Natural Disaster Assistance

The summer floods in Queensland make them the nation’s worst natural disaster, causing an estimated $5.6 billion in damages, destroying critical infrastructure, displacing thousands of people from their homes and farms, and disrupting the nation’s food supply. This disaster was followed by flooding rains in Victoria, which continue to inundate homes and farms as a massive volume of water makes its way down the Murray River, Australia’s largest river system, to the Cooyong, a journey that will take many more weeks before reaching the sea. But it took Cyclone Anthony and Cyclone Yasi to make this Australian summer the worst on record for extreme weather events. The early morning hours of 2-3 February 2011 will be remembered as the night many Australians held their breath as the worst storm in living memory decimated homes, farms, crops and livelihoods, flattening greenhouses and growing systems from Bowen to the Atherton Tablelands. There are few Australians who do not know someone who has been affected by the devastating floods and back-to-back cyclones.

Like most horticulture industries, the hydroponics and protected cropping industry did not escape unscathed. Most outdoor hydroponic growers producing leafy greens and herbs in Queensland lost their crops, not from the floodwaters but from torrential rain and cyclonic winds. Despite the tears and heartbreak of watching homes and livelihoods go down the drain, some growers view these natural disasters as an opportunity to renew and upgrade damaged infrastructure. With fresh food supply disruptions across the Eastern seaboard, industry pundits predict the next 18 months will be a boon time for the industry.

To help rebuild, special disaster assistance grants of up to $25,000 are available to help Queensland primary producers and small businesses. These grants are available under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), a Federal and State government initiative, and will help eligible applicants to pay for costs arising from flood and cyclone damage. The grant scheme will run until 30 September 2011. All applicants must be able to provide proof that they have suffered damage as a direct result of flooding and cyclonic winds – for example, photos. For further information contact the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority on 1800 623 946 or visit the QRAA website (www.qraa.qld.gov.au). You may also qualify for assistance from the Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund (www.qld.gov.au/floods/form.html). If you have lost your job there is employment support and services available from Federal and State governments and community services. For help in accessing the appropriate service call the worker assistance helpline (1800 035 749). Further information about grants and assistance can be found on the Australian Government Disaster Assist website (www.disasterassist.gov.au). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are having difficulties coping, call Lifeline (13 11 14). Lifeline is available 24 hours a day and emotional support is a powerful stress buster. Lifeline also offers self-help tool kits that provide information on ways to cope following a natural disaster (www.lifeline.org.au).

Steven Carruthers

PH&G March/April 2011 – Issue 117


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