Leading industry bodies AUSVEG, Growcom and NSW Farmers are calling on the Queensland and New South Wales governments to ensure Australians affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie receive the highest possible level of federal government assistance as the clean-up begins.
The federal government provides financial assistance directly to states through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), to assist the states with costs associated with disaster relief and recovery assistance. Early reports suggest that the trail of destruction left by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie already costs over $100 million dollars, with the eventual damage bill potentially running into the billions.
“As the days pass and the full wrath of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie becomes more apparent, it’s clear this has been the most catastrophic storm to hit northern Queensland and New South Wales since Cyclone Oswald in 2013,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.
In the aftermath of Cyclone Oswald, the federal government activated Category D of the NDRRA to provide joint assistance with the Queensland government for the hardest-hit areas, including a loan and grant package for primary producers.
After Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which also received Category D assistance, primary producers in affected areas were offered concessional loans of up to $650,000 with a grant component of up to $50,000. Wage relief was also offered to local employers to help support regional economies.
“Members of the local agriculture, mining and grazing communities in northern Queensland and New South Wales are reeling from the impact of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, with reports of flattened crops and massive damage to buildings, transport and infrastructure,” said Mr Whiteside.
“Fruit and vegetable growers are facing a huge clean-up bill and major crop losses, as well as the long-term impacts of soil erosion and other environmental damage, and we know that other industries have also been hit hard.
“Given the impact on food production in these regions, it is also critical for the nation that we get these growers back on their feet and producing quality produce as soon as possible.
“We need to see the state and federal governments commit to providing the maximum level of support to our growers, as well as all other affected industries and residents in these regions.”
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s vegetable and potato growers.
According to Queensland horticulture’s peak industry body Growcom, early evidence from growers has suggested that the Bowen and Whitsunday region has lost about 20 per cent of its entire seasonal output.
“Winter crops have been hit particularly hard in the Bowen Gumlu region, as growers are currently counting the costs of more than $100 million of damage,” said Growcom CEO Pat Hannan.
“Recent discussions with growers show that this storm has left a significant impact on the state’s key production regions, and we’re hoping to see our state and federal governments come together to help support growers as much as possible through this period of extreme hardship.”
According to NSW Farmers CEO Matt Brand, the effects of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie could be felt for years and create a damage bill worth billions of dollars.
“Agriculture industries in northern New South Wales have received more than 750mm of rain in 24 hours, which has caused extensive flooding and substantial losses to both property and livestock,” said Mr Brand.
“While extreme weather events are a reality of a life on the land, there are only so many costs that farmers can absorb. It is essential that affected farmers in our state get the highest level of assistance to reflect the true devastation of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.”
Queensland growers affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie can contact Growcom on 07 3620 3844 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss support options or to provide damage assessments.
New South Wales growers can contact Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.