Direct compensation for the thousands of stock lost in the weather catastrophe that struck in early February is the key component of the recovery package north west Queensland mayors have put to Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
“With compensation, graziers can talk to their bank, they can apply for a restocking loan, and helicopter pilots and road train operators can work again,” Richmond mayor, John Wharton, said.
It was a form of assistance that could be verified by NLIS tags and the average of stock sales over the previous three-year period.
“I’m not sure if there will end up being 300,000 cattle lost; maybe there will be 60,000 by the smaller operators we’re talking about,” Cr Wharton said.
Their proposal would exclude companies, which could redeploy staff and still earn an income.
Cr Wharton and mayors representing the councils of Flinders, McKinlay, Cloncurry and Winton, the shires that bore the weather’s direct hit, hammered home the crucial need when Mr Morrison flew in to inspect the damage last Friday.
“We’ve requested things that will not only keep the rest of the cattle alive but our communities,” Cr Wharton said. “The Prime Minister has turned up and offered us a future.”
According to Cr Wharton, all spheres of politics had been willing to make help happen; as the rain overflowed, daily meetings took place with Premier Annastacia Palaczczuk, then once the weather event went from a category C to D disaster, it was the PM they spoke with each day.
“The federal $75,000 disaster funding for graziers is already in people’s accounts – that’s the quickest turnaround ever,” he said. “We’ve asked for similar help for small businesses, $25,000 or maybe more, and we want pay as you go tax to be deferred for two years.”
Each of the five shires that bore the brunt of the low weather system’s ferocity has already received $1m for immediate clean-up purposes.
Rail restoration efforts are seeing Richmond accommodation booked out as workers start on the outside and follow the water down.
While the North West Region of Councils has previously made representations to Canberra for a regional deal for the future, Cr Wharton said their current request wasn’t political in any way.
“(Winton mayor) Gavin Baskett isn’t part of the NWROC – this is about the five shires that got smashed,” he said.