Gippsland dairy farmer dies in severe storm

Damaged transmission towers at Anakie near Melbourne after wild weather on February 13. (AAP Image/Con Chronis)

A storm on February 13, that wrought havoc on homes and properties in Gippsland, was also instrumental in the death of a dairy farmer and some of his cows at Darlimurla.

Darlimurla is located between Mirboo North and Boolarra, in Victoria’s south-east, an area that caught the brunt of the storm, with wind gusts up to 125km/h.

A Bureau of Meteorology spokesperson said the atmospheric environment on February 13 produced severe thunderstorms with ample wind shear, that created a particular vertical structure leading to the devastating storm.

Thunderstorms, lightning, cyclonic wind, hail and rain spread rapidly across the state.

Bruce Manintveld, 50, was riding a quad bike and mustering some of his cattle when the accident occurred.

A WorkSafe Victoria spokesperson said a shed roof, displaced in 100km/h winds, struck Bruce and about half a dozen of his cows, leading to the deaths of all.

Emergency services were called to the property about 6pm, and included Victoria Police and WorkSafe Victoria.

Victoria Police and WorkSafe Victoria spokespeople have confirmed his death is not being treated as suspicious, and investigations are expected to be straightforward.

Victoria Police will prepare a report for the coroner as part of standard practice.

The storm that swept through Victoria resulted in about 535,000 households and businesses across the state being without power. A week later, about 4000 houses and workplaces were still without grid electricity.

Loy Yang A, which supplies about 30 per cent of Victoria’s power supply, was heavily affected from the early afternoon on February 13.

The lack of grid electricity also affected internet and mobile coverage for customers across Gippsland.

On February 20, in parliament, Victorian Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes confirmed the government was aware that storms on February 13 would lead to significant disasters.

“Last Monday we issued a warning that Tuesday would be a catastrophic event, with category 2 cyclone winds,” she said.

“A week later, there are still almost 4000 households without grid power.”

Ms Symes said in the first 24 hours after the storm hit Victoria, there were 5660 emergency requests to SES for assistance, and 15,455 calls to emergency services.

On February 16, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, after visiting the disaster zone of Mirboo North, announced electricity customers without power for seven days following the storm would be eligible for $1920 per week, for up to three weeks.

The waste levy will be waived until April 30 for storm-impacted residents in 21 local government areas. Ms Allan said this waiver would enable residents to dispose of disaster waste at their local tip, free of charge.

Portable generators were also distributed to towns affected by power outages.

State Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien and State Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath were on the ground in Mirboo North and the surrounding region — from Thorpdale to Meeniyan — on February 14, and on following days.

“There’s been enormous community stoicism,” Ms Bath said.

“Timber harvesters have contributed their assets and time to help clear roads of fallen timber.”

Farmers from South Gippsland to East Gippsland reported to Dairy News Australia that they had to dump at least two days of milking.

This was for various reasons, including local milk processing factories being at storage capacity and lack of road access for trucks into farms.

The dairy processing companies have provided compensation to farmers for dumped milk.

But a week after the storm, some farms around Stoney Creek were still without grid electricity and relying on generators.

“After the storms in 2021, a lot of farmers purchased generators at great expense to themselves, to build their capacity for situations like this, where there are power outages,” Ms Bath said.

“That means farmers have been able to continue milking their cows.”

On February 20, in parliament question time, Ms Bath asked Ms Symes when the government would announce a comprehensive clean-up package for this disaster.

Mis Symes said the Victorian Government had registered the disasters on February 13 with the Federal Government and sought joint funding arrangements for the clean-up.

“Emergency recovery is trying to sort out issues around green waste and asbestos clean-up,” she said.

“As more details about the streams of support become available, the Victorian Government will communicate that to the community.”

Ms Bath urged thegovernment, in question time, to utilise the private assets of Forest Fire Management Victoria to assist with clean-up.

Ms Symes invited Ms Bath to put her in touch with relevant people who can assist.

“The experience from the 2021 storms is that a lot of material can be made into fence posts and firewood for community use,” Ms Symes said.

“The Victorian Government will work with local government to facilitate recovery.”

On February 20, the Victorian Government announced an independent review into the preparedness of energy distribution companies to respond to extreme weather events.

The review will include assessing the resilience of physical grid infrastructure, the effectiveness of actions to restore interrupted energy supply and the effectiveness of information and communication platforms and services.

“As the climate changes, catastrophic events and destructive weather patterns will become more frequent and more extreme, and it is critical electricity distribution networks are able to mitigate, manage and recover quickly from these events,” Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.