Long, hard slog ahead for Warwick district farmers
CLINTONVALE cattleman Kevin Ryan put it bluntly describing his valley as a "proper mess" in the aftermath of the "biggest flood in recorded history".
Mr Ryan, along with his neighbours in the Glengallan Valley, watched fences, top soil and crops disappear in a rush of floodwater after more than 640mm fell at Cunningham's Gap as ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald trekked down the Australian coast.
"It was our biggest flood ever - higher than 2010/11 and yet we had the least amount of rain," he said.
We need to make sure they don't feel isolated and that they know, as a community, we will come together to help them.
"We measured just 96mm, but the whole valley is a proper mess.
"Other people are much worse off than us: We have cattle so we can just sell when we need to.
"But, for our area's small crop and grain growers, the situation is grim.
"They've got five or six months of hardship at the very least ahead of them."
It was a similar story across the region as dairy farmers from Swanfels, Victoria Hill grain growers and lucerne growers from Murray's Bridge shared the despair of two floods in two years.
Touring the region as country dried out Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Peter Blundell admitted less landholders were affected this year than during the region's last major flood event.
However he said for many of those agricultural producers, who lost produce and infrastructure, the impact of the January deluge was "devastating".
"Yes, we have less landholders affected than in 2010/11 with areas like Stanthorpe escaping without much flood damage at all this time," Mr Blundell said.
"But for those impacted it could be shattering, especially coming so soon after the last floods.
"We need to make sure they don't feel isolated and that they know, as a community, we will come together to help them."
His message was reiterated by Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh.
In Warwick on the second day of a tour of the state's flood affected rural regions Mr McVeigh described the local damage as "substantial".
"Though it may be days or weeks before producers are able to get a true picture of the impact," he said.
"What I want known is that, as the media interest dissipates, the government is focused for the days, weeks and months ahead on standing beside rural producers as they work to recover from this flood."
Flood-hit farmers and rural businesses should contact their local government disaster management group for immediate support.
He said Warwick was one of 21 local government areas now classified as a Category B zone, allowing landholders and small business operators to access concessional loans and freight subsidies.
"Under Category B, concessional loans and freight subsidies for primary producers and concessional loans for small business are available," Mr McVeigh said.
"I am maintaining constant contact with farmers, agricultural industry bodies and local governments to discuss the impacts of the current flooding and the range of support that is needed."
Mr McVeigh said he may seek to extend assistance as the full picture of the flood damage emerged in the coming days.
"I have asked industry to provide me with as much detail as possible about which sectors have been hit hardest and where," he said.
"This will allow my department to make a comprehensive application to the federal government for funding under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
"Producers outside these shires, who have suffered serious damage can apply for an Individual Disaster Stricken Property declaration.
"In the meantime, flood-hit farmers and rural businesses should contact their local government disaster management group for immediate support."
Mr McVeigh said the first meeting of the Agricultural Control Group had already provided an initial summary of the damage caused by flooding and winds over the past few days.
"It is a sobering picture," he said.
"No industry has escaped unscathed with reports of significant infrastructure damage, crop and stock losses, power outages and communication and transport problems.
"I don't want to overstate the scale of the recovery ahead of us but our farmers and fishers and small businesses have really taken a hammering from Rockhampton right down the coast to the south east corner."
However Mr McVeigh said despite the immediate damage and disruption, other producers would benefit from the good rainfall.
- For Category B assistance visit daff.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.
- For details on small business support visit business.qld.gov.au