NSW Farmers says there needs to be an urgent increase in emergency payments to flood-affected communities with more than half of the state's local government areas enduring a flood disaster.
The federal government's $25,000 emergency payments for primary producers were just one third of the $75,000 offered to farmers impacted by earlier floods, and with roads in disarray many communities will struggle to rebuild without greater support.
NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said the federal government needed to mobilise defence personnel to support urgent road repairs so farmers could harvest what remained of their crops, and rapidly approve visas to boost the number of workers in rural areas so communities could get back on their feet quickly.
"There needs to be a rapid and equitable natural disaster response no matter where you live, so people know what to expect and can access the help they need," Mr Martin said.
"We are getting a lot of experience living through these natural disasters, and while our governments are getting better at responding, there's clearly more that can be done.
"It is critical that the state and federal governments now offer the same sort of support they gave to farmers and businesses up north earlier in the year, because these natural disasters take a long time to recover from – both emotionally and financially.”
The financial impact of the latest flooding event is likely to far exceed the $3 billion contained in the federal budget, and many farmers say their individual repair bills will be in excess of $100,000 on top of the losses from destroyed crops and lost livestock. There were also concerns about the damage to the Newell Highway and subsequent long-term closure of many roads for repairs, which would have a significant impact on freight – particularly grain transport.
Mr Martin said landholders in the Western Division were facing isolation due to the extensive flooding across the northern Darling River and feeder river and creek systems. The significant concern was the challenge of managing animal welfare – particularly sheep – as the water continued to rise. However, the provisioning of isolated communities and homesteads in the longer-term was also of concern.
“This is a real and evolving situation that requires a significant response,” Mr Martin said.
“While the provision of aerial support through the Agriculture and Animal Services Functional Area is welcomed, access is challenging as farmers need to find livestock and check their health.
“There’s also an increasing concern about the mental health impacts of this prolonged flooding, so we need a focus on wellbeing as well.”
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