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Tough road to recovery for Tully -

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Tough road to recovery for Tully

Broadcast: 04/02/2011

Reporter: John Taylor

Banana and sugar cane crops in the agricultural town of Tully have been decimated leaving the
people of Tully uncertain of their future.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: In the nearby town of Tully, there are fears that damage to banana and
sugar crops is so extensive that its long-term survival is at risk, unless there's support to keep
local industries alive.

John Taylor reports.

JOHN TAYLOR, REPORTER: It's been two days since Cyclone Yasi struck North Queensland, but no-one
who felt its power can forget it yet.

LEN COLLINS, RESIDENT: I've been through three cyclones and it was the most scary night I've ever
had in my life.

JOHN TAYLOR: 63-year-old Len Collins was alone in his home when the cyclone struck. He's one of the
lucky ones, but his neighbours aren't.

LEN COLLINS: Their roof had come off and smashed five windows on the side of my house here.

The noise, the noise is tremendous, it's just mind-boggling. The noise just whistles and screams,
is a better word, it's just screaming.

JOHN TAYLOR: As the cyclone roared through Tully he sheltered in the bathroom.

LEN COLLINS: Yeah this is the bathroom we were in, I was in here. Air would rush down the hallway
and go through the toilet there, and I was behind this door. I was wrest up like this the whole
time, for an hour and a half, because the door was bowing, bending in the middle and I didn't want
to let it come in. I've never pushed so hard in my life for so long! (chuckles).

JOHN TAYLOR: You're a 63-year-old man!

LEN COLLINS: Yeah, well I've got a bit of weight to lean against it.

And then at half time I moved downstairs. I raced down, the roof was gone next door, I raced over
and got that family - 10-year-old girl, two teenage sons, a mother and father - and we all got into
a brick room that I've got downstairs, where I should have been right from the start. And it was
quite good in there.

JOHN TAYLOR: It was Kaylene Meinecke and her family that took shelter at Len Collins home.

Their house is now facing demolition. It's too dangerous to enter.

KAYLENE MEINECKE: We lost our roof, we lost all our furniture, clothes and everything you know. But
the first part was the most scariest part, and then when it, the eye passed over Mr collins next
door, came and got us and told my husband to go to a safe room in bottom of his house. And if it
wasn't for Mr Collins I don't know where we would be today, because there was that much glass and
debris coming through our, underneath our house. I just, we'll be safe.

JOHN TAYLOR: How do you feel, looking out at your community here, after what its experienced?

LEN COLLINS: It's very sad. Actually it's more than that.

Unless the Government come in and put a lot of money in to fix up the infrastructure in town and
all the things that go to make a community. Unless the Government come and put in, State and
Federal Government, put a lot of money in to fix them up I'm afraid for the town.

JOHN TAYLOR: There's plenty of spirit, but a lot of work ahead. And to make things worse the pillar
of Tully's economy, banana growing, has been smashed.

So Len this is a now familiar sight all across this region isn't it?

LEN COLLINS: Yeah. Thousands of acres of bananas are all like this, not a tree standing. It's not a
very pretty sight to a banana farmer.

JOHN TAYLOR: Len Collins is also a long-time banana grower. This isn't his property, we couldn't
get to it because of flood waters.

But this region is the heartland of the national industry. And an estimated three-quarters of the
national banana crop is gone.

Can anything be salvaged from this?

LEN COLLINS: No. The fruit on that bunch is too thin even if the grower was prepared to go through
and pick it up.

JOHN TAYLOR: So that's just waste now?

LEN COLLINS: This is just waste. The banana is very thin and it's not full formed yet, it's no
good.

The grower will go through and cut that bunch off, recover his plastic bag and then leave this tree
to rot.

JOHN TAYLOR: Last year North Queensland filled 24 million cartons of bananas. Len Collins, who
employs 100 people, is going to lay off staff tomorrow.

LEN COLLINS: Yes, I'm going to have to let people go. And the, I had to do it in '06, it was the
worst day of my life, having to tell people that, put him off.

JOHN TAYLOR: In small towns, when people lose jobs, it ripples through the local economy.

His hope is that the Federal Government will repeat what it did after Cyclone Larry in 2006, to
help the industry retain pickers and packers.

LEN COLLINS: Instead of those people going off onto the dole, the paid the grower an equivalent to
the dole, and the grower then was able to pay the rest of their wages and they maintained a lot of
those people on the farms. It helped to bring in the next crop and then those people were there for
the picking.

It's not as though it really costs the Government any money.

JOHN TAYLOR: In the meantime Len Collins, and the rest of the Tully community, are stealing
themselves for the tough times ahead.

LEN COLLINS: Once everything sinks in and the media interest leaves the town, it'll really sink
into everybody how bad things are.