Farmers count cost of flood

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Agricultural Region MLC Darren West inspect the flood damage at Jerdacuttup River where the bridge washed away after the river overflowed.
Camera IconAgriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Agricultural Region MLC Darren West inspect the flood damage at Jerdacuttup River where the bridge washed away after the river overflowed. Credit: countryman, Rueben Hale

New Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has wasted no time in coming to grips with her portfolio, this week visiting southern flood-ravaged areas still struggling to rebuild after major storms and rain hit the region in February.

At meetings with authorities from Esperance, Ravensthorpe, Lake Grace and Jerramungup, the minister promised to speed up the assessment process for the disaster relief funding package announced by the Federal and State governments after the floods.

The natural event, with more than 300mm of rain falling in four days in many areas, decimated access roads and crossings, leaving hundreds of farms isolated and waterlogged at the peak of the disaster.

The downpours are conservatively expected to cost farmers in the area more than $20 million as they count the cost of hundreds of kilometres of washed away fences, dead livestock and waterlogged cropping areas.

Government assessors are required to work out the dollar damage to a property to be able to calculate the amount of funding available.

Ms MacTiernan said a working group was examining the implications of the proposal which seeks to provide flexibility for local governments to repair or reconstruct roads in a cost-effective and timely manner.

“Under the WA Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, local governments cannot claim most of the costs associated with using their internal workforce to undertake these works,” she said

“After meeting with authorities and seeing damage firsthand I will be making a report to the new Minister for Emergency Services to make sure he is aware of the extent of the damage caused by the flooding and seeks a speedy resolution of the matter that best meets the needs of local governments.

“We need to ensure the full cost implications for local governments and the State Government are fully considered.”

Ms MacTiernan said the assessment team has been clarifying some matters with the Federal Government and Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

“There has been a been focus on obtaining as much information as possible so that an assessment can made against the WANDRRA eligibility criteria to ensure the State has its best chance of obtaining the approval of the Commonwealth Government to invoke the Category C measures,” she said

Category C measures are considered more helpful to farmers because they support a holistic approach to the recovery of regions, communities or sectors severely affected by a natural disaster. Reimbursements of up to $25,000 are available to primary producers for clean-up, removal of debris, disposal of dead livestock and reinstatement.

Lake King farmer Bob Iffla said the community was encouraged by the minister taking time to visit the flood-affected areas so quickly after taking on the portfolio.

“Hundreds of farmers throughout the area have been impacted in varying degrees by the flooding,” he said.

“One of the big things is many of the roads remain closed, preventing trucks and school buses getting in and out of the community.”

Mr Iffla said the initial estimate of $250,000 damage for the average farm would probably end up costing much more.

“Hundreds of kilometres of fences have been washed away, massive soil degradation and deep gullys in the earth have been left behind, and livestock losses are very high as a result of the flooding,” he said.

“The minister seems very concerned about the predicament of the flood-affected towns and farmlands, and we are very confident she will do her best to get the help needed to rebuild.”

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