Nearly five months after Cyclone Debbie crossed the north Queensland coast, farmers are still waiting for the much needed Category D assistance as governments continue to wade through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) processes and negotiations.
Last month it was announced that a $58.61 million NDRRA Category D exceptional circumstances package had been approved, jointly funded on a 50/50 basis by the Commonwealth and State Governments. The package includes a $2.1 million economic package to assist agriculture.
Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President Stuart Armitage expressed his frustration with the time it was taking to see the economic package reach affected farmers.
“Administratively, the recovery process has been very slow. It’s been 5 months since Cyclone Debbie hit, 4 months since the Queensland Government applied for a Category D exceptional circumstances package, and over a month since that package was announced,” said Mr Armitage.
“Unfortunately, the shortcomings within the current disaster recovery system are not new and past learnings have not been heeded. Following the 2015 Cyclone Marica Agricultural Recovery project, QFF again highlighted concerns with the timeliness of administrative processes and pointed out that they were detrimental to the effectiveness of on-ground recovery.
“Proper process is important when committing public funds, but it seems counter-intuitive if it negates what you are trying to achieve, and it should not be at the expense of Queensland farmers and regional communities. The fact is, the quicker you get assistance on the ground the better the recovery results.
“Natural disasters are part and parcel of farming in Queensland. It is essential that we learn from each event, improve the way we recover and instil natural disaster resilience through the sector,” said Mr Armitage
QFF continues to push for a ‘shovel ready’ industry recovery program that can be activated straight after an event to get the assistance needed on the ground as soon as possible. This, coupled with a more strategic approach to natural disaster preparedness activities would ensure farmers recover faster and become more resilient.