Jury still out on Carnarvon levee as crops destroyed in major flood event.

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Lisa FavazzoMidwest Times
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Grower Thy Nguyen.
Camera IconGrower Thy Nguyen. Credit: Supplied

Up to 20 per cent of Carnarvon’s crops were wiped out by this week’s floods, according to the head of the local growers’ association.

The Gascoyne River swelled to an 11-year high at the weekend, and while some farmers woke from the red dirt-stained chaos to replenished topsoil and a healthy water table, others woke to utter devastation.

Premier Mark McGowan visited Carnarvon yesterday to meet those affected. A State Government spokesperson said joint Federal-State natural disaster relief funding was on its way.

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said disaster relief funding was crucial for the region’s fruit and vegetable farmers.

“These growers, some who have lost tens of thousands of dollars, are in need of assistance to ensure they can return to a position to be able to be back in production, many needing to access and spread topsoil lost in the floods,” he said. Carnarvon’s last major flood caused an estimated $100 million of damage.

In 2013, the Government built a $65m flood mitigation network in the shire’s agricultural region. The weekend was the levee investment’s first real test.

Carnarvon Growers Association president Paul Shain said “the jury was still out” on the levee system. He said the levees provided security from most parts of the river, but what had happened in other areas — particularly in the western part of the agricultural region — was “gut-wrenching”.

Mr Shain estimated around 30 growers’ crops had been destroyed by the flood, or between 10 and 20 per cent of Carnarvon’s agricultural industry.

One of those farmers is Thy Nguyen, who estimates her property sustained around $100,000 of damage.

The well-reported labour shortage in WA’s agriculture industry has also hurt Ms Nguyen’s bottom line.

“My mangos were falling to the ground. I was already behind on my budget ... I need some help here,” she said. Although the levee system didn’t protect her property, she said she was happy for every property the system had secured.

“But I am also sad for myself,” she said.

Grower Phil Frzop was less diplomatic about the levee’s impact on his property, saying the system made things much worse for him.

“They should have leveed the whole lot. The water had to go somewhere,” he said.

Johnny Tran, another local grower, also estimates the storm damage to his property is north of $100,000.

He said he was devastated to see his work wash away.

“I cannot sleep. I am just running around trying to take care of my crops,” he said.

Mr Tran said the whole Carnarvon agricultural region needed help from the government. Without support, he said the winter vegetable supply for Perth would suffer as many growers would not have the money to plant crops.

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