29 January, 2024
The long road to recovery
'Gazza's Gossip' As we near the end of the year’s first month already, and with the Captain Cook Highway now open, life for many in the Douglas Shire would seem pretty much back to normal.
There are, however, some individuals and families that are still struggling, having lost all of their possessions and even their homes. I still hear stories of people and pets living in cars, having lost everything.
Certain businesses and organisations are also desperately trying to get back on their feet, working their way through government ‘red tape’ and the fine print that the insurance companies love to bring to our attention.
One such example is the Mossman and District Gymnastics Club. As a not-for-profit organisation, the club offers recreational and competitive programs for all ages and abilities, from babies through to senior citizens. The club provides a safe and nurturing environment for young gymnasts, fostering their physical fitness, mental well-being and personal growth.
The club is also heavily involved in the community and participates in many local events. They offer programs with several local schools and kindergartens, travelling as far as Cooktown to deliver school and community gymnastics classes through local government grants.
Like many of the club’s members, the manager Hayley is concerned and disappointed at the length of time that their insurer is taking to make a decision as to the club’s eligibility for a payout. Like other organisations around the shire, they are awaiting a report from a hydrologist who has yet to arrive as I write this. He or she will then report back to the relevant insurance company. People really need help now and not in seven or eight weeks time.
While businesses in Mossman, the Daintree Village and those north of the Daintree River have been directly affected by the floods, businesses in Port Douglas have also seen tough times as a result of the reduction in visitors over the holiday period and road closures, namely the Captain Cook Highway.
Fortunately, help has been offered in the form of grants from the state government, although there is some confusion as to whether these are simply loans that will eventually need to be paid back. At recent meetings held in both Port Douglas and Mossman, which were attended by a significant number of local businesses, the general feeling was that while it was great to all come together to share their experiences, people were somewhat underwhelmed by what was on offer.
Another area of confusion is the question as to who is eligible for assistance? Tourism organisations certainly seem to qualify, while the retail industry, as an example, does not. Surely when people take a trip away, part of their holiday is some retail therapy? Surely also, retail shops have also suffered from the downturn in visitors and therefore need equal help?
Jungle Road Clothing is one good example. Owner Janette Walker was turned down for state help and now must apply for assistance which will, indeed, be a loan. Apparently, the hoops that need to be jumped through and the level of business information required is more than a challenge for business owners already exhausted.
Another grant qualification requirement is to produce receipts for replacement of items like damaged stock. How is this possible if the business in question does not initially have the money to get back on its feet and get those receipts? Unfortunately, it is a very serious chicken and egg situation for those struggling.
Mossman Support Services, who have been a vital part of the recovery process, have managed to continue operations, while having their own offices and work areas badly damaged by the floods prior to Christmas. I found the team, including volunteers, mucking out the She Shed. Their main office got completely flooded and it is still uncertain as to the future of this building. Certain parts of their site are crucial, as they raise vital funds to keep the operation running.
Mossman’s usually busy laundromat was one of the many businesses to have much of its equipment destroyed. Machinery replacement is currently underway, together with a new concrete floor which will hopefully avoid future flood disruption.
Suffice to say, it’s all been happening in this part of the world. Hopefully better times are close on the horizon.
I’m off to discover more recovery stories I have no doubt, so now it’s Gazza signing out.
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