RECENT flooding across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia has been declared the most expensive in the nation’s history and a natural catastrophe by trusted rural charity, Rural Aid, as the dire consequences to regional communities become more clearly understood.
The flood, which made its way across the three states, including in key agricultural production zones, between September and November has already resulted in more than $5.5 billion in damages. The true cost, however, is estimated to be significantly higher given farmers may not have been insured for many of the losses incurred and there remains limited information as to the ongoing loss of income thousands of rural businesses will suffer.
In total, more than 130 local government areas (LGAs) have been disaster declared, including 55 of the 79 LGAs in Victoria and 78 of 128 in NSW.
There is now also a growing possibility the flood event will be protracted and episodic with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above average rainfall from December to January in many of the already impacted areas.
Rural Aid CEO, John Warlters, said there were immediate concerns for the wellbeing of affected families leading into the Christmas period and a growing feeling the ongoing impact of the flood event had not yet been grasped by policy makers, corporate Australia, and the broader community.
“This flood event has destroyed homes and livelihoods, wiping millions of dollars from farm incomes and causing immeasurable mental anguish and stress,” Mr Warlters said.
“It is difficult to measure the true toll the floods are taking, and will continue to take, on impacted farmers and communities – many of whom have experienced drought, bushfires and multiple flooding events in just the past four years.
“Our immediate concern is the mental health and wellbeing of families in the leadup to Christmas, however, once the emergency subsides, communities face a long and challenging road to recovery. It is imperative they are not forgotten in the process.”
Rural Aid predicts at least a two-year recovery for communities, with the funds required to adequately support farmers and families estimated to be in excess of $50 million.
This includes immediate assistance with fodder, clean water and cash payments; community activation of Rural Aid’s Farm Army of volunteers; and longer-term mental health support from its team of accredited counsellors.
In response to the unfolding disaster the organisation is relaunching its Buy a Bale fundraising campaign which was popular during the equally significant recent drought. Rural Aid has already sourced hay for the Central West NSW region and expects much more will be required in the months ahead.
Mr Warlters said Rural Aid stood ready to execute an extensive recovery support program, using a tried and tested approach, but would require both private and government funding to respond adequately to the families who need help.
“Rural Aid holds a deep connection with the nation’s farming families and has the ability to efficiently and effectively deliver assistance, including a team of accredited counsellors who are experienced in delivering unique, tailored on-farm counselling services,” Mr Warlters said.
“However, to deliver this at the scale required in this unprecedented instance, we critically need the support of the corporate sector, the public and both State and Federal governments to commit to prioritising the wellbeing of affected communities.
“We’ve always been overwhelmed by the generosity of Australians in supporting our programs that help farmers in need.
“This particular event poses a unique challenge in that unlike the drought, where some farmers were better prepared or could take steps to manage the impact, this has been sudden and widespread. Additionally, the many years of droughts, floods and fires have left many families at breaking point.
“If you’re in a position to do so, please consider making a donation and helping them get back on their feet as they navigate a very difficult journey ahead.”
To support Rural Aid or make a donation go to: www.buyabale.com.au
John Warlters, CEO Rural Aid
M: 0409 618 641
More about Rural Aid
Rural Aid is one of Australia’s largest rural charities. Well known for the highly successful ‘Buy a Bale’ campaign, the charity also provides financial assistance, water and counselling to farmers in times of drought, flood or fire. Rural Aid has the systems, processes and strong focus on governance to be a crucial partner for government, both state and Federal, in delivering immediate assistance and long-term support.
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