Resilience of the Gulf Plains

In January 2009, Tropical Cyclones Charlotte and Ellie brought unprecedented rain to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This was followed by the usual monsoonal weather of January and February. These rains resulted in flood waters which did not clear for 8 weeks, causing devastation to cattle production, pasture and the environment.

As well as contending with the initial losses and damage to their stock and infrastructure, graziers had to deal with damaged homes, repair bills and loss of income.

But the worst wasn’t over, with the end of 2009 bringing drought-like conditions.

Throughout 2009, Northern Gulf Resource Management Group worked with graziers around the Gulf to seek assistance from the Australian Government. This resulted in an allocation of Exceptional Circumstances Assistance with payments coming through 18 months after the initial flood. It also saw a one-off environmental recovery response grant, funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program to help bring the landscape of the Norman Catchment back to health after such damaging floods.

Country just after floods of 2009

The one-off grant has allowed Northern Gulf Resource Management Group to undertake a range of activities:

  • Monitor the recovery of vegetation and fauna;
  • Assist graziers affected by the floods to manage the properties and the environment for long-term recovery and future resilience to extreme weather events;
  • Assist graziers to use good management practices to bring damaged landscapes to an improved land condition;
  • Provide access to property planning, landscape monitoring and funding assistance for weed control and infrastructure development, such as electric fencing to allow for an increased opportunity to spell land from grazing;
  • Monitor the vegetation and fauna to establish the rate of recovery and health of the landscapes

Country nurtured after floods of 2009 – lack of groundcover directly after the flood disaster, with groundcover following implementation of good management practices thanks to the assistance of Northern Gulf Resource Management Group.

This work will give an indication of the resilience of Gulf landscapes, and in particular an indication of biodiversity and whole of landscape health. Northern Gulf Resource Management Group found that in the year after the flood, biodiversity in some areas (through the presence of ground fauna) was zero to very low.

Most significantly, the one-off recovery grant will also assist the Gulf community in flood preparedness and building resilience by developing risk assessments, flood resilience mapping, property planning and installing river height gauging stations. This will allow the community to better plan for, and manage the impacts of these events in the future.

Thanks to a reasonable wet season in 2010 and good growing weather throughout the year coupled with the best possible resources to re-establish ground cover and strong community networks, the Gulf Plains are well on the road to recovery.