NSW Farmers’ Association, Media Release, 25 May 2022
More frequent, intense storms will require swift defence force deployment and streamlined government support according to NSW Farmers.
In a submission to the NSW Parliament Select Committee Inquiry on the Response to Major Flooding Across NSW in 2022, the state’s peak farming body made nine recommendations to improve reaction to natural disasters.
Food and fibre production has been significantly and catastrophically impacted by rain events from March 2021, not only the flooding of 2022, resulting in significant hardship for town residents and businesses, and particularly the farming community.
“We’ve seen some communities smashed by two or even three major flooding events in a 12-month period, which is absolutely unprecedented,” NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle said.
“In fact, we have seen the resilience and productivity of our farming communities sorely tested since late 2017 when severe drought took hold.
“Since then, we’ve had destructive bushfires, a mouse plague, a global pandemic and now these terrible storms and floods, and communities are hurting.”
Mr Arkle said the sheer scale of the storms and floods of the past 15 months had left many with considerable damage that will take years – rather than months – to identify, restore, and repair.
“We have highlighted this extended impact in our submission to the inquiry as for many primary producers the effect of natural disasters or critical global events is both immediate and delayed,” Mr Arkle said.
“Once you get over the immediate devastation there is the long-term impact on your business, and in turn that has long-lasting Impacts on local jobs and communities.
“Ultimately the challenge for primary producers, as with other residents, is now the transition from emergency response to recovery and rebuilding.”
Mr Arkle said the three tiers of government needed to work together with farming and community leaders to look at how to rebuild more resilient businesses, communities and regions.
“Everything needs to be on the table including the possibility of new dams, increased on-farm storages, major road upgrades and more flexible planning rules to allow farm businesses to diversify into ventures like agritourism or more intensive farming systems,” he said.
NSW Farmers noted the emergency response provided to farmers by the Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services had to be recognised and acknowledged, calling it swift, professional, and relevant to the immediate need. It was critical for the survival of many producers and rural landholders – be they grain growers, dairy farmers, horticulturalists, oyster growers, or beef and sheep producers.