An update for supporters on how the floods have affected Bush Heritage
Channin Creek on Carnarvon Station Reserve. Left: During flooding on 27 December, after the water levels had subsided considerably. Right: Photo taken from the same location on 1 January. Photo: Cathy Zwick.
A message from Doug Humann, Bush Heritage CEO
From all of us at Bush Heritage, we would like to offer our deepest sympathy to all Australians affected by the recent devastating floods. To those of you who have lost friends or family members, we send our sincere condolences. We are also thinking of those who have lost property, possessions, livestock and pets. We wish you all the very best with the clean-up and recovery process.
We wanted to take this opportunity to update our supporters on how the floods have affected the Bush Heritage land they have helped nurture.
An update for supporters: flooding on Bush Heritage’s reserves
In most parts of Australia, 274 mm of rain is not a bad total for four, five or even six months.
But on 27 December, Bush Heritage's Carnarvon Station Reserve saw that amount in just one day. This incredible event set a new record for the central Queensland property.
Resident staff described the sound of water roaring down the creeks, and trees crashing down from the force of the water. Bores were wrecked and roads washed away.
And although Carnarvon Station was the Bush Heritage reserve most affected by the recent devastating rains, other reserves across the country have also seen some flood waters, including Eurardy Reserve in WA, Yourka, Reedy Creek and Edgbaston reserves in Queensland, Boolcoomatta Reserve in SA, and Liffey Valley Reserves in Tasmania. Also in Tasmania, Bob Brown's property lower down the valley was affected too, as reported in the media.
What’s the damage?
We’re relieved to say that all of our staff are safe, but the simple answer is that the damage caused across Bush Heritage’s reserves is still unknown.
Regional Reserve Manager for Northern Australia, Steve Heggie, said ‘in many cases access to the reserves won’t be possible for weeks or even months.’
‘This means that it will take some time to audit the damage to natural values and infrastructure. It’s very likely that there will be extensive fence and road damage in the affected reserves, which will of course affect our conservation work.’
A narrow escape at Carnarvon Station
Trees beside Channin Creek on Carnarvon Station Reserve have been bent and broken. Photo: Cathy Zwick.
Cathy Zwick, Field Officer at Carnarvon Station Reserve, didn’t realise just how close a shave she’d end up having when leaving the reserve.
When the rain set in, the operations team coordinated the effort to get Cathy out. Steve Heggie said ‘the dirt access roads into the reserve had become completely impassable because of the rain, so we looked at other ways of getting Cathy out.’
‘We investigated using a quad bike, but that plan was eventually scrapped because the creeks were too high.’
The solution was eventually found with the help of the SES, with a chopper swooping in and lifting Cathy (and her dog) to safety in Charleville.
‘At this stage, it looks like staff won’t be able to return to the reserve until at least February, or even later’, Steve said. When they return, they’ll pick up their important conservation work again.
Are there any upsides?
The floods across the country have caused terrible loss of life and property, but for the environment the news is more mixed.
There will be erosion damage, trees uprooted, and some animals will have perished. However, the flushes of water will also have replenished water sources, and the benefits will flow up through the food chain over the coming months.
Reserve Manager at WA’s Eurardy Reserve, Elizabeth Lescheid, said ‘We went for a drive around yesterday and were amazed at water sitting in places we never imagined. The frogs were just going off and many of the trees and bushes looked incredibly relieved’.
Of course, when conditions are good for native plant species, weeds will also thrive. We are already experiencing a taste of this with increases in weeds following good summer rain on some reserves.
Water, fire and drought
While Carnarvon Station Reserve was under water, 1000 km to the west, a wildfire was blazing at Cravens Peak Reserve.
Nella and Mark Lithgow, Reserve Managers at Cravens Peak, said that the fire was started by lightning, and around 500 hectares was burned. Unlike the rest of the state, the Simpson Desert area has been relatively dry over the past few weeks.
Ironically, parts of WA have had their driest year on record, and a number of Bush Heritage’s reserves there are still in drought.
Thank you to all our supporters, whose generous donations mean we will be able to begin the clean-up and repair process when we are able to access the affected reserves again.