By Tim Shepherd
Queensland farmers whose crops were destroyed by a freak hail storm last week have been dealt another blow with the news that they are not eligible to receive disaster relief funding.
Large hail stones battered the Fassifern Valley last Thursday, causing an estimated $12 million worth of damage to crops on more than 20 farms.
Carrots, onions, broccoli and beans, many of which were ready for harvest, were destroyed.
Growers in the Scenic Rim region said they received letters from the State Government confirming they would not be receive Category C disaster funding.
In one of the letters the Queensland Agriculture Department said the hailstorm’s impact to state and council infrastructure didn’t meet the Commonwealth criteria to trigger disaster relief.
Kalfresh Vegetables chief executive Richard Gorman said the decision “highlights a flaw in the system”.
“For such a technicality to cause a disruption to the process, it is very disappointing,” Mr Gorman said.
“These are the same people who quite often see the very large sums of money spent on things in urban areas that to us we will never have.
“Just because we didn’t have bus shelters and ferry terminals to be destroyed by such a super cell doesn’t mean it wasn’t a destructive super cell, we just don’t have the infrastructure out there to destroy.”
Minister for State Development Cameron Dick told parliament this week that the funding criteria was “complex and so unfair”.
“Many severely impacted individuals and communities must go without and recover their own with no assistance at all from the Federal Government,” Mr Dick told Parliament this week.
Mr Dick also said the criteria for disaster funding are too strict, and he had asked the Federal Government to review the criteria in May.
“I wrote to the then-federal-minister responsible for natural disaster funding … asking for a review of the strict criteria for Category C to make it more humane, flexible and less mathematical when determining need and eligibility,” he said.
He said the Federal Government advised it would review community assistance “at some time” after new arrangements come into effect this month.
Scenic Rim LNP state member John Krause said farmers were shocked by the decision.
“[Growers] can’t understand why disaster arrangements don’t apply to them, some people have lost their entire crops for the third time in about 18 months. If that’s not a natural disaster then what is?” he asked.
He said the infrastructure threshold makes it difficult for rural communities to access the funding.
“It just doesn’t make sense, this is exactly the time when farmers need help the most,” he said.
“Natural disasters can occur in a way that really just affect rural communities and farmers and if we want to assist those farmers to get back on their feet, we need to have arrangements that cater for them and get the help out the door rather than being bogged down in bureaucracy.”
In its letter to growers, the state Agriculture Department said they were still able to apply for freight subsidies of up to $5,000 and loans of up to $250,000.