Monday, March 20, 2006




The Queensland MP, Bob Kater, gave an emotional update to Channel Seven news on the shocking damage sustained by fruit, vegetable and sugar farms in and around Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands.

Kater has estimated possible losses of 95% of all banana crops in the farming districts of North Queensland. His first guess rough estimate was $150 million in losses for the banana industry alone.

As many as 3000 full-time jobs in the farming district may have been lost to the storm. Like many farming districts of Australia, there are few full-time jobs outside of the farmiling industries. Even worse, many of the full-time farm workers also live in the area and have had their homes destroyed.

While the banana farms are expected to have suffered the greatest losses, substantial damage has been been done to local sugar, fruit vegetable farms in the Innisfail and Atherton tableland areas.

There is a second major fallout to the destruction of the farmlands. Thousands of backpackers find part-time, casual work picking bananas, fruits and vegetables on the farms, earning the cash they need to continue their journeys around Australia. But, being young backpackers mostly, they also spend a substantial amount of their earnings in the locals pubs and in the bars and nightclubs back in Cairns.

While the stunning beauty of Cairns, the beautiful, calm villages of Innisfail and the rugged sweep of tablelands has drawn hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to the area, the farming jobs have proven extremely important in drawing younger backpackers, and the work and money earned keep them in the area longer. The longer they'd stay, the more they'd work, the more they'd spend.

No-one has been willing to estimate the losses to the backpacker tourist industry as yet, but it is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

MP Bob Kater estimated it may take more than 12 months for many of the farms to recover.

The Innisfail and Atherton Tablelands is also believed to be the main milk producing region of Queensland, and Queensland milk also makes it as far down the coast as New South Wales.

And still Cyclone Larry has not finished. It has weakened to a Category Three, but it now roars on through the countryside in a south/south-west direction.

The main road between Innisfail and Cairns is awash with floodwaters, and other roads have been blocked by fallen trees.

The true scope of the damage will take a few days to come into clear view, but few in the rescue services and police forces expect it to be anything less than devastating.