Farm­ers say aid has taken far too long

Townsville Bulletin - - News -

DISAS­TER-hit Queens­land farm­ers say a new Fed­eral G o v e r n m e n t a s s i s t a n c e pack­age is too lit­tle too late.

Con­ces­sional loans of up to $ 650,000, with a grant com­po­nent of up to $ 50,000, were made avail­able yes­ter­day to el­i­gi­ble busi­nesses, pri­mary pro­duc­ers and not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions in 33 gov­ern­ment ar­eas af­fected by re­cent floods.

The loans will be of­fered over a 10-year pe­riod, with the first two years in­ter­est and re­pay­ment free.

Pre­vi­ously, the Nat­u­ral Disas­ter Re­lief and Re­cov­ery Ar­range­ments Cat­e­gory D as­sist ance was avail­able only in lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas af­fected by Cy­clone Yasi i ncl udi ng Charter s Tow­ers, Table­lands, Hinch­in­brook, Cas­sowary Coast, Townsville and Flin­ders.

AgForce pres­i­dent Brent Fin­lay said the pay­ments were ex­tended to some ar­eas that were flooded nearly two months ago, and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment needed to ex­plain why it hadn’t been forth­com­ing ear­lier.

‘‘ Farm­ers and small busi­nesses af­fected by Cy­clone Yasi were of­fered the pay­ments two weeks af­ter the disas­ter,’’ he said.

‘‘ Did the gov­ern­ment run out of money for flooded farm­ers, or were we just not a pri­or­ity?’’

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