get any cattle out to sell or transport and if emergency services were needed, they’d have to helicopter in.”

Creek takes new path

The Walker family has been dealing with the issue since flooding events in 2007 and said they had contacted both local and state governments but no-one had been able to find a solution.

“It’s a local Muswellbrook Shire Council road and to their credit, they do come out and clean it — but it might not be overnight. It might be in the next few days,” Mr Walker said.

“We went to council 10 years ago and had a big roundtable one day with a soil conservation team, NSW Water, and Local Land Services.

“Everyone just looks at each other and says: ‘Well, what can we do?’ and still we have no answers.

“The creek has just got worse and worse, year after year, and is probably 300 metres away from where it used to run 15 years ago.

“The creek was 4 to 5 metres deep and now it’s just full of sand.”

Mr Walker believes the layout of the creek has completely changed over the years and the state of the causeway is a result of that.

“The creek has taken a whole new path … and the two fast flows join into a slow flow — that’s where the sand deposits and builds up,” Mr Walker said.

“At the moment, the way it is, the water goes everywhere except the channel.”

Causeway a whole catchment issue, says council

Derek Finnigan, director of community infrastructure at Muswellbrook Shire Council, said the council had been in contact with the property owners over the years and was well aware of the problem.

“Baerami Creek has been denuded in the past few years, with a pattern of fire and flood events,” he said.

“That’s caused destabilisation of the vegetation in the catchment and caused a high volume of sediment down the creek throughout the entire system.

“We have carried out sediment removal to assist the property owners and facilitated a number of meetings over the years with the property owners, council staff, and a number of state government departments in order to reach a satisfactory resolution.

“The latest information we have from state government departments involved is they are going to carry out a whole of catchment holistic approach because unfortunately, it is a really complex matter.

“It doesn’t have a simple resolution and will take a range of things to solve the problem long term.”

Unable to find ‘remedy’

Mr Walker said he understood there was no easy solution to his situation.

“You could build a million-dollar bridge here and it could end up [with] the same problem because of the sand build-up just below the causeway,” he said.

“I lay awake in bed at night thinking, ‘How can I fix this?’

“As a farmer, you usually have a remedy to your own problems, but this problem I can’t find a remedy to.”

Although he said it was fantastic to have rain, Mr Walker said his family could now be stranded for weeks due to the flooded causeway.

“We can work on the farm, but we can’t get in and out for the next week or two,” he said.

“Business-wise you can defer things, you can sell things two weeks down the track, and there’s plenty of work to do.

“But you don’t get too depressed over it because it’s green and lovely at the moment compared to what [the drought] usually is like.

“We just want to find a solution to this problem.”

Topics:

rainfall,

floods,

farm-labour,

local-government,

storm-disaster,

federal—state-issues,

baerami-creek-2333,

muswellbrook-2333,

denman-2328,

newcastle-2300

First posted

February 14, 2020 07:05:53





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