North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency advisory board member Tracey Hayes will provide an update on livestock industry recovery efforts to LIVEXchange and highlight issues and challenges identified through flood impacted shires in North Queensland.
LIVEXchange is the livestock exporters annual conference to be held in Townsville at the end of the month and Ms Hayes said the NQLIRA was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 1 in response to the flood event from January 26 to March 14 this year.
"Our immediate role was to coordinate the Australian Government's response to the floods and ensure farmers, their families, small business and communities were receiving the support they needed in a timely way," Ms Hayes said.
"Despite its name, the Agency remit extends beyond livestock to the full impact of the flood event, spanning primary production, small business and community considerations."
Ms Hayes said their main focus is 11 of the worst affected areas - Burke, Burdekin, Cloncurry, Carpentaria, Douglas, McKinlay, Flinders, Hinchinbrook, Richmond, Townsville and Winton.
She said a key accomplishment for the Agency has been its boots on the ground approach to meeting with affected stakeholders.
"Since March the NQLIRA advisory board, led by CEO Shane Stone, has engaged in extensive and often deeply personal interactions with several hundred flood affected landholders and businesses across the region, learning first-hand from impacted people how best to support their recovery.
"The Agency is now focused on developing a strategy for the longer-term recovery and strengthened resilience of the region and developing solutions which are locally led, understood and implemented."
"Agency staff have driven over 10,000km, spending significant time on the ground in the region promoting a range of grant and loan programs, while holding more than 40 community engagement sessions including farm visits, information sessions and community barbecues.
"These interactions have been invaluable in building community trust and identifying priority areas of need."
"Together, the advisory board bring a unique combination of rural, government, non-government and industry experience to the board.
"On a personal level, as a former pastoralist and a lifetime working and living in northern Australia, my role is to provide advice on the recovery of the NQ livestock industry and assist in developing the long-term plan for recovery and resilience."
Ms Hayes said the Agency has achieved a great deal in its short lifespan and is having a tangible impact for farmers and communities. To date, more than $600m has been paid to individuals, businesses, communities, local government and the state government, this includes:
- Close to $89.5m paid to 1688 primary producers in Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grants (up to $75,000 per eligible primary producer)
- More than $28m paid to 96 producers in the form of dollar-for-dollar restocking, replanting and on-farm infrastructure grants of up to $400k
- More than $10m paid to 729 small businesses and not-for-profit organisations in Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grants
- More than $112m paid to over 96,000 applicants under the Commonwealth's Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance
Other funding includes:
- $232m in assistance to be paid to the Queensland Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements for a range of initiatives, including helping small businesses to recover, mental health and wellbeing services, and future flood-preparedness measures
- $4.8m has been committed to assist affected non-government and boarding schools with significant numbers of students from flood-affected areas
- $2.6m to support additional mental health services for flood-affected communities
- $40.2m for two new radars in Maxwelton (between Richmond and Julia Creek) and Charters Towers, and their supporting rain gauges (over 20 years)
Ms Hayes said the Agency knows the recovery will take years, and that its approach will guarantee that the NQLIRA is available to stakeholders, now and into the future, and that its work is relevant, reliable and results in tangible outcomes.
"My intention is to give LIVEXchange attendees a clearer understanding of the challenges faced by these communities, and make good use of the collective experience in the room to listen to their thoughts on longer-term recovery and strengthened resilience," she said.