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Flood bound island paradise in the Outback


Will, Stuart and Charlie LeLievre at Yathonga Station . Photo contribued

In the middle of the outback, Jane and Tim Murray are living on an island paradise, cut off on all sides by floodwaters, with the only way out by boat, helicopter, and light plane.

Across the swollen Darling River, the Murrays’ neighbour Stuart LeLievre is also isolated, with his only access off his Yathonga station by boat or air, and if he’s lucky, making it to the western side of the river to take stock by road north to Queensland.

For both landowners, this is not their first flood, but it is certainly one of the biggest they’ve seen, and it has meant they’ve had to come up with some ingenious and labour-intensive ways to keep their stock and possessions high and dry.

At Idalia, on the western side of the Darling about halfway between Louth and Tilpa, Jane’s house now sits on an island 600 metres by 150 metres.

For the 43-kilometre trip to Louth for essential supplies, it’s a helicopter flight to their son’s neighbouring property of Bellsgrove, then a light aircraft flight to Louth airstrip where they can use their vehicles to get into town, do their shopping, and reverse the process, to get home before dark.

Jane admits it’s been a challenging time, but she said they were well-prepared as they waited for the flood peak to arrive at the end of this week.

“This is the highest flood I have experienced in my 30 odd years here,” Jane said. “My husband Tim and neighbour Stuart are born and bred here so they’ve been through the big floods in the 1970s.

“I came out as a governess in 1986 from rural South Australia and I haven’t minded being on this island at the moment - it’s my paradise.”

Jane and Tim run merino sheep and rangeland goats and keeping the stock safe has been their highest priority.

“Flood preparation was challenging with the weather patterns and the constant intermittent rain which stopped us getting around, so we didn’t get everything where we wanted it.

“We employ a few people who live on our other properties with their families, so we ensure everyone living behind a levee has a tractor or a loader-type implement with a bucket on the front, inside the levee with them, to allow for top up of levees and block holes and we got that done early, but a few things didn’t get to where we wanted them to be before we were cut off.

“We got all the wool away, but the transport of sold stock was a bit tricky, having to navigate around the rain events, with the trucks coming in one way and then things getting tricky so having to find another way out.

“We still have some sheep on the floodplain part of the properties – the Talywalka Creek that comes out of the Darling on Trilby, runs parallel to the river, and then goes back into the Darling on Kallara, so we have sheep living between the creek and the river.


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