Between 25 January and 14 February 2019, large areas of North Queensland experienced twelve days of continuous heavy rain, low temperatures, constant winds and a body of water over 15,000 square kilometres in size and over 700 kilometres in length.
Rainfall records were smashed and low temperatures added to the catastrophe, causing widespread livestock losses in an area larger than the size of Victoria. On the east coast other primary producers—such as canegrowers, fish farmers, vegetable growers, fruit growers and nurseries—suffered the impacts of heavy rains and flooding.
There was also significant damage to critical infrastructure, including at least 10,000km of fencing, stock watering infrastructure, some 6,420km of state roads and 15,000km of on-farm roads.
The flow-on effects to local businesses, communities, economies and the environment were, and remain, significant.
Australian Government response
As the devastation of the floods became apparent, the Australian Government was quick to act. The North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency was established by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 1 March 2019 to put boots on the ground in the areas most impacted, and to learn first-hand what help was needed most.
Today, the Agency name has changed, but our mission remains the same: to guide a coordinated Commonwealth Government response to assist people in their recovery and deliver a longer-term plan for the region.
The Agency continues to provide advice to the Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Drought & Emergency Management on how support can best be directed, and how the Government can encourage and support the ongoing recovery and prosperity of regional Australia.
Australian Government assistance
The Australian Government is providing a hand up to farmers, businesses and communities affected by the floods, with more than $3.3 billion committed to assist people as they continue to rebuild and recover.
Funding highlights as at October 2020 include:
- $1 billion made available for AgRebuild Loans through the Regional Investment Corporation
- $60.6 million approved for 243 applications under the Restocking, Replanting & On-farm Infrastructure Grants program
- $119.4 million paid under the Commonwealth’s Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance
- $114 million in disaster assistance recovery grants paid to 2249 primary producers
- $14.9 million paid to 1008 small businesses and not-for-profit organisations
- $1m each for 11 of the worst impacted Shires. This payment was made to local Councils to use on priorities they deemed most urgent, such as rate relief for impacted properties, repair to infrastructure or the disposal of cattle which perished.
You can learn more about Australian Government flood assistance here.
While it’s widely acknowledged that recovery is going to take many years, one year on there are signs that the region is on the mend. The 2019-20 wet season has gone some way to strengthening the sense of hope on the ground, but we know there is quite a way to go yet. In our many conversations with people throughout the region, we know the immediate response, including funding for health and wellbeing services; the primary producer grants and our frequent visits, were a source of comfort and strength.
The long-term recovery strategy for affected communities has been finalised and work is underway on ways to improve the regions’ resilience and future prosperity. After the flood: A strategy for long-term recovery was developed by the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency after extensive consultation in the region, and released as part of the Australian Government’s 2020 budget.