Low take-up of north Queensland flood relief prompts questions about offering debt to get out of crisis | Ralph-Lauren

Must Read


The Federal Government is trying work out why less than a quarter of the $300 million it released in the wake of the north Queensland floods was taken up by farmers, two years after the disaster.

Only $66 million has been claimed by north Queensland farmers.

In the months after the floods, $400,000 grants were offered to primary producers, who needed to match the funding with their own money.

Governments offering farmers debt in the face of disaster has come under fire before with loans offered to help producers in drought receiving a mixed response.

That issue has reared its head again, with Shane Stone from the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency admitting earlier this week that people had issues matching the grant.

Professor Bruce Chapman from the Australian National University, who has been studying the Government’s response to disasters for a number of years, said he was not surprised to hear the dollar-for-dollar grants were unpopular.

“They’ve got to find that money somehow and the way you would normally find that money is through a bank loan,” Professor Chapman said.

A lone sheep stands in a dry paddock.
Professor Bruce Chapman says governments should rethink the way it offers loans to farmers for disasters.(ABC Southern Queensland: Nathan Morris)

With many farmers in drought feeling the same way about the prospect of borrowing money, Professor Chapman has proposed governments offer primary producers loans they can pay back when revenue recovers — similar to HECS loans for university students.

“We need something different, we need a bridging arrangement for small business or for farmers to be able to survive the terrible times,” he said.

“It’s not to replace the banks, the banks could help finance it. But as a compliment when times are really severe.”

Mayor says current system will work

With more than 500,000 head of livestock killed by the floods, the dollar-for-dollar grants have played an important role for some graziers who lost almost everything.

Two men stand next to teach other talking, one is the Prime Minister.
Cr Campbell says graziers are not taking up grants because the area has gone back into drought.(ABC Rural: Eric Barker)

Cloncurry Shire mayor and grazier Greg Campbell has taken some of the Government offering.

But he said with little rain after the floods many properties had gone back into drought and were still lightly stocked.

“Specifically with our family, we haven’t accessed as much as what is on offer because we haven’t got the feed to sustain any more cattle at the moment.”

Cr Campbell said with sustained low interest rates most graziers in the area would not have a problem borrowing money to access government grants if the season turns around.

“Especially on the back of how strong cattle prices are at the moment, and money’s relatively cheap to borrow,” he said.

“The agricultural sector carries a fair bit of debt, but it would be a pretty good business move to be able to access those grants.”

Push for better infrastructure

A sign on the Flinders Highway pointing to Cloncurry and Julia Creek
The Cloncurry Shire mayor says he would like to see any money left over redirected to other projects in the area.(ABC Rural: Caitlyn Gribbin)

Aside from the push to help graziers rebuild their herds after the floods, the area has been collectively pushing for upgrades to infrastructure like roads, rail, and telecommunications.

The National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency has responded with a $58 million fund directly targeted at infrastructure spending.

Cr Campbell said he would like to see any money left over from the dollar-for-dollar scheme redirected to other projects in the area.

“We’ve proven, through the flood, the best agency to get things happening on the ground is through councils,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency said it was sticking with the dollar-for-dollar grants at this point.

“We’re confident that as conditions improve people will find themselves in a better position to take advantage of the grants,” the spokeswoman said.

“We’ve also extended the closing date to buy much-needed breathing space and allow people to make the best possible decisions for their business and their families.”

The spokeswoman said any reallocation of the funding needed to be a decision for the Government.


Source link

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

Sun Yang’s doping ban almost halved | Ralph Lauren

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang's doping suspension has been almost halved to four years and three months by the...

More Articles Like This