Senator Matt Canavan says it is a miracle no one was killed or injured at Clarke and Lotus creeks during last week's major weather event.
Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Canavan described the impact on the small towns, about 225km north of Rockhampton, as similar to the horror situation at Grantham a few years ago that left 12 people dead.
"Small towns like Clarke Creek and Lotus Creek had floodwaters that you could only describe like Grantham a few years ago, where people had water rushing through their houses very, very quickly," he told the ABC's Joe O'Brien.
"It is a miracle no-one was injured or killed out there in Clarke Creek and Lotus Creek.
"They've got a big rebuilding effort to get going and I've been in touch with the people up there. We will be working very hard to help them get back on their feet."
During the interview Mr Canavan was asked about the Rockhampton floods as well as the impact on the cattle industry.
He said the city's meatworks could be closed for a week or two.
Below is a transcript of Senator Canavan's interview.
Floodwaters are moving towards homes and businesses as the Fitzroy River continues to rise in Rockhampton, in Central Queensland. The river is expected to peak at 9m tomorrow morning. We're joined from Rockhampton now by the Federal Minister for Northern Australia, Senator Matt Canavan. Minister, welcome. You're based in Rocky. What's the mood like there ahead of this peak coming through tomorrow?
Look, people are calm here, Joe. This is something that happens to Rockhampton periodically. Yesterday I was down at the affected suburb, Depot Hill, and people have stocked up their Eskies, they're watching the water come by. It's obviously going to be a big impact on those people who will have water through their homes. We're expecting just over a hundred that would be in that situation, and about a thousand will have water in their backyards. But the other thing different about this event for Rockhampton is that since the last major flood in 2011, we've upgraded the Bruce Highway and now Rockhampton will continue to have access to the rest of Queensland. So, food and fuel will continue to get through. Tourists can keep coming through. So, for the large part of Rockhampton it will be business as usual. So, it's a great thing having that investment there, because sometimes Rocky can be cut off for weeks without that lifeline that we've got now.
Rocky prides itself on being the beef capital of Australia. Has there been much of an effect on the cattle industry from all this rain and flooding?
The meatworks have shut at the moment, they shut earlier this week and will probably be out for a week or two. They did try and put more through the couple of weeks before, knowing that this might be coming down. But, in any case, a lot of the areas west of here, their access is restricted at the moment while these floodwaters recede. But the other positive thing, of course, with this event is that a lot of people have had very good rain, which they did need. It had been a very dry summer. It didn't go out as west as we would have liked, but it has helped some.
And does the flooding affect much in terms of the properties out west of the Rocky, or is it just generally good to get all this rain? Like, you can get your stock up away from the flooding because you get enough notice?
Well, it depends where you are. Those areas that are being impacted now, they've had notice. The water has moved slowly, so we've had about a week's notice before it gets to Rockhampton. But there have been some very tragic stories from areas where there was more flash flooding, if you like, at the time that Debbie went through. Small towns like Clarke Creek and Lotus Creek had floodwaters that you could only describe like Grantham a few years ago, where people had water rushing through their houses very, very quickly. It is a miracle no-one was injured or killed out there in Clarke Creek and Lotus Creek. They've got a big rebuilding effort to get going and I've been in touch with the people up there. We will be working very hard to help them get back on their feet.
Talk to us a bit more broadly about the impact on agricultural industries up there. We were speaking to capsicum farmers up around Bowen and that was a real horticultural hub up there. And the sugar industry has been hit pretty hard as well. What have you found out about the effects now that we're getting into kind of a week since it first hit, and how the Federal Government can help these people?
Well, that's right, Joe, the Bowen area produces more than 90% of our winter, our nation's winter tomatoes and capsicums. They've had a devastating impact in that region - although the town of Bowen itself hasn't been as impacted as first we feared. The sugar cane industry is still assessing the extent of the impact. If they can get cane back up, potentially there won't be a huge impact, but if it lays flat for too long in flooded areas, it can be damaged. So, we're still assessing that. The Federal Government and the State Government have activated relief for those council areas where those farms would be, and they will be able to access concessional loans to help them get back up on their feet.
And with these events, do you see all this water going out to sea as we can see behind you now, and think about how good it would be if that could be captured somehow and help the farmers who have been struggling really badly in this drought that's affected inland Queensland for the last five years or so?
Yeah, look, Joe, the Federal Government, we really want to build dams in North Queensland. And the reason we do is because we've got all this water, as you can see behind me. The Fitzroy Basin, some of your viewers might not know, is the second-largest in the country, only behind the Murray-Darling. But we only really have one major dam here - at Emerald, the Fairbairn Dam. At the moment, we would like to build a weir just upstream of Rockhampton. That could help double agricultural production. It wouldn't stop these floodwaters, I want to be clear, but it would help expand agricultural production. Down the track, there are other dam sites, like the Nathan Dam and Connors River that we can get going. We've got a huge resource here in the Fitzroy. It could be a massive agricultural district for our nation. That's why the Federal Government is getting behind these projects to build dams.
OK, Senator Matt Canavan, thanks for talking to us from your local patch up in Rocky today.
Thanks, Joe, thanks for having me on.
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