The New South Wales Government has declared more areas in the Riverina and the state’s south-west natural disaster zones as conditions ease in flood-affected areas.
State Emergency Service volunteers are monitoring towns and communities south of Wagga Wagga that border Billabong Creek after sandbagging properties in the area, but they say the worst of the flooding is over.
Phil Campbell from the SES says the situation is unlikely to change overnight with sandbagging and levies holding the floodwaters in place.
“At this time the floodwaters are beginning to travel downstream on the Murrumbidgee River from Gundagai,” he said.
“After further releases from the Burrinjuck Dam we’re expecting minor flooding at Gundagai and moderate flooding in Wagga Wagga and minor flooding downstream.”
Mr Campbell says the situation has eased but will be monitored over the coming week.
“It would appear the worst is now over however flood peaks will continue down both Billabong Creek as well as the Murrumbidgee River over the next week or so,” he said.
“Communities have been warned as to expected flood peaks and as further intelligence comes through from the Bureau of Meteorology as to the heights that are expected we’ll make further recommendations to residents as to what they should do.”
Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan says there has been severe damage to properties and infrastructure in many towns.
“Hay shire in the west right across to Tumut in the east of the area, up to Bland shire in the north – all together 18 shires which have had natural disaster declarations,” he said.
“That’s going to help individual householders who are on low incomes to get a little bit of immediate assistance with their damage and very importantly help the shires to overcome and fix some of the damage to infrastructure.”
Floodwaters are moving downstream from the town of Culcairn, north of Albury, which flooded on Saturday night.
SES spokesman James McTavish says people still need to be on alert.
“The situation out west of Culcairn around Rand and Walbundrie is changing very quickly,” he said.
“The areas around Urana as well – there is a significant amount of water lying in many areas there. And I just urge people to check road conditions before they travel.”
Tony Casey, also from the SES, says the flood has been the biggest in decades.
“These are all significant effects for the community. It’s just unfortunate with the good rain, there’s come this really quite significant flood, possibly the biggest in 30-odd years,” he said.
‘More than we ever wanted’
Farmers in the state’s south-west say they have received more rain than they bargained for.
Urana Mayor and district farmer Peter Routley says as much as 225 millimetres of rain has fallen in the last five days around Lockhart.
“A week ago we were looking at the crops and said we wanted a rain to finish them,” he said.
“We certainly got what we asked for but about 10 times too much.
“If we could have got an inch of rain it would have been absolutely perfect.
“This is certainly far more than we ever wanted but you know you’ve got to work with nature, you can’t control it and that’s just the difference.”