Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Earlier this year, the FRRR team heard directly from Kempsey Shire Council, who had recently received a $56,960 grant for the Macleay Valley River to the Sea Festival through the Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, co-funded by the Australian Government and a private donor.

The festival was a creative way to increase opportunities for diverse people and communities to participate in networking events. A series of farm gate tours was also a great way to improve regional branding and recognition of local food agri-systems. The festival built knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by drought and climate change through workshops for primary producers and broadly contributed to building a positive community culture and strengthened connections.

The Kempsey Shire Council presentation also highlighted the broader impact of floods. Having experienced 19 climate disasters in a decade, Kempsey was labelled ‘the most disaster-prone region in Australia’ by The Australian in 2019. Since then, there have been four flooding events, with three of them taking place in 2022 alone.

The Council team shared that an increasing number of farms were at risk of closure due to recent flooding events with around 45% of cattle in the lower Macleay leaving the shire due to continued wet and a 25%-35% loss of avocado trees. On top of that, there were large scale loss of oysters, flower production was impacted and mud fever, foot abscesses, slips and trips all became more common in horses.

The presentation gave a raw and up-to-date glimpse into the challenges being faced by those in the agricultural sector. It also highlighted that to be sustainable both economically and environmentally, change is needed. For agriculture to thrive, communities and agribusiness must be given the tools and resources they need to adapt.

The Macleay Valley River to the Sea Festival was a great example of this kind of opportunity in action, allowing farmers to share their stories and raise awareness around the positive on-farm diversification being achieved in environments impacted by climate change.

Montage of images from the River to the Sea conference (photo credit: Kempsey Shire Council)