Queensland farm group AgForce says preliminary results from aerial surveys show rural properties have been hit hard by record river heights.
AgForce Cattle president and Mitchell-district cattle producer Grant Maudsley spent many hours over the weekend flying over flooded country around Mitchell, Roma and St George, and said farmers and graziers are only just holding up after experiencing three major floods in as many years.
"We dropped in on some homesteads to check how families are faring and found some very flood-weary folk,” Mr Maudsley said.
"Just like so many Queenslanders these families are facing major clean-ups of their homes, but they are also confronted with the daunting and costly task of rebuilding fences and infrastructure swept away by the floods.
"I saw kilometre after kilometre of fencing down and unfortunately some damage on properties may not be covered by insurance, and primary producers will have to take out loans to pay for repairs making their financial recovery even more difficult.
"Fortunately most cattle seem to be faring reasonably well on higher ground, though we are anticipating some stock losses. “
AgForce president Brent Finlay thanked Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin and senior DEEDI staff for keeping in close contact with AgForce and assisting with aerial surveys.
Mr Finlay participated in weekend teleconferences with both the Minister and his department and reinforced the need for financial assistance for the farm sector to help rebuild properties.
"Many farmers are reluctant to put up their hand for this help, but during the terrible 2011 floods and Cyclone Yasi, financial assistance from the State and Federal government was welcomed by even the most stoic of producers,” Mr Finlay said.
Mr Finlay said AgForce is in regular contact with AgForce members south of Charleville in the Wyandra and Cunnamulla areas, and to the south of St George towards Dirranbandi.
"We will continue to relay on-the-ground information to government to ensure farming and grazing communities get whatever help they need in the difficult weeks and months ahead," said Mr Finlay.
Farmers welcome Federal flood disaster relief payments
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister that disaster relief payments will be available to flood affected families.
NFF President Jock Laurie said the damage bill from this flood event will extend into the millions.
“Thousands of hectares of cropping and grazing land have been inundated, infrastructure like fences and roads have been badly damaged, if not completely washed away, and summer crops in many areas have been destroyed. At this stage, a clear picture on stock losses is not available, although we do expect that some will not have survived.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement today that $1000 will be available to adults and $400 to children affected by the floods across nine shires in NSW and QLD is a welcome first step – but we predict that much more financial assistance will be needed to help some communities and farmers get back on their feet.
“Traditionally, farmers are very reluctant to put up their hands to receive help, but we are urging those affected to access the financial support available,” Mr Laurie said.
NFF members NSW Farmers’ and AgForce are continuing to work closely with the Government’s in their respective states to ensure farmers receive the help they require, while the NFF will continue to work with Government on the Federal level.
Communities and farmers that require emergency assistance during the floods are encouraged to call the SES on 132 500, while individuals wishing to access flood disaster relief payments are instructed to contact the Department of Human Services on 180 22 66 or visit www.humanservices.gov.au.
Qld Government extends assistance to South West Qld
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said on Monday she had requested assistance to cover primary producers, small businesses and not-for profit organisations.
"I have written to the Prime Minister requesting the activation of Category C Special Assistance Flood Grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses, primary producers and not for profit organisations," Ms Bligh said.
"I have requested that the regional council areas of Balonne, Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo, Maranoa, Murweh and Paroo be activated for these assistance grants," Ms Bligh said.
"Flooding has occurred at levels above historical records in river systems in these areas and there is significant damage to many small businesses and agriculture enterprises.
"These grants are designed to enable community recovery for those severely affected by disaster events.
"This targeted assistance will go a long way in helping these small businesses, primary producers and not for profit organisations repair essential infrastructure so they can get their businesses back up and running as soon as possible."
Ms Bligh said the State Government had also extended joint State and Federal Government disaster relief and recovery arrangements to a further six local government areas across Queensland.
"A total of 20 Councils across the State are now covered under NDRRA, and can now access assistance to cover the cost of damaged public assets or counter disaster operations," she said.
"The current statewide damage estimate stands at just above $55 million, but we know that when waters reside the bill will be considerably higher."
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the NDRRA Personal Hardship Assistance Scheme had also been extended to cover communities in the Balonne, Central Highlands, Maranoa and Murweh council areas.
"Recent rain and floods have taken their toll on our communities, so it's vital that we offer affected residents all the help we can," Mr Roberts said.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin said Category B assistance of concessional loans up to $250,000 have been extended to small businesses, primary producers and not for profit organisations in affected areas.
"The regional council areas of Balonne, Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo, Maranoa, Murweh and Paroo have now been activated for Category B assistance," Mr Mulherin said.
"Freight subsidies of up to $5,000 will also be available for primary producers in the affected areas.
"We have been working closely with industry groups Agforce and QFF, to assess the extent of flooding damage for primary producers in these areas.
"The full extent of damage will not be known until the flooding recedes, but early indications of infrastructure damage and stock losses indicate the need for this assistance," Mr Mulherin said.
Category C assistance of grants up to $25,000 are available from QRAA in two tiers:
• Tier 1 – grants of up to $5,000 to assist primary producers and small business with immediate early recovery (subject to future QRAA audit)
• Tier 2 – grants of up to $20,000 to recover costs that the primary producer or small business have paid in order to repair direct flood damage.
For further information on levels of assistance available please contact QRAA on Freecall 1800 623 946 or at www.qraa.qld.gov.au
The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) will continue to undertake impact assessment of flood damage and provide advice if there is a need for further additions to the Category B and C lists as this unprecedented natural disaster continues to unfold.
The following councils are now activated for NDRRA funding Balonne, Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Burke, Carpentaria, Central Highlands, Cloncurry, Doomadgee, Flinders, Issac, Longreach, McKinlay, Maranoa, Mount Isa, Murweh, Paroo, Quilpie, Richmond, and Winton Councils.