MACADAMIA: The Northern Rivers grows 25% of macadamias worldwide.
MACADAMIA: The Northern Rivers grows 25% of macadamias worldwide.

Disaster package slammed by macadamia industry

DISASTER assistance is now available to people in the Northern Rivers who have lost income because of the severe storms and floods that hit the region in January and February.

However, the package has come under fire from the Australian Macadamia Society, who says the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy would help only 2-5% of their local growers who suffered a loss of millions of dollars worth of produce.

Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management Mark Dreyfus said the severe weather had stopped many people from going back to work.

He said the subsidy would help employees, small business owners and farmers to "get back on their feet".

"The loss of income has put a significant financial strain on many workers, including those supporting families," he said.

The subsidy, available for eligible people in local gov- ernment areas, such as Ballina, Byron, Lismore, Richmond Valley and the Tweed, provides fortnightly payments equivalent to the maximum rate of Newstart Allow- ance or Youth Allowance.

But Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett said it was not good enough for growers.

"We have provided very detailed figures about the extent of the damage," he said.

"We estimate it to be $13 million in lost produce and $7 million in other damage.

"But only 2-5% of our growers will be eligible for income support under this subsidy.

"It's not going to make a difference on the ground.

"What we need is access to the Category C grants - what we are calling on the NSW Government to help us with.

"The macadamia industry contributes millions to the Northern Rivers economy, so our suffering does have a flow-on effect for the local community."

Claims for the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy can be made at humanservices.gov.au or phone 1800 22 66.



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