AUS – COMPENSATION for victims of last year’s devastating Toodyay bushfire does not cover broadacre damage, according to Toodyay farmers Brian and Maureen Wood.
The couple, who run 150 head of cattle and 1500 sheep on their 1200 hectare property in Toodyay, said the $10 million compenasation package only addressed housing costs. The State Government and Western Power will contribute five million dollars as an ex-gratia, goodwill payment, with the total payment for each property capped at $190,000. But the Woods, who lost 200ha of pasture, 200ha of native bushland and 15km of fencing in the 2009 fire, said the financial assistance had nothing to do with agriculture. Ms Wood said the fire-affected area was a hobby farming section and they were only one of the few broadacre farmers involved. “We are a minority of those broadacre farmers affected by the fire,” Ms Wood said. “The package was all about housing and doesn’t cover our side of things. “For some people that money would be welcomed, but for us it makes no difference. “We didn’t lose our house but we lost pasture in the fire and we now have to agist our stock. “We prided ourselves in looking after our land, but there is no compensation for the environmental land care damage. “Nothing prepares you for that devastation and it has been a terrible year, compounded by the drought.” Financial support that will be available to affected households includes up to a maximum of $150,000 for established homes which were damaged or destroyed, $15,000 for sheds, fences and other external structures, $5000 toward the cost of site clean-up and rubbish removal, $30,000 for home contents, $5000 for tools of trade and $10,000 for private motor vehicles including cars, motor homes and motor cycles. Ms Wood said the only financial compensation in the package that benefited the agricultural sector was the $15,000 for sheds and fences and the $5000 for site clean-up. The Woods said they would be looking into a court case against Western Power to cover their losses. “The inquiry revealed as much as it could but it’s Western Power that’s playing hard,” Mr Wood said. Michael and Margaret McKeown had all but eight of their 580 olive trees damaged by the fire. Ms McKeown said from the $10m financial payout, only the funds put aside for site clean-up would benefit them and agricultural losses should have been acknowledged. “I don’t think the public are aware of the damage the fire caused, except for the houses,” she said. “I’m very pleased that the people who are getting that money are receiving it, but it didn’t cover all the losses.” The McKeown’s lost all external boundary fences and some internal fences on their six hectare property and some of their sheds were damaged. Ms McKeown said after seeking professional advice, they were told to cut their olive trees down to live wood. “Our business is gone, there will be no olives on them next year,” she said. “Our house didn’t get burnt down, so we are only a small concern but the $10m package wasn’t enough.” Craig Stewart, who lost 405ha of pasture and about 30 sheep in the fire, said he wasn’t looking at applying for financial assistance from the $10m payout. Mr Stewart said most of their losses were covered by insurance and the financial package developed was probably to stop people from complaining. “I don’t know why they made this payment,” Mr Stewart said. “I thought the package was pretty vague on detail. “I assume that package was for those uninsured and it was a payout to make people be quiet. “I doubt we would qualify for it so we just got on with it.” Mr Stewart runs 3500 sheep and 250ha of crop on 4049ha in Toodyay. He had 11km of fencing destroyed in the fire but said the $15,000 financial assistance for sheds and fences would cover about two kilometres of fencing. “People need the money a lot more than we do,” he said. “We were well insured, we only lost the use of the farm for a little while and that’s pretty much it.” Mr Stewart said he didn’t think Western Power would ever admit to being responsible for the fire.