Flooded remote, isolated communities’ desperate plea for assistance

Mar 11, 2023

Flooded remote, isolated communities’ desperate plea for assistance

Mar 11, 2023

KATTER’S Australian Party MPs Bob and Robbie Katter visited Far North-West Queensland’s remote Gulf communities which have been isolated for months following record summer rainfall, and operating on limited basic goods and government support.  

The Federal MP for Kennedy and State MP for Traeger visited Normanton and Doomadgee on Friday to assess the situation after calls for disaster funding relief and additional food supplies had not been sufficiently acted on by the State Government.  

The North Queensland MPs also took with them containers of essential groceries including bread, long-life milk and eggs, as prices in local supermarkets had been soaring with limited supply trickling in for almost three months.  

Their visit coincided with the precautionary evacuation of residents from Burketown, where the airstrip was flooded and passengers were being flown out using helicopters.  

While basic groceries were at the top of their list, leaders from the three remote communities, which rely on “nearby” cities of Cairns and Mount Isa for healthcare, said the flooding illustrated a greater need for governments to invest in and provide primary care in their towns.  

At Normanton, the Gulf Development Road at the Norman River had been cut off since January, however trucks with supplies were still able to access the eastern side (Cairns side) of the river, about 15 minutes from town. Local volunteers along with SES had established a barge system to boat goods across the flooding.  

Meanwhile, some trucks were accessing town “the long way” using Burke Development Road, which links Normanton and Cloncurry. Locals called for compensation for truckies who were travelling the “thousands of extra kilometres.”  

Further west, Burketown and Doomadgee have been completely cut off by road, with the latter isolated since “late December” with many local roads in the main township still under water.  

Mayor Jason Ned said while food supply planes were “few and far between”, he was frustrated by State Government leaders who suggested his community create flood plans, and yet refuse to actually visit the community and engage in discussions. 

KAP leader Robbie Katter labelled the situation as “an explosion of water” and said residents in the remote communities could be isolated for another two months.  

“Groceries are lean on the shelves, there’s limited fuel for rescue helicopters and we need Category D (disaster) declarations up there so we can get some funding,” he said.  

“It’s a long way from the cities, but it’s an important part of the world, and there’s people crying out for help”.  

Kennedy MP Bob Katter described his assessment as a “sea of water” and called for greater operational government emergency services in the remote region. 

“Every year they leave the emergency helicopters in Brisbane, well that’s 3000km away,” he said.  

“It would be like leaving your emergency helicopters in Moscow, when you’ve got a problem in London.  

“Our health services are bad enough for people in our regional cities like Townsville, but my blackfella cousins out there… well they’ve got no all-weather access in or out of their town. If someone breaks a leg outside the limited airstrips that are working up there, too bad, so sad.”  

Mr Katter said he appreciated the response of the Federal Minister for Emergency Services, Murray Watt, and his office, which had been incredibly responsive to requests for information and had agreed to deploy the army, upon request from the state. Mr Katter said Minister Watt’s office had also made representations to its state counterparts in relation to a request for grocery subsidies for the isolated communities.