Third La Niña brings hope for a wet summer in outback Queensland

Graziers west of the Great Dividing Range can’t believe their luck at the prospect of a third La Niña in a row.

After months of unseasonal rain and record monthly totals, spirits across much of drought-declared Queensland have been buoyed.

Anne Seymour’s Winton property has almost hit its yearly average rainfall total of 20 inches, which hasn’t happened for many years.

“From December we’re up around 16 inches, so hallelujah,” Ms Seymour said.

“We’ve got full dams, we’ve got channels still running and grasses getting up there.

“The cattle are nearly smiling at you at the moment.”

Water steadily flowing through a shallow creek at a property in western Queensland.
Steady winter rain and recent spring rain has set the channels at Windermere Station near Winton running.(Supplied: Anne Seymour)

Ms Seymour said the La Niña declaration was exciting after 10 years of drought.

“It’s a long haul in the drought,” she said.

“It will be great to hear people talking about good seasons instead of drought.”

Ms Seymour says whatever rain comes over summer will be an added bonus to what’s already fallen this year.

“Moisture brings moisture … the subsoil moisture is unbelievable this year,” she said.

“If you don’t have that subsoil moisture, it doesn’t matter how much rain you get.”

A paddock with green grass.
Anne Seymour’s Winton property, Windermere, has been transformed in the past 12 months.(Supplied: Anne Seymour)

Triple La Niña not a surprise

In Queensland’s south-west, Andy Picone has had a similar year.

His Eulo property is in 10-inch rainfall country and this year he’s recorded 13 inches.

He’s hoping the predicted summer rain will double his yearly average.

“All we need is that 10 inches and it’s a good season for us,” Mr Picone said.

“This last lot of rain has set us up perfectly for summer.”

Channels full of water across a large paddock as seen from a helicopter.
Andy Picone’s property near Eulo has received more than its yearly average rainfall in 2022.(Supplied: Andy Picone)

Mr Picone said the most recent La Niña declaration did not come as a surprise.

“The writing was on the wall,” he said.

“We’ve just had a good year … we had a late summer and we had enough feed to carry us through winter.

“It’s sort of shaping up to be a one-in-10-year summer.”

Return of ‘equilibrium’

David Mackenzie runs cattle and goats on his two properties near Morven, in the south-west.

He was relieved when La Niña had been declared again.

A dry and dusty paddock shows the extent of the drought in western Queensland.
David Mackenzie’s Morven property sits in the Murweh Shire, which had its drought status revoked in early 2022.(Supplied: Harry Mackenzie)

“We had nine pretty tough years [leading up to 2020],” he said.

“In fact, really tough years — so it’s good to start to get that equilibrium back.”

A green paddock full of long green grass and healthy trees alongside a red dirt road.
David Mackenzie’s Morven property is almost unrecognisable after 12 months of rain.(Supplied: Harry Mackenzie)

After almost a decade of drought, the hardy red country the Mackenzies call home has needed almost three years of good rain to begin to recover.

“It’s taken a long time,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“Every buffel [grass] plant we had was sitting on a mound about as big as your wrist and all the topsoil had been blown away for two inches underneath.

“Most of that initial rain just ran straight off.

“So we’ve been a bit understocked for the last two and a half years, just trying to let all that ground cover come back.”

Today the Mackenzies’ country looks beautiful, but the joy of hearing rain on the roof still hasn’t worn off.

“It never wears off in the bush,” Mr Mackenzie said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *