Gulf towns struggle in aftermath

North west flood recovery in the Gulf


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HIGHER GROUND: Calvin Gallagher helps guide cattle to safety from Sawtell Creek about 20km from Normanton during the height of the flood. Photo: Mick Gallagher.

HIGHER GROUND: Calvin Gallagher helps guide cattle to safety from Sawtell Creek about 20km from Normanton during the height of the flood. Photo: Mick Gallagher.

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Gulf communities are struggling to recover from the February flood disaster.

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AS floodwaters finally began to subside from the inland communities of Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, another emergency was evolving on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

All of that water had to go somewhere, and it flowed out to the Gulf as the swollen Flinders River joined the Norman River to inundate the region.


The towns of Normanton and Karumba felt the brunt and were isolated for weeks.

The livestock emergency was no less, with fears up to 100,000 head of cattle perished in that region alone.

Grazier and Carpentaria Shire councillor Ashley Gallagher, whose family owns three properties in the Normanton area and one at Richmond, said the the town was still struggling to recover after the flood.


"Things are getting back to some semblance of normal now, we are getting an idea of how many cattle were actually lost, though it will be another six months until we really know," Cr Gallagher said.

"People are slowly getting their fences and those things up, most have their boundary fences up and are working on internal fences.


"It was pretty horrendous in some places."

Normanton was resupplied by a barge, which effectively moored on the main street to deliver essentials to the town. Photo - Nola Gallagher.

Normanton was resupplied by a barge, which effectively moored on the main street to deliver essentials to the town. Photo - Nola Gallagher.


Cr Gallagher said the support from the Federal Government had been gratefully received throughout the disaster zone.

"One thing that I reckon has been absolutely fantastic has been the support from the government, with Scott Morrison flying up and making things happen, giving people that $75,000 grant to go out and buy fencing materials, pay bills and keep their heads above water."

Cr Gallagher, whose family also owns Gallagher Butchering in Normanton, said businesses in town were doing it tough.

"There hasn't been too much of a gain in Normanton, obviously we didn't get the 400 odd railway workers so there has been not much of a gain for the businesses here.

"We suffered during that period when we were isolated and a lot of businesses in the Carpentaria Shire feel a bit left out as we are not eligible to apply for hardship grants."

Cr Gallagher said Karumba had been isolated for six weeks, yet assistance for businesses in that town was not forthcoming.

He said the Gulf towns had not received the same attention as those out west, and some people felt as though they had been forgotten in the aftermath.

"People in the Gulf do feel a bit annoyed we are not getting the same coverage as some of the other shires, all of that water came here and as they began to dry out we were still flooded in weeks later and still suffering."

Cr Gallagher said while government officials had flown in to offer assistance, he believed a permanent presence would help the community to recover quicker.

"There are community development officers in other shires, but up here we've missed out. To have someone based in town, who could go around and help the clubs apply for grants, or that people could go to at any stage, would certainly help."

Cr Gallagher said the bulk of his family's losses were at Uralla Station, about 100km south of Normanton on the Saxby River.

He said 260 head of cattle survived out of the 1100 on the property, which was a hit for their butchering business.

"We've got some properties close to town where the breeders are but the one that was hit the most, Uralla, was where we had the sale cattle and the fats.

"The butcher shop still rolls along, though we don't have many of our own cattle now so we've got to go and buy cattle this year, and probably next, so it's a different strategy and the price of cattle is through the roof.

"The tourists have finally arrived and business is going pretty good now, but the challenge is sourcing stock."

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