$300m flood recovery grants welcome

North west flood grants for restocking, replanting, infrastructure


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Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell is one of the flood recovery advisory committee members that secured $300 million for restocking, replanting and infrastructure repair grants for graziers. Photo supplied.

Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell is one of the flood recovery advisory committee members that secured $300 million for restocking, replanting and infrastructure repair grants for graziers. Photo supplied.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison's weekend announcement of $300 million for flood-affected producers in north west Queensland has been welcomed with the proviso that small businesses will need assistance of their own.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison's weekend announcement of $300 million for flood-affected producers in north west Queensland has been welcomed with the proviso that small businesses will need assistance of their own.

Cloncurry Shire Council mayor and North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency member, Greg Campbell said the agency, which had only been established a fortnight ago, had worked to ensure that people could rebuild quickly.

Up to $400,000 is available for restocking, replanting and infrastructure on-farm, via two new grants, giving primary producers access to cash to start rebuilding their businesses.

Graziers will contribute 50 per cent of the total cost, and the federal government, through the grants, will provide the remainder up to $400,000.

Mr Morrison said this was recommended following agency head Shane Stone's meetings in the Cloncurry and McKinlay shires.

"The money needs to be made available as soon as possible. I understand these producers don't have time to stuff around; we need to make this simple," Mr Morrison said.

They will work with the Queensland government on administering programs through existing mechanisms.

Related: North west recovery package given cautious thumbs up

Another beneficial aspect of the grants was that they weren't prescriptive, according to Cr Campbell.

"They put the decision-making back in the hands of graziers - the ability is there for graziers to say what their priority is," he said.

Cr Campbell said the challenge remained for himself and the mayors of the affected shires collectively to ensure support was there for small businesses in the towns affected.

"This is no silver bullet for them," he said. "We've got a circle that all relies on each other - grazing, industry business, community wellbeing and town business - if one falls over, the wheel stops turning."

For example, stock agents are not getting a commission for buying cows for people to restock with, and won't be making any money from the transaction for two years, when offspring were ready to sell.

"A little bit of money will flow through from NLIS tags and the like but the safety net has got to be there," Cr Campbell said. "This whole rebuilding process will take four or five years."

Ideas have been flowing to the federal and state government of how category D funding assistance could be utilised to help small businesses in affected areas, including land rent waivers, rather than deferrals as are in place now.

"We're also talking about registration discounts to alleviate pressure on livestock carriers, considering it costs about $14,000 to register each prime mover," Cr Campbell said.

"But one of the best ways to keep town businesses going is to have projects going on, governments building stuff.

"For example, the Duchess to Cloncurry Road would take $9m to $10m to seal and the benefit to the beef and mining industries is there too.

"Every town will need projects like that so people can go to their banks to argue for breathing space."

He said railway rebuilding work camps in Richmond and Julia Creek were providing a mini-boom to those communities but was temporary and other towns like Cloncurry and Winton were on the periphery of that.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he'd met with families who'd spent generations building up their herd and he understood it would take years to recover from.

"We will keep working on this, there's more to do," he said.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Linda Reynolds and Rob Cameron, Director-General of Emergency Management Australia, with Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell, left, in Cloncurry last week. Photo supplied.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Linda Reynolds and Rob Cameron, Director-General of Emergency Management Australia, with Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell, left, in Cloncurry last week. Photo supplied.

Emergency Management and North Queensland Recovery Minister, Linda Reynolds said the grants not only helped primary producers to recover sooner, but stood to yield a significant benefit to local economies across a range of sectors.

"Responding to this unprecedented disaster, which has decimated an industry that is vital to the survival of the local economy, demands a unique response," Ms Reynolds said.

"There is a lot more work to be done but this significant contribution is a critical first step for long term industry-wide recovery."

The grants are in addition to the almost $200 million in immediate assistance committed to people affected by extensive flooding in North and Far North Queensland earlier this year.

AgForce president Georgie Somerset said the dollar-for-dollar disaster recovery grants would change the lives of thousands of cattle and sheep producers and offer hope to an industry suffering from a decade of disaster.

"I can assure the federal government that its $300 million investment in the reconstruction of this hard-working and highly productive industry will be appreciated and well-used by farmers, in some cases turning their lives around," she said.

"Graziers are a very proud bunch, so the fact that these grants are matched dollar for dollar means they are not a handout but a much-needed hand up.

"It also means that producers will not have to rely solely on increasing their farm debt to recover."

The federal grants are in addition to the state government's disaster loans of up to $250,000 at the concessional rate of 1.37 per cent announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this month.

AgForce's North Queensland board member, Longreach grazier Dominic Burden said the flexibility of the grants made them so much more effective, providing hope and the ability to plan for the future, not simply replace what was lost.

"The grants can be used for restocking, replanting or replacing infrastructure and equipment, so it means that each farm business can make their own decision as how to best apply the grants to support their recovery," he said.

"And the fact that they can be used for costs already incurred is very welcome."

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