Ahead of the NSW state election on 25 March 2023, the NSW Government caretaker period has commenced. Limited updates will be made to this website during this period.

Customer story - Oyster Farmers

Oyster lease image

Oyster Farming couple Katie and Craig Russell live their lives to the tune of the tide, so when the storm waters flooded in and just kept rising, they knew they were in for a tough time and had a huge recovery ahead.

At its peak, there was 1.5 metres of water in their shed which destroyed all their mechanical equipment, including graders, pumps, generators and the tractor. The motor on their boat was submerged and destroyed and the onslaught of flood waters washed away everything from trays and baskets around the shed, to pontoons and even the wharf.

Those same rushing waters ripped trays of oysters off railings and snapped grow-out bag lines where baby oysters were maturing.

“Oyster farmers, well we all know each other around here, so we were all out salvaging what we could and asking, “are these ones yours” trying to help everyone find what was left,” said Katie.

The sudden rise in freshwater starved those oysters that were left and quickly killed the spat (oyster larvae). The Russells estimate their total stock losses at around 85%, still discovering bucketfuls of dead oysters as they work their way through what’s left.

After assessing the damage and the cost to their business, Katie applied for a Special Disaster Grant of $75,000 through the NSW Rural Assistance Authority to kick start their recovery. The initial $15,000 payment went towards a new motor for the boat.

"The online application process was really easy to navigate once I was in the right spot. I was really conscious of providing the right information so spent a lot of time on the phone with the team at RAA. They were all so patient,” said Katie.

“The payment process made us think ‘what is the biggest expenditure we have’ and to do that first. So, we replaced the [boat] motor as that was a big expense and it meant we could get around [to complete the other clean-up and salvaging work].”

A major benefit to the Russells of receiving this grant will be the purchasing of spat to rebuild their oyster population.

“This is going to help us build in the future. We lost all our babies, so that’s 3 years gone but we’re going to buy spat with some of the funds,” said Katie.

The Russells have so far submitted claims for reimbursement of the purchase and delivery of drums to rebuild the pontoons, timber to fix the flooring in their shed and the pontoons, and disposal costs of deceased stock and other debris.

These additional claims have been submitted through the RAA’s online portal with the help of the team on the phones.

“Everyone I spoke to was really helpful with all the questions I asked and always provided the correct information. They’d put me on hold to find the answer and always came back with direct information on what I was asking. They were all really friendly too,” said Katie.

The flood waters have subsided but the recovery for Katie and Craig’s business is ongoing, and they are continuing to benefit from the financial assistance the government provides.

“It would have been a much slower rebuilding process and extremely hard and stressful without the grant.”

Media contact: