By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Horticulture growers affected by the north and far north Queensland Monsoon Trough earlier this year now have access to financial and technical support through Growcom’s new Industry Recovery and Resilience Officer (IRRO) Jamie Thornberry.

Jamie has been appointed alongside three agricultural specific recovery officers, who have already begun helping farmers in the initial stages of disaster recovery, as part of the North Queensland Flood Recovery Project.

We welcome Queensland Government support for this project. Jamie and his fellow recovery officers will go a long way towards helping with strategic, long-term farm recovery that ensures farmers recover faster, stronger and are better prepared for future events. It takes time to fully regain what was lost and this funding will deliver on ground assistance to help growers with the clean-up and recovery.

While the recovery is ongoing it is not too soon to consider whether our disaster management responses can be improved or should be made more dynamic.

A common observation, at least of previous disaster responses, is that funding has flowed a long time after the disaster has receded.

Last year’s strawberry tampering incident is a good example of how government support can make all the difference when it’s immediate, delivered flexibly with industry, and not shackled by a thousand terms and conditions.

At a recent review, all parties agreed the response to the strawberry incident provided a number of valuable lessons, not just in delivery but in the flexibility of how we define a disaster in the first place.

A severe hail storm ripping in a narrow band through a rich growing region could prove as much of a disaster as a drought or flood. Where will that leave them in terms of eligibility for support? Can these growers expect at least equal access to support as is afforded to those affected by larger disasters? What expectations can we have for government support in response to future disasters like seen in the strawberry industry that aren’t natural at all?

These are important questions, in the short term as we move yet again into the summer disaster season here in Queensland, and also longer term as we move into an era of greater climate variability.

Our industry cannot afford to wait for another crisis to arrive before we make an attempt at the answers. With the lessons recently learnt there’s an opportunity to embed more dynamic disaster response systems and processes for all agriculture.

Growcom, with our members and other industry bodies, is ready to take up this challenge.

Growers affected by the north and far north Queensland Monsoon Trough and looking to access support can contact Growcom’s IRRO Jamie Thornberry on 0499 355 225 or at jthornberry@growcom.com.au.