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Frank Alban, Grape Growers Association of WA president Darryl Trease and Alyssa Hayden with former premier Colin Barnett when he declared the area a natural disaster after the Swan River flooded in February.

Help for grape growers at last

FOUR months after the Swan River flooded and the former Barnett Government declared the Swan Valley a natural disaster grape growers can finally get some financial assistance.

In Devastation for grape growers (Echo News, February 16) table grape grower and president of the Grape Growers Association of WA Darryl Trease estimated the flood had cost the table grape industry an estimated $10 million to $15m.

The City of Swan councillor said he had received many sad stories from distraught growers.

At the time Swan Valley & Regional Winemakers Association president John Griffiths said Sittella, Entopia and Riverbank vineyards had been flooded during the 140mm deluge.

During the State Election campaign former premier Colin Barnett made a special visit to the Swan Valley to declare the area a natural disaster, which led most people to believe the grape growers would be eligible for some financial assistance to help them recover.

But as reported in No help for grape growers (Echo News, April 6) by early April no Swan Valley grape growers affected by the February 11 flood had applied for assistance through Western Australia Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

It has since come to light that the category of assistance available to Swan Valley producers meant that only landholders with livestock got some benefit from the arrangements.

But this week there was some good news for Swan Valley grape growers when Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan announced recovery grants were now available through category C funding to help primary producers in the City of Swan who had been severely affected by the flood.

Rural Financial Counselling Service WA counsellor Chris Puckridge said although category C funding did not cover loss of income from destroyed crops but it gave some scope for Swan Valley growers to claim on restoration costs and cleanup costs.

“These costs could not be claimed previously so there is real benefit for growers to investigate if they are eligible,’’ he said.

“The funding for growers impacted by the Swan River flooding is up to $25,000 which is significant when compared to the $10,000 limit applied to flood affected farmers in Ravensthorpe and Lake Grace so it is good to see that the Federal Government has recognised the specific damage and extreme costs worn by Swan Valley farming families following this extreme weather event.’’

Mr Puckridge encouraged any growers who wish to enquire about the new funding announcement to call the service on 1800 612 004.

“We will then arrange for one of our team to visit your property and discuss the specific details, every grower has different circumstances and some will qualify and some won’t so the best thing to do is have an on-property assessment where we can help people with assessing their claim and then applying for the funding if it is achievable.”

The Rural Financial Counselling Service WA service is provided by the government at no cost to primary producers.

Mr Keenan said the announcement showed the federal and Western Australian governments were committed to supporting affected primary producers who needed additional help to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Primary producers can contact the Department of Agriculture and Food at www.agric.wa.gov.au/emergen

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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