THE military is coordinating a plan to safely dispose of the hundreds of thousands of cattle presumed killed in the north west Queensland flood disaster.
As the flood water begins to recede in the worst impacted towns around Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, the mission of Joint Task Force 646 has shifted from their initial task of delivering fuel and fodder to keep the survivors alive, to helping councils plan for the mass carcase disposal.
Commander JTF 646 Brigadier Stephen Jobson said the Australian Defence Force had delivered 42 tonnes of livestock feed and 42,000 litres of aviation fuel during the initial disaster response.
“The major initial disaster response operations are now coming toward a close as infrastructure and environmental conditions improve and allow access for commercial fuel operators into airports and as the post monsoonal growth provides sustainment for the cattle that remain,” Brig Jobson said.
“Going forward, we have been coordinating technical and planning advice in support of local government authorities of north west Queensland for a carcase disposal strategic master plan.
“That plan seeks to directly support the health and well-being of families and the morale of the community and commerce with the return of economic vibrancy in the region.”
Hundreds of thousands of dead cattle are scattered across the region, laying where they fell on roadsides, railway lines, in fences and in paddocks which have become mass graves.
The ADF is working with local authorities on a master plan to remove the carcases.
While Defence is coordinating the approach, local authorities and property owners will likely be the ones to implement the burials once the plan is released later this week.
Council crews in affected shires have been burying carcases as local roads reopen, with those in plain sight and closer to towns the first priority due to health concerns.
Defence has flown in personal protective equipment including gloves, boots and masks for those involved in the clean up to use.
Brig Jobson said a specially equipped RAAF B350 King Air had been conducting flyovers of the region to gather information as to where the priority areas should be for carcase remediation.
“We’ve on the ground right now supporting planning efforts across all the local government areas, and we are very close to the release of the strategic master plan.
“Planning takes time and we need to ensure the plan is correct and we arrive at a cohesive and effective response to allow for effective remediation of the large number of carcases.
“There is still a lot of action occurring by the ADF in support of the residents of north west Queensland at this difficult time.”