Farmers' push brings some upgrade in flood assistance
THE region's farmers' fight for a higher level of flood assistance has proven to be a worthwhile one with parts of the Southern Downs being declared eligible to apply for Category D funding.
Their fight started two weeks ago when farmers from the Glengallan Creek catchment area gathered to prove to various government bodies how bad the damage caused by the January 2013 flood was.
Farmers were first successful in securing Category C funding and it was announced over the weekend that the area has been approved for Category D.
This level of assistance entitles farmers to a grant of $50,000 and a 10-year low interest (1.7%) loan of $600,000.
QRAA client liaison officer Kate Dunk said during the meeting that all the guidelines and eligibility criteria were still being finalised.
"There is still a process under way," she said.
"Particularly for Category D," Ms Dunk said.
"It is prudent we wait at least until the guidelines are in place before applying.
"It will maybe take a week or two."
Ms Dunk did say the farmer would need to demonstrate the damage was extreme and that they would not be able to go on without the loan.
Massie farmer Bill Bowen said it was a massive achievement.
"It only happened because everyone pulled together and worked in a positive way," he said.
"Wherever the flood went it caused enormous damage.
"Starting up the top and all the way down.
"The valley has billions of dollars that circulates locally and it is vital it is repaired."
Mr Bowen said the Southern Downs Regional Council had played a vital role in helping secure the funding.
"It was great to see so many of the councillors here," he said.
"It looks like we are getting somewhere with target areas not eligible for category D."
Some of the farmers at the meeting yesterday expressed concerns that the government bodies were not taking into account the suggestions made during previous floods when it came to funding.
One point was farmers can only claim subsidies for work they contract out.
Meaning any work they do on their own property after a flood they cannot get money back for.
Several farmers took to the microphone explaining in order to get contractors into their property they had to do vast amounts of work first to clear roads and causeways.
Ms Dunk said one of the changes this year's round of QRAA flood assistance was farmers could not use the grant money for replanting.
"It is basically for repair and restoration," she said.
"Last time it included replanting costs this time not.
"It is purely for earthworks, fencing and debris removal.
"The loan money does enable you to do that though."
Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Peter Blundell said farmers had a mammoth task in front of them.
"It has been a hell of a three weeks," he said.
"Now that it is dried out a bit we have had a look at the effect on properties.
"I am amazed at the progress of cleaning up some of the debris."
Cr Blundell said the Economic Development team had been working hard to get a clear picture of the damage and the damage bill.
Economic development officer Nick Edols said even though the region had been declared a Category D it was still important farmers continue to fill out the surveys.
"We need to get a good idea of how many farmers," he said.
"The ball park figure is at leat 350.
"It is important to continue collecting data for the record."
How to apply for assistance
- Phone Nick Edols at the Southern Downs Regional Council on 4661 7332.
- Head to qraa.qld.gov.au to apply and for more information
- Phone Sarah Due from AgForce on 4699 5523
- Phone Kate Dunk from QRAA on 4634 8987