Category C win for Charters Towers, Etheridge

Charters Towers, Etheridge able to access category C disaster help

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Greatly relieved is how Charters Towers primary producers have described the news that category C disaster assistance will be extended to their council area and the Etheridge Shire Council area.

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The Member for Traeger Rob Katter with flood-affected Charters Towers graziers Bram Smith, Greg Elliott, Jim Petersen, and Peter Fryer.

The Member for Traeger Rob Katter with flood-affected Charters Towers graziers Bram Smith, Greg Elliott, Jim Petersen, and Peter Fryer.

Greatly relieved is how Charters Towers primary producers have described the news that category C disaster assistance will be extended to both their council area and the Etheridge Shire Council area.

The news means that 10 months after disaster struck, eligible producers from both shires will join those in the Burdekin, Burke, Carpentaria, Cloncurry, Douglas, Flinders, Hinchinbrook, McKinlay, Richmond, Townsville and Winton shires in being able to access one-off grants of up to $75,000 under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

Thanks to the size of the two shires, the areas affected by February's monsoon event didn't trigger the criteria set for shire-wide category C activation, resulting in a concentrated campaign for an exception to be made.

Related: Last ditch appeal for forgotten flooded producers

Responding to the announcement on Wednesday by the federal government, Charters Towers producer Kylie Stretton said the news had been a big relief.

"It's been a very long process, too long," she said. "We're still dealing with the ramifications of the flooding and trying to patch things up with no guarantee of any help."

She said it had been down to all levels of government supporting the call of producers for assistance that had seen action, and it was one of those, Traeger MP Rob Katter who described the news as a win for fairness.

Mr Katter, the state leader of Katter's Australian Party, lobbied for the activation of category C assistance and said it was a relief for those forgotten by the state and Commonwealth's traditional disaster relief framework.

"The guidelines discounted dozens of devastated landholders, not due to their lack of need, but due to arbitrary boundary lines on a map that declared their shires were not adequately impacted by the crisis," he said.

"This is despite many of these graziers, mostly located in isolated pockets of their shires that experienced unprecedented rainfall, racking up damage bills of up to $150,000 in lost livestock, water infrastructure, pumps, machinery, roads and fencing."

Ray Doolan looks over the eroded banks on his Charters Towers property.

Ray Doolan looks over the eroded banks on his Charters Towers property.

He said everyone could see the sense in their argument but no-one had been willing to stick their neck out to help, until now.

As well as assistance for eligible primary producers, grants of up to $50,000 can be accessed by small businesses and not-for-profit groups.

Queensland Minister for Employment and Small Business Shannon Fentiman said small businesses were the foundation of regional communities and the grants would provide much-needed support for communities in impacted regions.

"Impacted businesses can access this funding to assist with business planning, retraining, mentoring and advisory services, as well as new software and new equipment," she said.

Closing date extended

The closing date for applications for all flood-affected shires has been extended to February 28 next year.

According to federal Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud, the extension would let more people access the jointly-funded Commonwealth-state assistance.

"The monsoon hit hard and we want to give communities the time they need to recover," Minister Littleproud said. "This extension will give those communities the time they need to access this support."

Ms Stretton said the next hurdle now may be proving the damage and showing the expense incurred in fixing it up, thanks to the months that had elapsed.

The DRFA grants can be used for clean-up, restocking, repair and reconstruction of damaged facilities as well as replacing damaged equipment, to help graziers get back on their feet.

Businesses keen to apply should first contact the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority to check their eligibility.

In addition to the DRFA grants, affected primary producers can access the Commonwealth's Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure co-contribution grants of up to $400,000, administered by the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency.

Further information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian Government's Disaster Assist website and the Queensland Government's Disaster Management website.

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