“Land where you never know…..”

on 30 Oct 2013 
David and Sue
Mukudjeroo Waterhole - March 2013
Naree rainfall graph

We knew before we came to Naree in early 2013 that we were in for interesting times. The previous few years had seen good rainfall and flooding conditions, bringing the ephemeral wetlands of Naree to spectacular life. But Naree sits in a highly erratic rainfall and flood zone, and locals tell us that you get two good years, maybe, in every ten.

Average yearly rainfall here is around 300mm (for comparison Melbourne’s is 650mm), but hardly any year is “average”, with variability being the norm. We’ve only had 132mm this year so far.  More than a century of local rainfall records show years as low as 56mm (in 1929) and twenty times as high (in 2000) at 1122mm. Any month can have no rain, or lots of rain, with little rhyme or reason. To add to the complexity, floods can come to Naree without any local rain at all, if we get good conditions to the north of us in the Queensland headwaters of the Warrego and Paroo Rivers.

At the moment we’re seeing what the not-so-good years are like! Naree’s biggest and most reliable waterhole, Mukudjeroo in the Cuttaburra Creek, retreated to its last muddy puddle this week as the drought conditions in western NSW and Queensland continue to bite. Trevor and Ivy Mooring, who owned Naree from the 1950s until 2006 have told us that the last time Mukudjeroo went dry was in 1950.

It’s not all bad news though – it’s just part of the classic boom and bust cycle of much of inland Australia. Those good seasons in 2010 to early 2012, and the destocking of the place for most of the past year have allowed Naree to retain a respectable, if very dried out, ground cover over much of the property – which will help to hold the fragile sand plain and mulga soils together whilst we wait for the good years to return. The drying conditions have broken the cycle of carp infestation – it will be interesting to monitor what happens re the balance of aquatic species when the floods come again. Feral goats are either moving on or congregating at any remaining water point in the landscape – making them easier to control also.

And there are hidden jewels emerging at Naree as the focus turns from wet to dry. Around one third of the place is mulga woodland, an ecosystem very poorly represented in the conservation estate. Some of our mulga is in poor condition as it has been used as drought fodder for sheep and cattle for over 100 years. But some of it is in fantastic condition – a great drought refuge in difficult seasonal times.

Naree is a beautiful place in times of flood, but it has its magic in the dry times too. Much is evocative of the bush poets who wrote so tellingly of drought, like Banjo P:

A land, as far as the eye can see, where the waving grasses grow
Or the plains are blackened and burnt and bare, where the false mirages go
Like shifting symbols of hope deferred - land where you never know.
 
Land of plenty or land of want, where the grey companions dance,
Feast or famine, or hope or fear, and in all things land of chance,
Where Nature pampers or Nature slays, in her ruthless, red, romance…

 

© A B Banjo Paterson.

David and Sue
Mukudjeroo Waterhole - March 2013
Naree rainfall graph