Forbes set to be declared a natural disaster zone as farmers count cost of floods

Date: 2021-11-17 22:03:22

The New South Wales government says it has started the process for Forbes to be declared a natural disaster zone.  

Major flooding has caused extensive damage to agricultural land in the shire, with millions of dollars worth of crops and pastures lost due to inundation. 

The government says it has prepared the paperwork for the declaration to be made and is now waiting on the federal government to respond. 

“We’ve been there side by side with our rural communities, and I’ll tell you once again, the NSW government will have your back.”

Floodwaters cover a large swathe of land at Forbes in central western NSW.(Supplied: NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole)

The Lachlan River reached 10.53 metres on the eastern side of Forbes on Thursday morning. 

It is more than 10 centimetres below what had originally been predicted and lower than floods that hit the shire in 2016.

There have been 33 flood rescues during this emergency and many streets and gardens are covered by water.

“We won’t know the extent of that damage until the water has receded.”

A steel bridge with water about half a metre below the deck
Floodwaters at the local landmark, the Iron Bridge, were inching close to the deck.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

With harvest yet to begin in some areas, Chris Groves from the NSW Farmers Association said the losses would be substantial.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve had a bit much rain right at harvest,” Mr Groves said.

“People will have no income on those low-lying areas.”

‘We will get through this’

More rain is on the horizon and Mr Groves said that, coupled with the lack of airspace at the Wyangala Dam upstream, made the situation was likely to deteriorate.


“Hopefully, they’re mitigating the water as much as they possibly can with Wyangala Dam,” Mr Groves said.

“If we get another lot of rain that will be [exacerbated]. That will go on for a further three or four days, so really any more rain on the weekend we could do without.”

Mr Toole is in Forbes with Premier Dominic Perrottet and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott to meet State Emergency Service volunteers, residents and farmers. 

“That is the spirit that gets our state through these difficult times and, as premier, to come here and visit gives an understanding of the extent of the damage that we’re seeing and the challenge that still lies in front of us here in Forbes,” Mr Perrottet said.  

“Ultimately we will get through this like we’ve got through everything in the past.”

Woman and man talking
Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller speaks to NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

Dam expansion floated

Farmers and residents at Forbes have expressed concern about the length of time it is taking to complete the planning process for the proposed upgrade of Wyangala Dam at Forbes. 

The state and federal governments want to raise the dam wall to store more water.

The storage lies upstream, east of Cowra, and the millions of litres that have had to be released have contributed to the major flooding at Forbes. 

The business case for the project is yet to completed and there has been a lot of speculation that members of the government and government agencies want to shelve the work

Two men talking with a group of people around them
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet meets SES volunteers in Forbes.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

“We’ve invested record budgets in emergency services in critical infrastructure right across the state — dams are an important part of that agenda. 

“We put significant funding aside for projects right across the state and we’ll continue to work with the commonwealth.” 

Mr Perrottet said he could not give a date for when the business case would be completed.

Threat moves downstream

Dave Rankin from the SES said with the immediate danger at Forbes seemingly passed, the focus would move to other river communities.

A small puddle of water pools below a sign saying 'Forbes Riverside Caravan Park'
This caravan park’s riverside views had started to become a little too close for comfort.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

“We’re hoping the smaller flood peak won’t affect those communities too greatly, but we’re certainly keeping on the ball to keep prepared, to help those communities like we’ve done this week in Forbes.”

A partial all-clear was issued for parts of Forbes yesterday afternoon, allowing around two-thirds of affected residents to return home.

Properties on Bathurst, Ferry and Ooma Sts are among those considered still a potential for flooding.

“There is still a bit of water moving about the place but for the people we issued the all-clear for we don’t consider them to be at a flood risk,” Mr Rankin said.

Forbes resident Grant Nicholson pictured at Lake Forbes
Forbes resident Grant Nicholson pictured at Lake Forbes.(ABC News: Jake Lapham)

Forecasts worry some residents

Despite evacuation orders being lifted yesterday afternoon for two-thirds of residents who were asked to leave their homes, some locals are still worried.

Grant Nicholson said with the Lachlan continuing to rise, he personally felt the danger hadn’t passed.

Katie Guise went for a morning walk along Lake Forbes to check out the flood levels.

Two women standing alongside a flooded lake
Katie Guise and Hayley Hurford inspect the flood levels.(ABC News:  Jake Lapham)

Hayley Hurford said although it was a relief major flooding had been avoided, the weather forecast was still worrying.

“I think the dangerous bit has gone, but we’re getting more rain on the weekend and next week so we’ll see what happens then,” she said.


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