ONE REALITY of a great natural disaster like Cyclone Debbie — whether the force be wind or rain or flood — is that some truths are laid bare.
The trees are stripped of leaves and the water goes down after the flood exposing some ugly realities.
Here are some I saw while chainsawing trees up fence lines and collecting sheets of iron a kilometre from shattered sheds.
- As a farmer I am not, as the city greenies keep getting lots of airtime to say, ‘killing the reef’. I went up the river above any farm, mostly coming out of national park and state forests, and the water was a brown swirl with dirt, sand, logs and leafage (and a few dead wallabies and plenty of live snakes). It was all heading to the ‘reef’, as it has done for thousands of cyclones pre white and even black people. The river from above the farms left a nice layer of silt across the paddocks — but I can show any greenies wanting to help with some fencing that no dirt was scoured-out of even our prepared paddocks. The reef is part of the great natural cycle that lives and dies and lives again. Anyone who is a conservationist (like a good farmer), rather than a preservationist (like a city greenie who wants their photoshopped image to remain) should get used to Nature’s great truth of changing cycles.
- Don’t tell us to find our cyclone and recovery information via the internet when people don’t have electricity or landline or mobile phone. Radio was terrific in communicating cyclone and flood information — except when they’d advise us to go to some government or insurance website. Ten days after the cyclone, we still didn’t have electricity, and only very scratchy mobile barely able to text let alone spend hours searching a clunky government website.
- With the federal government just raising $2 billion selling mobile cyberspace to two telecoms, they should have plenty of money to improve mobile services. Extra (and higher) towers in all rural areas, but particularly in disaster prone zones, should be a priority, not just for convenience but basic safety. We had friends cut-off by a swollen river — and now by a broken bridge — with no mobile. Communication technology is about shouting across a river. The hipsters can wait a few more months for their 5G mobile in inner cities for those who provide food and fibre for the cities to get a reliable even 3G service. Even Barnaby Joyce passing through the area was not up-to-speed with the lack of mobile coverage in even fairly populated coastal farming areas. This requires real and immediate action. And, of course, the NBN Skymuster satellite was useless in the heavy wind and rain of cyclones.
- Public relations palava is no substitute for real action. Our mayor was ropeable when we met at an unworkable ATM that insurers kept phoning him to assure that all was OK and not to take any complaints to the media. There was, and is, a severe shortage of assessors (we still haven’t been contacted 10 days after the cyclone), but the insurers were just interested in their public perception. The local bank branch had a sausage sizzle, but no ATM and no bank services — except a call centre which contacted one local contractor to say he was in overdraft (because they couldn’t process cheques). And there are indications that the insurers are working on the old scam: “that’s flood not Cyclone damage, so you aren’t covered”. The mayor has a size 12 boot aimed up their backsides.
- The greatest disaster truth is that most of the people affected just get on with the clean-up, forging even closer relationships with neighbours and friends — and making new connections with strangers. Personally, I’d like to thank the stranger who lent a backhoe which speeded-up our clean-up, and a couple of blokes from the pub who came down and chainsawed trees bigger than our little jugger could cope with. Thanks friends.