Rebuilding after Tropical Cyclone Niran: the road to recovery

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After losing 100% of his banana crop in March, Sebastian is now only one month away from full production thanks to the financial assistance administered by QRIDA.

Sebastian Di Salvo

Sebastian Di Salvo

Sebastian Di Salvo owns Tropic Coast Farming on Queensland’s Far North Coast in Boogan.

Farming bananas for 25 years, and cane for even longer, Sebastian has experienced natural disasters before. Cyclone Larry in 2006 and Cyclone Yasi in early 2011 both left their mark on his property. But Cyclone Niran, as Sebastian explains, was something else entirely.

“When the damaging winds hit us, it was the worst predicament we could have been in. Following 12 months of low banana prices, the farm was vulnerable,” he says.

Sebastian woke on Monday 1 March 2021 and began his day like any other. He and his staff were working on the farm, gearing up for another busy week, when his farm was hit by strong winds, which he later learned were from Cyclone Niran. The damaging winds came across three separate times and by 9:30 am, 20 per cent of his crop was lost. 

“At 11 o’clock, it came back again, and it just took the whole place out, completely wiped us out.”

Sebastian and his staff spent the next few days assessing the damage. Walking around in shock, it was a devastating blow - one which took a mammoth clean-up.

“I had 7 or 8 staff, and I think it took us about 4 or 5 weeks to clean up 160 acres of bananas. It’s been a hard slog for us, we’ve really felt it this time."

Once reality had sunk in, Sebastian knew he would need financial assistance to recover. The first thing he did was turn to QRIDA.

“We’ve had a lot to do with QRIDA over the last 10 to 15 years because this isn’t the first time we’ve been wiped out."

“QRIDA helped us with Cyclones Larry and Yasi, and we turned to them again after Tropical Cyclone Niran."

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to borrow the money to stay in it. Either that or you’ve got to get out.” 

Determined to rebuild his farm, Sebastian secured a QRIDA Disaster Assistance Loan of $250,000, with on the ground, local support from QRIDA’s Far North Regional Area Manager, Sam Spina who helped him through the application process.

“Sam will help you wherever he can, I can’t fault him. He does whatever he can for us at all times.”

Sam met Sebastian on-farm and helped him with his application for the loan and for an Extraordinary Disaster Assistance Grant of $75,000. When talking about the application process, Sebastian says it was seamless and easy.

He believes having access to and receiving disaster recovery assistance is crucial. He says without the funding, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“I think it’s very important that people who are affected get as much financial assistance as they can."

“We are primary producers. We are at the mercy of the weather, and QRIDA is there to help us for that reason, it’s a big help.”

Now six months after Tropical Cyclone Niran, Tropic Coast Farming is looking to the future.

“We’re just starting to process a little bit of fruit; we’re processing every fortnight. I think in another month, we’ll be back to full production. We’re on the road to recovery.”

To find out more about QRIDA’s disaster assistance, visit QRIDA Disaster Recovery.

QRIDA administers financial assistance to disaster affected primary producers, businesses and non-profit organisations under the joint Commonwealth / Queensland Government funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

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Primary producer

Last updated: 15 August 2022