Interstate road trains carrying hay continue to arrive in north-west Queensland as aviation fuel supplies flown in by the military give a glimmer of hope to flood-affected farmers.
However, the promised bulk military airdrop of fodder for the surviving cattle has been put on the backburner, nearly a week after it was promised by various levels of government.
The north-west Queensland floods caused by the same monsoonal rain that put Townsville underwater, have killed up to 300,000 cattle and costs drought-ravaged farmers $300 million.
Rural Aid chief executive Charles Alder said the hay trucks had arrived throughout the weekend and would continue to reach the likes of Winton, Cloncurry and Longreach this week.Advertisement
The 50 road trains are carrying $350,000 worth of hay and the cost of their fuel is worth the same amount again, but have been funded by donations to the Buy a Bale campaign.
“The challenge for these farmers is during the seven years of drought, they have been feeding and keeping their cattle alive, and then in the space of 72 to 96 hours hundreds of millions of dollars of cattle drowned and were washed away,” Mr Alder said.
“South Australia is the predominant supplier of hay to Australia, with New South Wales and Queensland in drought and there being not much hay around.
“The majority of the trucks coming up from South Australia, unloading and then picking up more from within Queensland.
“We are working with councils to distribute hay to the best points for helicopters to then get the hay and fly off to distribute it.”
Mr Alder said the Australian Defence Force decided last week to drop the idea of flying in bulk batches of hay and it was far easier to use road trains.
The office of Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Linda Reynolds, responsible for the federal response to the floods, confirmed the military’s focus was taking aviation fuel into affected areas.
A spokeswoman for Senator Reynolds said many areas had nearly run out of fuel for helicopters and some farmers did have fodder, but could not get to it without fuel for their helicopters.
“The Australian government is in close contact with Queensland authorities and has activated plans to assist,” Senator Reynolds’s office said in a statement.
“Emergency Management Australia and Australian Defence Force liaison officers are embedded in the Queensland State Disaster Coordination Centre.
“Emergency Management Australia is working with the ADF, Commonwealth agencies, Queensland authorities, local Queensland mayors, AGforce and Rural Aid to meet the needs of affected farmers and their communities.
“AGforce and Rural Aid are coordinating the transportation of bulk fodder to strategic distribution points.
“The local disaster management groups are coordinating with the ADF to use their heavy lift capability to move fodder to secondary distribution points.
“We recommend any farmers and members of the community who require any support during this natural disaster contact their local shire council or local disaster management group.”
The ADF has put Brigadier Stephen Jobson on the ground in Julia Creek to talk to local farmers and find out what support they need, including disposing of their cattle’s carcasses.
A further 17 Townsville schools reopened on Monday, but 21 remained closed and more than 34 childcare centres were also still shut.
An Ergon Energy spokesman said only 150 properties were without power on Monday in Townsville after 17,000 were plunged into darkness during the height of the floods.
The premier’s office said in a statement on Sunday evening all seaports were open, buses and taxis were returning to normal and only eight people remained in evacuation centres.
Source: Brisbane Times