Guy Rauchie has been looking for answers over the disaster relief from Cyclone Debbie.
Guy Rauchie has been looking for answers over the disaster relief from Cyclone Debbie. Jack Lawrie

'Where's the relief this time?'

ONE North Burnett producer who experienced the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie thinks the relief funding available to him does not add up.

Producer Guy Rauchie, who owns a property out at the Splinter Creek catchment area at Cannindah has been contacting people from local, state and federal government to find out how the areas were assessed, and why some were granted higher relief than others.

In the aftermath of the storm, North Burnett producers were granted access to Category B disaster relief funding from the State Government.

This is the second-highest tier of relief beneath Category C assistance, which entitles producers to a $25,000 assistance grant under certain conditions.

Assessment of the region under North Burnett Regional Council and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries staff found the North Burnett was not sufficiently impacted as a whole to be eligible for Category C.

Mr Rauchie said this was at odds with his experience of previous floods.

"I believe the impact of Debbie on the Splinter Creek catchment was as severe as 2011 and 2013,” Mr Rauchie said.

"From what I've gathered, the only information that land management had in the state-wide report from the North Burnett reflected the Three Moon catchment.”

Mr Rauchie, who previously owned a property in the southern Lockyer Valley catchment area said despite its Category C assessment, parts of that area did not look like they had been flooded when he went back and visited it after the cyclone.

"From what I saw, and what friends in other parts of the area have told me, there hasn't been as much noticeable damage compared to the Splinter Creek catchment,” he said.

"Where I used to live, there were nine causeways which suffered substantial damage during the 2011 and 2013 flood events, that basically ate the entire road, but this year there was nothing like that.

"I'm not complaining, I just think there needs to be transparency because what I've been told from people in the government doesn't add up with what I've seen.”

The issue appears to be that the different assessment systems in place did not allow for geographical areas within a zone to be assessed differently from the rest of the zone, even if they had different levels of damage.

Under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, a state may request Category C assistance measures for an area which is immediately adjacent to the community, region or sector (also known as a buffer zone) which has been demonstrated to be severely affected.

According to a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesperson, while the Splinter Creek catchment may have been hit worse than parts of the Lockyer Valley catchment, it did not reap the same relief due to being part of the comparatively less effected North Burnett zone, while Lockyer Valley shared a buffer zone with heavily affected south-east Queensland areas.

"The Lockyer Valley buffer zone was included to incorporate those producers who have also been severely affected and reside adjacent to the Scenic Rim, Logan and part of Gold Coast Local Government areas that were activated for Category C assistance,” the spokesperson said.

"Whilst some properties in North Burnett may have experienced flooding, a buffer zone cannot be created as there is no Category C activation adjacent that meets the Category C criteria.”

NDRRA guidelines for Category C relief state that declaration of a category does not have to extend across a whole local government area but must be a defined area.

Under these guidelines, it would be possible for the Splinter Creek catchment to be declared as a separate disaster area from the rest of Monto or the North Burnett.

North Burnett Regional Council deputy mayor Faye Whelan said producers who believe they have suffered damage beyond what the state-wide relief allows for can undergo individual property assessment.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne has called on the Federal Government to look again at the assessment criteria.

To date, one producer in North Burnett has submitted an application for a Category B loan which is currently under assessment.

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