`Northeast Australia Still Reeling from Historic Floods - Olive Oil Times

Northeast Australia Still Reeling from Historic Floods

Jan. 31, 2011
Penelope Barker

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By Penelope Barker
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Sydney

As teams of vol­un­teers, emer­gency work­ers and mem­bers of the armed forces clear debris and mop up the esti­mated $AU30 bil­lion dam­age left in the wake of the recent Queensland flood cat­a­stro­phe in north-east Australia, one third of the south-east state of Victoria lies under flood waters, del­uged from 28 days of flood­ing with the mighty Murray River yet to reach its peak.

After a decade of severe drought that saw many small rural com­mu­ni­ties in Victoria on the brink of run­ning out of water entirely, there is now water every­where, includ­ing a flood-cre­ated inland sea 95 kilo­me­tres long and 50 kilo­me­tres wide stretch­ing between the town of Kerang and city of Swan Hill in the state’s north­west. Northern Victoria is an impor­tant cen­tre of Australia’s olive indus­try, with many groves now flood-affected, includ­ing those of the country’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, Boundary Bend Limited.

We’re all sick of record weather,” said Paul Miller, President of the Australian Olive Association. We’ve had record frosts, record dry and record heat and now record flood­ing, so that’s really made life inter­est­ing! Clearly there are going to be adverse affects. It’s not look­ing good.”

Though the Victorian grow­ers are not due to har­vest until late March, wet and humid weather is affect­ing fruit through­out the whole of south-east Australia. We’ve had to act to get access to fungi­cides,” said Miller. We’re try­ing to react as much as we can but this is an extra­or­di­nary weather event and many groves are inac­ces­si­ble as roads have been destroyed by flash flood­ing. As for the trees them­selves, they should sur­vive as long as the water is mov­ing and passes quickly. If water is sit­ting around it will lose oxy­gen and the trees will be lost. We will just have to wait and see when the flood waters sub­side, but the olive oil indus­try in Australia is still small and all the pro­duc­ers will help each other as best they can.”

Meanwhile, a pow­er­ful cyclone clos­ing in on Australia’s north­east threat­ens to bring more tor­ren­tial rain and huge storm surges to the dev­as­tated region.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is warn­ing res­i­dents that Cyclone Yasi could be the biggest the state has ever faced. Cyclones can at the last minute turn off the coast, and I cer­tainly hope this one does,” said Bligh. But the bureau advises me in the most seri­ous terms, that all of the mod­el­ling right now says this is going to cross our coast.”

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