Natural disaster funding a ‘con’
by Jim O’Toole Townsville bureau
The Federal Government’s aid package for grazing property owners is a terrible confidence trick still being played on survivors of the horrendous floods in North Western Queensland.
More than 600,000 head of cattle were estimated to have been lost in the February, 2019 deluge.
Prior to the federal election held on May 18, 2019 the government appointed former Northern Territory Chief Minister Shane Stone to sell their Clayton’s recovery package which involves a so-called $400,000 grant.
This week the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority has placed advertisements in regional newspapers offering these grants of $400,000 for restocking lost livestock, replanting lost or damaged crops repairing or replacing damaged or lost on-farm infrastructure.
A meeting of affected landowners held in Winton in April was told the $400,000 federal grant was available to individual graziers who had matching funds.
In other words if a family farmer had $400,000 in his bank account, the grant was available.
It was pointed out at the meeting by a flood victim that the entire North Western region had been in a seven year drought before the ‘Great Flood’ event.
“How would any of us have $400,000 in the bank after feeding stock for so long?” the grazier asked.
Mr Stone was at great pains to explain the ‘grant’ was just that; no repayments were required provided there were matching funds.
The lasting legacy of the flood has already seen an exodus of generational farmers from the area with predictions of more to leave.
They are unable to continue on their properties, some held for more than 100 years, because they simply have given up hope.
The national cattle herd numbers are seriously depleted due to ongoing drought in all eastern states.
Suitable replacement cattle are not available for restocking.
Governments have deployed counsellors and financial advisors to the area trying to stem widespread bouts of personal depression and giving financial advice to stressed farmers in an effort to extract them from this economic maelstrom.