Northern stations evacuated as the area is hit with major flooding

Eric Barker, 10/03/2023

Gallipoli Station in the Northern Territory has been evacuated, like many others in the area. Photo: Murray Brennan

NORTHERN Australia has been hit with another deluge of rain, with multiple homesteads underwater and significant damage to infrastructure.

The flooding has come on the back of an already bumper wet season in the north, with parts of the Barkly Tableland and North-West Queensland seeing up to 500mm this week.

Multiple stations in the Leichhardt River catchment have been evacuated, with plenty of water also falling in the Georgina River – which is part of the Lake Eyre basin. The rain appears to have subsided in the area and moved east, with communities towards the gulf preparing for the water to hit them in the coming days.

North-west Qld lost more than 500,000 head of livestock during flooding in 2019, predominately in the Flinders River, with a combination of big rain, drought conditions preceding it and cold weather leaving many to drown or die of exposure.

While the impact this year’s flood is having on cattle numbers is still unknown, many have told Beef Central that cattle are good condition after the already strong wet season. Cold weather remains a concern, however, days are forecast to warm up over the weekend and not much wind has been reported.

A major flood warning is currently in place for the Flinders River, but the recorded rain totals have been more around 200mm to 300mm in the past week – as opposed to the 500mm further west and in the Northern Territory.

More positives than negatives

Former Cattle Council president Lloyd Hick owns Thorntonia Station, north-east of Camooweal, where about a metre of the Thornton River has been in the homestead – which he said was extraordinary.

“You need to really use your imagination calling it a river, because you can’t get a drink out of it for 360 days per year,” Mr Hick said.

“This only the second time on our records that we have had the river in our house.

Lloyd Hick

Mr Hick said he was not expecting too many issues with his cattle, with the area well placed for big rain systems.

“I think the cattle will be fine, we have hills and trees for protection,” he said.

“Up until three-days-ago, we were having the best year we could ever imagine, we had grown a lot of grass on an average rainfall. Now we might have a bit of damage but it is still going to be a very good year.

“There are more positives than negatives to come out it.”

Mr Hick also owns a property near Richmond, which was effected by the 2019 floods. He said it was part of an area that was shaping up for a light year.

“Most of the area has had a great season, but there is a little pocket below Richmond and Julia Creek that has missed some of the big systems – although it did have 60mm in this last couple of days,” he said.

Many homesteads evacuated

Consolidated Pastoral Company northern general manager Henry Burke, who has worked in the Northern Territory for decades, said some places are being evacuated for the first time.

Henry Burke

“There are a lot of stations that cop it every year and everyone is used to that, but there is definitely some stations that are being evacuated where people are saying they have never heard of evacuations there.”

CPC has had one of its best wet seasons in decades, avoiding the worst the Kimberley floods earlier this year and Newcastle Waters, on the Barkly, missing the extreme falls in the latest event.

Mr Burke said it was the best he had seen in a long time.

“I have been living in Katherine for the past 10 years and this is the best season we have had since I have been here,” he said.

“There has been a really long period of rain and it hasn’t been smashing rain. The only thing is that our Central Qld country is getting dry, but it looks set for some rain this weekend.”

Big infrastructure bill coming

With so much flooding across the north, Mr Burke said the company, and governments, were looking at a hefty repair bill in the coming months.

“Roads are a massive issue and the bill is going to be big, the public infrastructure is a mess and as a company we will need to do a lot of repairs on our roads and fences,” he said.

“We have some properties on the top of the water shed where we have a good season there. But those gravel roads have been smashed and some them are impassible with the wash outs.”

Staff held up in remote areas

With the company preparing for this mustering season, Mr Burke said many of its staff had been stranded on their trip up north.

“We have some people waiting at Camooweal, some people have checked into Newcastle Waters on their way further up north and others have been told to wait another week,” he said.

“I was over at Carlton Hills yesterday and they have been living with small amounts of groceries because they have been on an island for the past couple of weeks – so they’re getting quite used to it.”










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