23 January, 2024
No grants, no insurance, no help
A MAREEBA Shire councillor has slammed the State Government and insurance companies for leaving flood victims treading in deep water, after several people were left without support despite losing their livelihoods during last year’s disaster.
During the floods in mid-December, owner of Mareeba Truck School and Cr Locky Bensted, who resides on Emerald End Road, lost several mesh and stock fences and was unable to operate his business after Cobra Creek Causeway fell.
Since then, Cr Bensted has struggled to get his business going in a crucial time for truckers and has had to rebuild his fences to keep horses on his property.
At the time the grants were announced, Cr Bensted said he was excited about being the first level of government on the ground, ready to help people rebuild and recover.
He quickly learned just how hard it was to be accepted for funding, and instead of watching them bring hope to flood victims, he watched it cause pain.
“We were receiving information about these grants and what they would be and look like, which made me really excited for not only myself but for my neighbours and friends and colleagues who were smashed by the floods,” Cr Bensted said.
“I thought these guys might not be able to get to the point where they were before the floods, but it would be a start, but then I started getting phone calls from people being declined.”
The phone calls kept coming, with even Cr Bensted’s mother reaching out after she was denied funding for her cattle property, which was severely damaged.
The damage to the property was so severe that she was forced to shoot over a dozen heads.
Because of the lack of rainfall in the lead-up to the event, her cattle weren’t able to cope with the sudden downpour, leaving them weak and defenceless.
Cr Bensted’s mum was devastated she had to shoot the animals, but it was what she had to do at the time to ensure they didn’t suffer.
She had hoped after losing her source of income and her property, she would be able to access grant funding, but she wasn’t.
“When these stories started coming in, we started getting quite upset and anxious because these grants were designed to help us in times of need,” Cr Bensted said.
“We all know we don’t ask for much up here in the north, but when we do need something, we are told it’s there, and it actually isn’t there – it’s quite a shock.
“I think especially for people like my mum who was devasted she lost all of her cattle and had finally gotten her head in the right place to call Centrelink and Services Australia with all the information she needed … just to be told ‘no’ for no real reason but ‘she didn’t fit a certain category’ is devastating.
“It’s not like we are asking for a lot of money, and we really don’t know why people are getting denied.”
While the region was already feeling lost and abandoned by the State and Federal Governments, Cr Bensted said it was “quite triggering” for people who watched a rapid, immediate response to the South-east corner’s flooding disaster the next week.
He said while the community always played a big role in the response, it was upsetting to see the Australian Defence Force deployed in seconds while Far North Queensland had to wait days before seeing their presence in the region.
“When you have residents on Facebook seeking donations and seeking help even just to lift heavy stuff into the back of a ute, I think it’s a slap in the face,” Cr Bensted said.
“Our Defence Force isn’t the answer to everything we have, but just seeing some friendly faces come in and just offer assistance to some people doing it tough is enough.
“When you don’t have that assistance, and you keep getting told ‘no’, it causes a lot of anxiety, especially when you’re watching the news on the TV and see the Defence Force has been rolled out in the South-east and not here – it hurts a fair bit.
“Their response was just so instant. When we heard of the cyclone, Ergon Energy rolled out from Townsville days before the event started and I don’t understand why the Defence Forces was not deployed on a similar tactic.
“At least the effort would have been made then, even if they weren’t needed.”
Cr Bensted said he and Mareeba Shire councillors were in talks with Services Australia and Centrelink advocating for flood victims in the shire.
Those still rebuilding after the floods and seeking assistance are being encouraged to attend public meetings held by Mareeba Shire Council. To see when and where they are being held, follow the Mareeba Shire Council Facebook page.