Monday, 15 January 2024

Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Senator Susan McDonald has heaped praise on flood recovery crews and volunteers in Far North Queensland after witnessing widespread devastation and heartache from Cairns to Mareeba and Cooktown.

In her second visit to flood-ravaged regions since late December, Senator McDonald received briefings from Cairns Mayor, Terry James, Douglas Mayor, Michael Kerr and Cook Mayor, Peter Scott as well as residents, farmers and business owners.

She spent Thursday in the Cook Shire with Cr Scott, LNP Senate candidate for Queensland, Andrew Cripps and staff from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority inspecting recovery efforts in Ayton, Helenvale, Rossville and Bloomfield and speaking to victims, some who had lost everything.

With fears more flooding could occur as monsoonal rains are forecast for the disaster zone, Senator McDonald advised that Australian Army Chinook helicopters were on standby in Cooktown to evacuate people if necessary and assist with the region’s recovery.

“The region is used to summer monsoonal rains but the damage from the December floods is on a scale that’s hard to imagine and which will be felt for many months,” she said.

“Huge tracts of rainforest have been washed away, massive trees have been snapped in half and small shallow creeks have become large scars in the landscape. Landslides are visible all over the mountains.

“The work that’s already been done by Cook Shire road crews to restore access is nothing short of amazing and they are making great progress moving hundreds of tonnes of silt, rocks and timber.”

The Bloomfield Library has been transformed into a disaster recovery hub where victims can access government services, medical care, counselling, wi-fi, food and clothing.

“Volunteers from Disaster Relief Australia are on the ground along with concerned locals making sure everyone who needs help is getting it, and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority has been very active in assessing damage and managing equipment and manpower,” said Senator McDonald.

“It’s been really humbling to see such strong, selfless grassroots support in true Australian spirit.

“I spoke to people who suffered sheer terror as they clung to their roofs hoping a tree didn’t smash into their homes before they could be rescued.

“Wujal Wujal is basically uninhabitable. Those residents are being housed in Cooktown and will need a lot of support for some time.”

Earlier in the week, the Senator spoke to flood victims at Lake Placid near Cairns and met with farmers at Mareeba who suffered crop losses, erosion and impassable freight routes.

In Mossman, she met cane farmers who have lost large parts of their crops.

“The Mossman community has really knuckled down and got their main street looking close to normal, but as a Federal Government representative, I was disappointed to see the Mossman Centrelink office was the only business on that street still not cleaned up and its doors shut,” she said.

Senator McDonald has already briefed Federal and State departments with her findings in the hope support is better targeted.

“For example, there is a real need for vehicle mechanics. This might sound strange, but people’s vehicles and machinery has been rendered useless and the sooner these can be repaired, the quicker people can get back to normal,” she said.