A little rain relief … but Tamworth still parched by ongoing drought

Paul Tongue’s Loomberah farm received more than 40 millimetres in 48 hours.

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“It was just wonderful to see it come through, hear it on the roof and running down the gutters,” he said. 

For more than a year he has watched and waited as the dams on his property gradually dwindled down. He says it will take a good season of rain to see them replenished.

“There’ll be little puddles in dry dams,” he said. “It hasn’t done anything to break the drought at all; it’s a start, but nowhere near it.”

The impact of many months without solid rainfall is also being felt in the regional centre of Tamworth. 

Mayor Col Murray says residents now face water restrictions after the city’s main water supply, the Chaffey Dam, dropped to less than 35 per cent.

“At the moment we’re on level three water restrictions and progressing rapidly towards level four by about mid-January,” he said. “At level four, the city has about two years’ supply left.” 

Many local businesses are closely connected with the farming community. They, too, say times have been tough.

hillip Hetherington is a stock and station agent with Ray White Tamworth. It’s his job to help farmers when they want to sell their livestock.

“It has been getting worse,” he said. “The last few weeks we’ve seen a number of calves being sold through our saleyards, and normally those calves we grow out to March or April are sold out as weiners for five, six, seven hundred dollars, we’ve been selling for $200 or $250.”

“It is pretty tough, yeah.”

Susan Goodwin runs a farm machinery sales business called Goodwin Kenny. She says she’s seen first-hand the toll the drought has taken on the broader community.

“It’s hard on them, it’s hard on their partners, it’s hard on the children and in due course it comes back to affect our business,” she said.

“We employ people, they buy clothes, they buy electrical goods, we contract a lot of freight carriers; we buy fuel, so generally there will be a flow-on affect.”

Paul Tongue’s hopes have been buoyed by weather forecasts predicting more rain ahead. For those in his region, it’s desperately needed.

“We won’t be able to have any stock, there’s no dams left with water now, we’re really relying on underground water,” he said. “Without water, we haven’t got anything.”