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Cattle, infrastructure losses following Queensland floods could near $2b, farm lobby says

Tom Major, Tuesday April 16, 2019 - 07:47 EST
ABC licensed image
Mass graves were dug for thousands of dead cattle and sheep in the aftermath of the February floods. - ABC licensed

The damage bill from inland north Queensland's February floods could near $2 billion after preliminary figures from the disaster were tallied following an online survey.



General manager of projects at farm lobby AgForce Andrew Freeman said the losses of cattle alone would make up nearly half that figure.

"We estimated a total loss of 664,000 head of stock across the total area," Mr Freeman said.

Previously, it was estimated that 500,000 head of cattle had died.

"The financial loss in terms of livestock … you're probably looking at up around $800 million," Mr Freeman said.

"Plus then when you add in on-farm infrastructure plus civil infrastructure you'd have to be pushing $2 billion."

The floods also killed an estimated 48,000 sheep on the downs country to the south of the Flinders Highway between Hughenden and Julia Creek.



Mr Freeman said the nature and spread of the floodwaters, along with the wind-chill factor that saw pneumonia figure in fatalities was a key driver of the statistics.



"There's certainly a huge tongue of water that went out through Carpentaria, very deep and we expect very fast-flowing," he said.

Losses varied with 171,000 head killed in the Carpentaria Shire, 63,000 in Cloncurry, Richmond and Winton shires losing 72,000 and 65,00 respectively, while Flinders Shire deaths were estimated at 17,500 head.

Worst affected was McKinlay Shire with 274,000 dead, while smaller shires lost cattle in the hundreds.

Recovery building resilience

Infrastructure remained one of the critical factors in rebuilding the economy of the flood-hit shires with millions of dollars in private property losses.

More than 10,000 kilometres of fences were swept away, 15,500 kilometres of private roads were damaged, as were 1,000km of water pipelines and 778 watering troughs.

Fourth-generation Julia Creek grazier John Lynch said replacing 15 to 20 per cent of his fences would take him at least two years.

"Sixty per cent of our cows here are gone, we think about 80 per cent of our weaners, there was about 1,300 weaners," Mr Lynch said.

"I knew once we got that wind and the driving rain we were screwed — we actually had 350 die around the house here, in the rain we were towing them away from the house."

The painful experience for the family included counting the cost of 1,000 prime bullocks worth about $1,400 a head, most of which died in the paddock.

Mr Lynch said the recovery process was hampered by the ongoing drought conditions.

"That rain fell in such a short term the country is now dried out, cracking because it hit so hard," he said.

"I reckon it'd be flat out being worth so much as 100 millimetres, the damage it's done."

While nearby Richmond and Cloncurry were hosting charity groups, Julia Creek is yet to receive a volunteer camp.

"A lot of people are older, trying to do the fencing, a lot of things are being forgotten and left behind," Mr Lynch said.

"A bit of help from a handyman to do the jobs we're missing out on would be appreciated.

"There's been a few people I've been speaking to, who are thinking of calling it quits."



Repairs on track

The near-1,000km Mount Isa railway line was badly damaged west of Richmond, with major works expected to finish within the next month.

Hundreds of Queensland Rail workers and contractors have now focused efforts on a 55km section between Julia Creek and Richmond where a train was derailed, requiring a deviation to be built.

Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said the critical connection between Townsville and the North West Minerals Province, carrying on average 84,000 tonnes of freight a week, would be re-opened before mid May.

In anticipation and to reduce the impact of trucks on the Flinders Highway, an intermodal siding will be opened at Hughenden, to transfer freight to rail for the final 383km to Townsville.

"The Hughenden transfer terminal was jointly funded by Queensland Rail and the Department of Transport and will operate in collaboration with Toll, which will mobilise equipment and personnel," Mr Easy said.

The 1.2km rail deviation around the Nelia derailment site is also now complete, which will enable trains to resume through Nelia and allow environmental remediation works.

"The [derailed] locomotive was lifted by crane and was towed from the Nelia site by truck on 8 April, following the earlier removal of all 81 wagons," Mr Easy said.


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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