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Cyclone Ita clean-up: Government outlines emergency available funding to residents

Wednesday April 16, 2014 - 13:18 EST
ABC image
Floodwaters cover a sugar cane field along the Bruce Highway between Cardwell and Ingham. - ABC

State and federal MPs and Queensland's disaster recovery coordinator have outlined emergency funding available for residents of communities ravaged by Tropical Cyclone Ita in the state's north.

Crops, homes and businesses were damaged when the category-four system hit the region last Friday night.

Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says immediate financial assistance for farmers affected by the cyclone is vital to getting them back on their feet quickly.

Mr McVeigh is touring agricultural regions throughout north Queensland.

The tour coincides with a State Government announcement of emergency funding for farmers in 16 shires, including Cassowary Coast, the Burdekin and Whitsunday.

Grants of up to $5,000 are available for freight subsidies to continue the clean-up, and there will be access to concessional loans of up to $250,000 to begin the rebuilding process.



Speaking from Bowen, Mr McVeigh said the offer of funding had been well received in the area.

"I think they're certainly feeling better now than they were two days ago," he said.

Mr McVeigh will visit farms in Ingham and in Hope Vale, on Cape York, later today.

Community Recovery Minister David Crisafulli and the state's disaster recovery coordinator, Kevin Guteridge, met with the Douglas Shire Council this morning.

They will visit Kuranda, west of Cairns, this afternoon to discuss the impact of the cyclone with the Mareeba Shire Council.

Police Inspector Guteridge is also hoping to visit the Hope Vale community in the Cape York region tomorrow.

Inspector Guteridge yesterday toured Lizard Island and Cooktown off far north Queensland to meet those involved in the clean-up.

"I'll certainly be getting around to see wherever I possibly can now," Mr Guteridge said.

"There's already fantastic systems and support systems in place that many of our primary producers and horticulturalists are familiar with so they'll certainly have a lot of that stuff under way themselves.

"As I said my role up here is to offer that support when barriers are presented.

"Many of these people are just getting on with the job."

Outreach teams help Cape York communities

Meanwhile, Queensland Communities Minister Tracy Davis says mobile outreach teams are visiting the cyclone-hit communities of Cooktown, Laura, Wujal Wujal and Hope Vale on Cape York to support residents.

Ms Davis says Immediate Hardship Assistance is available for affected residents until this weekend.

She says uninsured homeowners may be eligible to receive a Structural Assistance Grant of up to $14,500.

Uninsured cyclone-affected residents may also have access to Essential Household Contents Grants and Essential Services Safety Reconnection Scheme Grants.

Red Cross Queensland spokesman Kevin Keeffe says it has a seven-member team in Cooktown assisting with the recovery effort.

"People have suffered some big hits, but they're getting back to normal and we're helping them with that recovery journey," he said.

"We're also giving resources to help people clean up and also to register, find and reunite - our website that can locate people that are missing - so we've got that under way also.

"We might be pulling some of our volunteers back as people move back into their homes.

"We're targeting those whose homes have been damaged and going out and making sure it's a targeted outreach program."

Queensland Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle and Ergon Energy chief executive officer Ian McLeod will visit Cooktown today to check on recovery progress and give an update on restoring electricity.

About 280 customers in Hope Vale and Cooktown are still without power.

A further 350, mostly in the Daintree and Mossman areas, are also waiting to be reconnected and Ergon Energy says power should be restored across the far north by Friday.

Ergon says an extra 20 staff were flown to Cooktown yesterday and additional crews and equipment have also been deployed to Mossman to help with power restoration.

Inspections continue at flood-affected Ingham

Further south, federal MP Bob Katter, the Member for Kennedy, says his demands for a Federal Government Minister to visit the flooded town of Ingham have been answered.

Attorney-General Senator George Brandis will today visit Ingham and Halifax, north of Townsville to inspect flood damage after Cyclone Ita.



Mr Katter says he wants the Federal Government to provide financial assistance to farmers who have lost their crops.

"I think there have been phone calls going from the Prime Minister's office and the Treasurer's office," Mr Katter said.

"But he'll be there inspecting flood damage, and I hope that our industry organisations have been warned and ready to sort of give some sort of idea of the money that will be required and the requests that will be required."

The Hinchinbrook Shire Council in far north Queensland says the clean-up from the cyclone could take weeks.

The massive storm damaged crops, roads, homes and business when it hit the towns of Ingham and Halifax at the weekend.

The recovery cost is still being calculated but Hinchinbrook Mayor Rodger Bow estimates the damage bill will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

"We've got teams out on the roads now inspecting all the roads and doing assessments, so I'd say in the next week we'll have an estimate of what our damage is but I think it's going to be quite substantial," he said.

"We've had clean floods and we've had dirty floods and this would have to go as a dirty flood.

"There's a lot of mud that came down I'd say that come out of our cane paddocks so the residents should be cleaning out as the water recedes - clean the mud out.

"If they need disinfectant they can come down here to the council office and pick up their bottle of disinfectant."

Meanwhile, some Ingham residents have raised concerns about the local council's flood warning system in the wake of Cyclone Ita.

Resident Lorna Pollack says authorities told them the Herbert River had peaked when it was still rising.

She says her home has water damage because she was not given enough time to prepare.

"The warning that we got was incorrect - don't say that it's peaked when it jolly well hasn't," she said.

"I'm probably not the only one - there's probably 10,000 people in Ingham that have done the same thing.

"When it hadn't peaked and we were told it had, that really annoyed me."

Tourism reopens in far north Queensland

Mr Crisafulli says many national parks in the state's far north hit by Cyclone Ita will be open for the Easter long weekend.

"There's been some huge success stories in the last 24 to 48 hours," he said.



"The road to Cape Tribulation will open in the morning - that's fantastic.

"The rail line at Kuranda has been cleared in record time - the region is open.

"The greatest gift that people can give these operators is to support them over the Easter long weekend - they really need a hand right now."

Barron River MP Michael Trout says authorities are working around the clock to reopen the Daintree area to tourists in time for the Easter long weekend.

Mr Trout says he has been receiving concerned calls from many of the 22 Cairns operators who run tours north of the Daintree River, which broke its banks during the cyclone.

The Daintree ferry has reopened for locals only, but Mr Trout says dredging work is continuing in the hope of resuming services for tourists tomorrow.

"The national parks are the biggest issue - you can go and put people up there but what are they going to do?" he said.

"We will have today cleared Cape Tribulation into the beach there from the car park to the beach, and also into Noah's beach where quite a few people like to go and camp."


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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