North Queensland

Cyclone-hit farmers call for grower-funded disaster assistance pool

After waiting two months for aid when his banana crop was wiped out, North Queensland farmer Ned Di Salvo is calling for a national approach to self-funded natural disaster assistance,

Innisfail district grower Di Salvo watched months of work destroyed in a few short hours on March 1, when proto-cyclone Niran unleashed winds of more than 100 kph, smashing farms south of Cairns. The grower estimates he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of fruit.

However, after waiting until April 30 for Queensland and Australian government grants of $75,000 to be offered, Di Salvo said a better option was needed.

"This is my fifth major wipe-out — I think the government was more forthcoming in all other major cyclones compared to this one," he told abc.net.au. "It's been a real struggle … it's been quite disappointing to see that. The government could have done a lot more to help us out considering the amount of money splurged around the past 12 months."

With his entire crop wiped out, the Boogan farmer said the labour-intensive clean-up was only half complete, with irrigation repairs still required and no cash flow likely until October.

After experiencing such frustration in the wake of Niran, Mr Di Salvo is proposing a levy system for horticulture in Australia to insure against future disasters and bureaucratic delays.

"Whether it be here, Mareeba, down in Victoria, around Australia there could be a pool of money always available for growers to come back after natural disasters," he said.

"If government's not forthcoming, like it hasn't been this time, I think it's something we need to consider."


Photo source: Dreamstime.com


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