Disaster recovery grants of up to $75,000 are now available to farmers in any of the 63 New South Wales local government areas that were heavily impacted in recent flooding.

The damage bill from the March floods is still not fully known, but to help with recovery efforts the NSW and Federal Government are going 50:50 in special disaster grants for primary producers.

NSW Farmers President, James Jackson, says funds of up to $15,000 will be available to eligible, approved applications based on quotes or estimates, but funds above $15,000 will require tax invoices to be provided.

The grants are being administered by the Rural Assistance Authority. Grant applications can be done online by clicking here or over the phone with the RAA team on 1800 678 593.

The announcement that the grants are now open comes as farmers across the state – particularly on the North Coast, Sydney Basin and North West Region – continue to clean up and count the cost of the floods.

A house floats down the river in floodwaters in Taree (photo credit: ABC TV)

Mr Jackson said the grants will provide some certainty for farmers in flood affected regions, allowing them to start planning the recovery process after spending recent days assessing the widespread damage.

“The need for this assistance is immediate, as livestock producers need to organise fodder and repair fences and oyster farmers need to replace stock and equipment. This event has had a significant impact on all agriculture sectors,” Mr Jackson said.

“Funds up to $15,000 will be available to eligible, approved applications based on quotes or estimates, but funds above $15,000 will require tax invoices to be provided.” 

Stock losses not yet fully known

Stock losses are still not clear but are expected to run into the hundreds of thousands after excessive rain sent countless head of cattle down rivers to the sea.

A spokesperson for business, farm and strata insurer WFI said as of Tuesday 6 April, WFI had received just under 120 claims for damage to farm property and vehicles, with the majority of claims being for property damage.

“We encourage any customers who haven’t lodged their claim to contact us as soon as possible so we can organise immediate support such as emergency accommodation if needed,” a spokesperson for WFI said.

WFI has a dedicated Major Event team which supports customers impacted by severe weather events, like the March floods.

“As soon as it was safe to do so, we deployed our teams to support our customers in the worst impacted areas on the NSW Mid-North Coast, Western Sydney and South-East Queensland. They are assessing the damage to our customers’ homes, ensuring their properties are safe and arranging temporary accommodation for those who need it,” the spokesperson said.

“We also have claims teams at the disaster recovery centres on the Mid-North Coast. Customers can visit the centres to speak to someone in person about their claims and to access immediate support, including emergency financial assistance, temporary accommodation, and free counselling services.”  

The insurer also has a dedicated Natural Perils team of meteorologists, hydrologists, scientists, climate studies experts and engineers.

Disaster recovery grants of up to $75,000 are now available for flood-hit NSW primary producers (photo credit: ABC)

“Their role is to understand the extreme weather and natural disasters that impact our customers, so we can accurately factor that into our pricing, while also looking at what we can do to help our customers and communities mitigate those risks,” the spokesperson said.

“In the last 18 months alone, Australia has experienced devastating bushfires, severe storms and damaging hail. And 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record. The team’s research shows that in a warming climate, extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense for many regions of Australia.

“We analyse the risks our customers face right down to the individual property level for extreme weather events like floods or bushfires. Understanding the drivers of these risks and events helps us to identify the mitigation initiatives that will help protect our customers and their communities, such as through strengthening building codes.”

Flood cover for livestock

WFI says in most cases there is low take up of insurance cover for livestock and it is generally restricted to a fire event, such as for damage resulting from a bushfire.

To cover some costs of flood recovery, the NSW and Federal Government have agreed to go 50:50 in special disaster grants of up to $75,000 for primary producers.

“It is a similar situation for fencing, where damage caused by flood is excluded,” the spokesperson said.

“While there are differences across policies, we offer cover for flood damage to domestic home and contents located on farms, and the customer has the option to opt-out of this cover. Premiums for flood on domestic homes and contents located on farms vary depending on the assessed flood risk.

“We regularly review our policies and speak with our customers to ensure we are providing the protection suited to their individual needs. We also work with our customers to ensure they understand what they’re covered for in the unfortunate event they need to make a claim for loss or damage to their home or contents.”

PM acknowledges difficulties

In announcing the recovery grants, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the difficulties many people will face in the weeks and months ahead.

“As the floodwaters recede, the difficulties will continue as people begin cleaning out their homes, business owners count the cost of lost equipment, and farmers take stock of lost livestock. Just as we have stood with people through COVID-19, the bushfires and drought we will stand with those who have been devastated by these floods.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the impact to communities is evident, but the extent of the impact on the farming and business sectors has not been fully quantified. 

“These communities that have already been torn apart by drought and bushfires will have the full support of the Government as they get back on their feet,” Mr Barilaro said.

“These recovery grants will help with clean up and recovery costs, including repairing and replacing damaged assets. This will be a massive boost to our farmers and small business owners which are the backbone of our nation’s economy.” 

Mr Jackson says the damage bill is likely to run into hundreds of millions.

“Our members are starting to count the immense cost of the damage, with a substantial impact on crops, pastures, infrastructure, oyster production and livestock losses,” Mr Jackson said. 

Flood recovery is underway, but the murky water at Todd Graham’s oyster farm on the Macleay River near Kempsey is a disaster for his oyster crop.

“This event has had a major impact on our oyster growers. Most in the north coast region will have significant clean-up costs and no income into the foreseeable future due to stock losses and closed estuaries.

“Mother nature has thrown it all at our farmers in recent years. Many farmers now face a long flood recovery process after getting through drought, bushfires and a global pandemic.”

NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson

If you would like to read more stories like this, you might want to read our feature on obligations of employers during extreme weather conditions.

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