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30 October, 2020

Backing North Queensland's long-term recovery

IT WAS the one in one-hundred-year rain event that saw the loss of 457,000 cattle, 43,000 sheep, 710 horses and 3,000 goats across 11.4 million hectares of country.

By Edwina Watson RURAL LEADER JOURNALIST

The Landsborough Highway, south-east of Winton was flooded during the height of the 2019 North Queensland disaster

And 18 months on, the long-term strategy for communities affected by the 2019 North Queensland flood has been finalized, with work underway to improve the region’s resilience and future prosperity. 

This week, Coordinator-General for Drought and the North Queensland Floods, the Hon Shane L Stone AC QC, has gone to work to implement After the flood: A Strategy for long-term recovery. 

“The Strategy was developed by the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency after extensive community consultation and released as part of the Australian Government’s 2020 budget,” Mr Stone said. 

“I will be travelling through the region this week, talking to Mayors and other community and business leaders to outline the Agency’s priorities.  

“This includes locally-driven initiatives that underpin the Strategy’s five pillars.”  

Mr Stone said five measures totalling $58 million will be rolled out over the coming months. 

“It was important to me that the Strategy’s release came with funded measures,” he said. “These include a recovery and resilience grants program, funding for improved access to reliable telecommunications and energy services, increasing skills in disaster risk management and mitigation and preventative mental health programs for young people.” 

Winton Shire Mayor, Gavin Baskett, said there was now a perceived light at the end of the tunnel.  

“Its been roughly 18 months since the monsoon came through and devastated north and northwest Queensland,” Cr Baskett said. 

“Flying over properties and seeing all the devastation was one of my toughest days as mayor. 

“The graziers, local people that worked out of town and our small businesses were struggling because their income had dried up,” he said.  

“The funding the Prime Minister put on the ground straight away really assisted us to get the economy rolling.  

“Winton Shire Council also issued a Winton Card, where every person in town was gifted $300 which could only be spent in local businesses.  

“All of that money went directly into the economy,” Cr Baskett said.  

“We’re now a lot further ahead than I thought we would be this time last year.  

“Cattle prices are going gangbusters, which has provided a lot of assistance to the rural sector. 

“We’ve had our Industry Recovery Officer and Community Development Officer doing a great job of events and engaging with the industry. 

“The businesses, well we’ve still got all our businesses in town that we had 18 months ago,” Cr Baskett said. “Winton will be in a good place in several years.”  

Mr Stone said 19 actions were aligned with the new Strategy’s five pillars. 

“Flood-affected communities have pitched 19 actions which they believe are vital for future prosperity and resilience,” he said.  

“We’ve had many conversations around kitchen tables, in town halls, council meeting rooms, local coffee shops and on the sides of roads. 

“We also held seven roundtable discussions across the regions with representatives from primary production, natural resource management, small business, healthcare and government. 

“It’s vitally important the people who will benefit from this Strategy have a hand in how it’s brought to life,” he said. 

Mr Stone said in line with the National Drought and Flood Agency’s guiding principle, ‘Locally led. Locally understood. Locally implemented,’ it will continue to work with people in the affected regions.  

“We’ll continue to ask what works best for them and how their vision for the future can be supported not just by the Australian Government, but by anyone with an interest in making the regions economically, socially and environmentally resilient,” he said.  

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Winton Mayor Gavin Baskett said. “But with the National Drought and Flood Recovery Agency having a long-term goal of helping these areas that were affected to recover, I think the future looks good.”  


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