Queensland prawn farmers are breathing easier but the state and federal governments are at odds over a $20 million reimbursement package the commonwealth has provided to combat white spot disease.
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Friday announced the Turnbull government would deliver $20 million for eight prawn farms on the Logan River to battle the disease outbreak.
Seven farms were shut when the highly contagious virus was detected late last year, placing the industry in peril.
Mr Joyce, the agriculture minister, says the money will help cover the costs of farms being out of action for a season as part of an agreed eradication response plan.
“This additional funding of $20 million will be delivered directly to the prawn industry, with $4 million to be repaid by prawn farmers through an industry levy once affected producers are back on their feet,” he said.
The funding is in addition to $1.74 million in emergency assistance previously given by the coalition government, including $1.3 million to the Queensland government to assist with its response costs
Mr Joyce was “bitterly disappointed” the state Labor government had not contributed to the funding package.
“We were expecting them to kick the tin for a further $16 million. They’re not,” he said.
“They’ve come up with a hypothesis that this is a commonwealth biosecurity issue. There’s no proof of that whatsoever.”
But the Queensland government says the assistance package was too slow in coming.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the Palaszczuk government had shouldered the financial burden of the response to white spot disease.
Mr Byrne said the state had already spent $11 million, which would rise to $17.6 million by the end of the year, as well as making $30 million available in concessional loans to prawn farmers.
“Prior to today we have done all the heavy lifting in terms of resources and finance on this outbreak,” he said.
Serena Zipf, owner-operator of the last farm to test positive early this year, welcomed the federal assistance package.
“It’s a bit of relief that one big piece of the puzzle is solved for us. At least the next 12 months financially we can keep our staff on board,” she told ABC radio.
But Ms Zipf pleaded with the two warring governments to work together “to help get our industry back on board”.