Appeal push to help feed Far Northern stock
THE State Government has kicked off a public appeal with a $100,000 donation to help graziers in the fire-ravaged Etheridge and Croydon shire areas where thousands of cattle have been killed and thousands more left scavenging for food.
Agriculture Minister John McVeigh announced the contribution in Georgetown yesterday after seeing the devastation as he flew by helicopter over the charred landscape.
Mr McVeigh, who visited affected properties, said he hoped the donation would encourage others to dig deep to help graziers buy fodder for their cattle.
Etheridge Shire Mayor Will Attwood said his council was "very happy" with the Government donation to launch the Bendigo Bank Appeal.
"It won't be enough, but every little bit helps," Cr Attwood told The Cairns Post.
He said farmers had enough fodder to last three or four days.
If it didn't rain by Christmas, they would start chasing donations of fodder again on Boxing Day, and if there was no rain in the next two weeks, they were in "dire trouble."
Cr Attwood had been lobbying for the shire to be declared a disaster area but was told by the local disaster management co-ordinator that it did not meet the criteria.
He said it was pressing the agricultural department and Emergency Management Queensland for support as well as Queensland Health because of psychological problems graziers were suffering through the stress of dealing with the threat to their livelihoods.
At present graziers can get up to $5000 in freight subsidies and access to $250,000 concessional government loans.
The Government's donation follows gifts of hay from Atherton Rotary Club and Tableland farmers, as well as the CWA, the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, Aussie Helpers and others, some giving free and others offering discounts.
Yesterday Tablelands Regional Council authorised its disaster management group social support sub-committee to consider using some of its $38,000 reserve for the Rotary Club initiative.
Mr McVeigh said the Atherton Rotary Club had access to pasture suitable for baling and had donated the baling, cost of the hay and transport.
"The club has also made cash donations directly to families.
"This sort of community spirit and resilience is a great example of Queenslanders backing each other up and helping themselves in the face of hardship."
More than 1.2 million hectares has been burnt by the wildfires in Etheridgeshire alone, severely affecting 20 properties and leaving seven with hardly any pasture at all to feed their stock.
Cr Attwood said they had been overwhelmed with support and were grateful for people's generosity.
It would go a long way to keeping cattle alive and graziers in business, but more donations were "desperately needed".
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Giving a lift: Agriculture Minister John McVeigh watches Kylie Haynes and John Wilson help a beast. Picture: FIONA HARDING