According to Berries Australia, torrential rain along the New South Wales Mid North Coast has saved one of the country's biggest blueberry growing regions from the brink of collapse. Before the rain, the industry body said drought in the region had left growers out of water and forced many to stop watering crops while the region's workforce was slashed by 35 to 50 per cent.
Association chair Peter McPherson said recent downpours had replenished dams, bringing widespread relief to the region, where more than half of Australia's blueberries are grown. "[The rain] has been an absolute saviour for a lot of farmers," he said. But he said he was "extremely disappointed" that during the worst drought in the region's history, the sector could not tap into an old town water supply to help it stay afloat until the rain came.
In mid-December, the council announced it would sell most of the Woolgoolga Dam supply to assist ailing growers. The plan was halted by the state's water regulators just before Christmas because the supply was not licensed for agricultural or irrigation use.
The 200-megalitre dam has not been used for drinking water since 1986 and predates the region's existing water supply scheme. The council's director for sustainable infrastructure Mick Raby said the dam was in a unique position to share emergency water to support growers in the short term.