Fire disaster taking high toll on Gulf farmers
ETHERIDGE Shire Mayor Will Attwood is calling on the Government to help graziers struggling to feed 60,000 head of cattle as wild fires continue to rage in the region, killing stock and putting livelihoods at risk.
"I am asking for our shire to be declared a disaster area, and once that happens, then we are entitled to benefits from the Government," Cr Attwood said yesterday.
The renewed plea to the Government to have the fires labelled a disaster comes as the Atherton Rotary Club and local farmers redouble their efforts to send hay, molasses, as well as groceries, to stricken farmers.
A spokesman for Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said graziers could make an individually disaster-stricken property application for concess-ional loans up to $250,000 and up to $5000 in freight assistance for transporting fodder, removing stock, replacement of buildings or equipment, stock replacement and ferrying drinking water for the animals.
Cr Attwood said the wildfires had destroyed no homes in the shire but were causing "severe devastation" and surviving cattle were having difficulty finding food.
About 20 graziers who had upwards of 3000 head of cattle were having to buy in bales of hay at $30 a time and that fed only 10 animals for a day, Cr Attwood said.
But the "real killer" for graziers, who were already struggling under high loans and the lingering effects of the live cattle ban, was the cost of transporting feed.
"They need road trains full of fodder," Cr Attwood told The Cairns Post.
He said they had asked the Government about a week and a half ago for the area to be declared a disaster area.
"I am going to make application again because there are so many more properties affected over the last five or six days we have had another 10-15 properties affected by the fires," he said.
Cr Attwood welcomed the generosity of Atherton Rotary and Tableland farmers but said the scale of the problem was probably more than they could cope with.
"It needs to be a Government response to deal with the scale of the problem," he said.
Cr Attwood said about 750,000ha was affected, with seven stations losing almost all their feed and a further 20 "severely" hit.
He said that with no grass, graziers were having to buy fodder and molasses and they could ill afford to keep their animals alive at a time when cattle were calving.
Atherton Rotary's community services director Brian McLaren said they sent a truckload of hay to Kutchera Station near Georgetown on Saturday and were hoping to send more to stricken farmers this week.
To donate call Atherton Rotary on 0417 711 413 or Northern Gulf Resource Management on 4062 1330.
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Fire threat: Gulf farmers are facing losses in stock and limited feed due to fires.