Local farmers paid visits by politicians in the wake of the devastating floods

Recovery: Southern Cross Turf owner Paul Saad explains his situation to Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman. Picture: Supplied
Recovery: Southern Cross Turf owner Paul Saad explains his situation to Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman. Picture: Supplied

Federal and State politicians from both major parties made their way to the Hawkesbury last week to assess the impact of flooding on the area.

On Wednesday, Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud and Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese met with Hawkesbury Mayor Cr Patrick Conolly, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, members of Hawkesbury Sports Council and local farmers.

Shortly after visits, Liberal Senator for Western Sydney Marise Payne announced grants of up to $75,000 have been activated as part of the Australian Government's response to the floods.

This is in addition to a number of other financial supports for eligible primary producers recovering from flood and storm damage under the Special Disaster Grants program.

Funded by the Australian Government and NSW Government, eligible farmers and primary producers are encouraged to speak to the NSW Rural Assistance Authority (RAA) and apply for funding.

"The first stage of recovery is the difficult task of cleaning up," Ms Payne said.

"These grants are specifically designed to support our local farmers and primary producers through what can be a complex and understandably emotional process.

"My colleague ... Mr David Littleproud MP met with local turf and vegetable farmers, which follows on from Prime Minister Scott Morrison receiving key briefings from emergency management personnel at RAAF Base Richmond on 24 March."

Eligible primary producers are those who earn at least half of their income from on-farm sources and who will incur clean up and reinstatement costs because of the storms and floods that started on March 10, 2021.

Eligible costs include:

  • hiring or leasing equipment or materials to clean premises, property or equipment;
  • removing and disposing of debris, damaged goods, materials including injured or dead livestock;
  • replacing livestock;
  • repairing or replacing fencing and/or other essential property;
  • purchasing and transporting fodder or feed for livestock;
  • replacing lost/damaged plants, salvaging crops, repairing/restoring fields;
  • repairing, reconditioning or replacing essential equipment;
  • maintaining the health of livestock;
  • paying additional wages to an employee to assist with clean-up work; and
  • repairing buildings.

In addition to the clean-up grants, primary producers and small businesses affected by the storms and floods may be eligible for low interest loans of up to $130,000 over a period of 10 years.

"We know the clean up process will take time, so a loans scheme has also been activated as part of our response," Ms Payne said.

"The loans are intended to help small businesses return to their normal level of trading or until the next major income is received within 12 months from the date of disaster, and to replace and repair damage caused to small business and associated improvements not covered by insurance."

The Natural Disaster Loan - Small Business can be applied for via the raa.nsw.gov.au.

The online application form, grant guidelines and other information for the $75,000 Special Disaster Grants can be accessed at tinyurl.com/fmnhprre.

Assessing the damage: Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman speak with market gardeners, the Muscat family, at their Pitt Town Bottoms farm. Picture: Supplied.

Assessing the damage: Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman speak with market gardeners, the Muscat family, at their Pitt Town Bottoms farm. Picture: Supplied.

Susan Templeman said that Minister Littleproud and Mr Albanese's visits focussed on the turf and vegetable farmers whose businesses had been "devastated by the flooding".

"I have expressed the view that turf and vegetable producers would be one of the groups to benefit from the extra manpower and expertise [from the army] for the very urgent jobs they face, including stabilising the riverbank in order to operate their pumps," she said.

"Farmers like Paul Saad of Southern Cross Turf and Alexandria and Michael Muscat of Green Life Turf were able to explain the issues they now face ... such as keeping staff on and dealing with riverbank erosion.

"These are issues I will continue to advocate on, and ones which must be supported by all three levels of government."

Mr Albanese visited the Muscat family farm at Pitt Town Bottoms - operated by William and Elizabeth Muscat, Andrew and Teresa Muscat, and their father and father-in-law Jim Muscat.

"Market gardeners have been doing it tough, just like turf farmers, and I was glad they were able to bring their story straight to the Opposition Leader," she said.

"He was able to meet with the Muscats and hear first-hand the issues they face as they clean up and start the process of re-establishing their crops and business."