Floodwaters are receding along with tourism dollars in Queensland’s far north, prompting more financial support for the devastated region.
A massive clean-up has begun around Cairns, with 35 communities still isolated and more flooding predicted in the remote Cape York in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Jasper.
There has been no loss of life but police have scaled down a search for an 85-year-old man at Degarra, north of Cairns.
The recovery effort may take months but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared far north Queensland is “open for business” after unveiling a $64 million package.
It includes $25 million for flood-hit primary producers, another $25 million for small business and not-for-profits as well as a $1 million top up payment for nine local government areas.
Another $5 million has been allocated to tourism support and promotion.
Mr Albanese said the hard work of emergency services and volunteers during the clean-up was invaluable after visiting them in the far north on Friday.
He said tourists also could play a key role in the region’s recovery.
“We need to make sure that as the floodwaters recede, the visitors to this beautiful part of Australia don’t recede with them,” he said.
“We want people to come here in increasing numbers, not reduced numbers, in order to provide support as this community recovers.”
The north Queensland tourism industry provides a $3.7 billion boost to the state’s economy annually.
However, it was revealed holiday cancellations in the Cairns region had climbed to $125 million across December and January in the wake of major flooding.
The tourism package includes business support, travel incentives and a media campaign promoting the region launching next week.
Work is under way to reopen the 175 national parks affected by flooding by Christmas in another tourism boost.
More than $1 million has already been paid out in the far north through state-federal hardship assistance grants.
A flood appeal has also been launched, kicked off by $1.5 million from the state government.
“Overcoming the hardship that they’ve gone through over the past days, the support that people have been given here is inspirational,” Mr Albanese said of the far north recovery.
Caravan parks and hotels are being sourced in the Cairns region for people without accommodation.
About 2600 properties in the region have been assessed to date with 1100 requiring “significant repair”.
Extra police patrols will also monitor the recovery effort around Cairns and the Cape York after three reports of looting.
There were two incidents at flood-hit Wujal Wujal north of Cairns, one of the worst affected regions.
“I am disappointed and disgusted by reports that offenders have taken advantage of communities battling one of the worst disasters the region has experienced,” Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brett Schafferius said.
About 270 people have been evacuated by the Australian Defence Force from Wujal Wujal to Cooktown.
Many have lost everything.
Emergency services have visited all 35 isolated communities, with no serious injuries reported.
However, police have made the “heartbreaking” decision to scale down the search for the elderly Degarra man, who has been missing since Sunday.
His home has been destroyed by floodwaters and his boat was located among debris.
Cape York’s Kowanyama is now on high alert with major flooding set to impact the community from Saturday as ex-cyclone Jasper lingers in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Vulnerable residents have been evacuated to Cairns as a precaution with “prolonged flooding” predicted.