North west repair plan anticipation builds

North west floods: Region awaits restoration plan

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Julia Creek business owners Tim Pratt and Michael and Karena Leake on his trip to north west Queensland. Producers and small business alike are awaiting the types of assistance measures that will be announced. Photo - Derek Barry.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Julia Creek business owners Tim Pratt and Michael and Karena Leake on his trip to north west Queensland. Producers and small business alike are awaiting the types of assistance measures that will be announced. Photo - Derek Barry.

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Anticipation is building as to how the federal government will respond to the natural disaster that struck north west Queensland in early February.

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Anticipation is building as to how the federal government will respond to the natural disaster that struck north west Queensland in early February.

There were immediate calls for assistance in a variety of forms once the enormous extent of the stock, infrastructure and environmental losses became apparent, ranging from Bob Katter's demands for a plan to fund a bank debt buyback to calls from the mayors of the region for direct compensation for the thousands of stock lost as part of a recovery package.

Thrown into the mix was a call from Southern Gulf NRM for governments to invest in a "turbo-charged" natural resource management program that would help landholders come back stronger.

"Just fixing the damage is only part of the answer," CEO Andrew McLean said.

"We think best practice land management funding needs to be an important part of the plan.

"Ninety-five per cent of the southern Gulf region is managed by the beef industry and we need to help it do more than remediate their damage but come back stronger for the future.

Economist Ben Rees has said calls for the Commonwealth to pay for all deceased cattle was "fairyland stuff" and beyond Section 51 (iii) of the Australian constitution.

He believed the revamped QRIDA would not be able to handle the level of debt that will be exposed by this disaster, calling instead for a modern version of the Whitlam-era  Regional Economic Development employment program.

When he visited Julia Creek and Cloncurry in the days succeeding the blizzard, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the regions they had been "knocked off our feet here...but we will get back up together and we will do everything necessary to help people."

It was a similar message from deputy PM and Nationals leader, Michael McCormack, visiting Hughenden a few days later, who spent time listening to people's stories and suggestions as the government prepared to address multiple issues, from restocking to mental health needs.

The federal government has so far given $1 million to each affected shire and offered Category D assistance up to $75,000 to affected producers plus $25,000 for small businesses affected.

Gulf Cattlemen's Association president, Barry Hughes, said the call for stock compensation took care of all elements.

"If people have enough security, all the layers underneath will be taken care of," he said.

"It will come down to what the bean counters come back to the PM with, and I understand there are questions around compensation, but this calls for thinking outside the box."

Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell said a stock compensation plan would particularly assist small communities like Winton, Richmond and Julia Creek that depended entirely on grazing.

"A reconstruction bank is always an issue - I have an open mind to anything that helps graziers and therefore businesses that support them.

"There's no silver bullet, no package that fixes every individual's problems. We've got to stick together and get something that suits the majority, then the stronger can help those more in need."

Cr Campbell said a common thread was that people didn't want a big lot of cash thrown at them, and that they wanted a business structure behind any cash plan.

Federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, visited Cloncurry on Tuesday, saying he was committed to providing further assistance.

"The rest of Australia needs to remember this has happened to a very important part of Australia," he said. "We've got to stand behind our live cattle industry and our cattle industry more generally."

The story North west repair plan anticipation builds first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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