Isolated Bonalbo falls through cracks of disaster funds
BONALBO dairy farmer Tom Cooper says his town is struggling to survive after slipping through the disaster relief funding cracks following the two major flood events this year.
While the area has benefited from funding associated with the shire being disaster-declared, the extent of damage across the Kyogle Shire was not enough for it to qualify for the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy to individual affected residents.
"The DIRS income assistance has now been granted to 12 other shires, so we've virtually been surrounded by it all, but of course the weather didn't stop at the Kyogle border," Mr Cooper said.
Some towns on the western fringe of Kyogle Shire, like Bonalbo and Tabulam, received some of the worst flooding ever recorded.
"The impact of the rain between the two events has been absolutely catastrophic on dairy and beef production around Bonalbo," Mr Cooper said.
"There's been a lot of crops lost as well, and when the farmers have got no money they're not spending in the towns either."
Compounding the situation is the landslip on the Bonalbo to Tabulam road which has effectively isolated the town and forced people to take alternative routes.
"Bonalbo is the second biggest community in the Kyogle area and a lot of the business comes from the Tabulam and Drake areas but since the road slip people are now going straight through to Casino.
"It's absolutely devastated the whole community," Mr Cooper said.
"So all these people who are logging or earthmoving contractors, or people who come and plant my winter feed - they haven't been able to do anything now for two months.
"The money's stopped altogether; the whole economy has ground to a halt.
"That's why we're over here (at Lismore Farmers' Market) trying to do a bit of business."
Kyogle Shire Mayor Ross Brown empathised with Mr Cooper and said everything was being done to rectify the situation.
"To put you in the picture, Kyogle Shire had mostly minor flood damage, but those western parts (of the shire) had as severe floods as they've ever had which is why there's this discrepancy across the council area," Cr Brown said.
"Kyogle was not included in that funding because damage to the entire council area wasn't sufficient.
"So council is making applications, with the help of Janelle Saffin and Thomas George, to include certain parts of the council area and that will be those western areas like Bonalbo and Tabulam where the flood damage was more severe."
Cr Brown said the road repair wasn't a quick fix even with funding approval.
"It's going to take some time because it's such a bad slip down into the river," he said.
"They had to do a lot of test boring to get the engineer's specifications for road repairs so that has taken some time."