Supermarket shelves in the remote South Australian town of Coober Pedy were left bare after a section of the Stuart Highway was flooded last week.
- The Stuart Highway remains closed near Glendambo due to flooding
- Coober Pedy residents have been affected by food shortages
- The federal government has now enacted its ‘Disaster Response Plan’
It was a situation that had local resident Terry Brennan-Kuss worried about the vulnerable members of his community.
“The shelves were absolutely bare, it was terrible, no bread, nothing like that, a little bit of milk but a huge shortage of pretty well everything,” Mr Brennan-Kuss said.
“It’s a massive worry — I mean we are OK, we have got a freezer full of food and some canned stuff but certainly for some of the people in town, some of the older people who just buy as they need it, day to day, they are not going to have a big supply of food up their sleeve.
“Baby food, things like that, people with four or five kids in their family, it’s pretty scary. No bread, it’s terrible.”
The highway, which connects SA and the country’s southern states to the Northern Territory, has been closed between Coober Pedy and the remote outpost of Glendambo since the freak weather event.
The flooding over the past week has also caused major damage along part of the rail line between Coondambo and Lyons, 473 kilometres north-west of Port Augusta.
Motorists have reported that Coober Pedy has run out of autogas and is low on diesel supplies.
Mr Brennan-Kuss said the town had not had any fresh produce delivered for a week until one food truck managed to get through today.
“If food hadn’t got in today basically, we would have been in really big trouble because there was just nothing left,” he said.
The flooding has also led to supermarket supply shortages in the Northern Territory forcing Coles to introduce purchase limits on essential grocery items.
On Friday, the South Australian government declared the flooding and storm damage on Eyre Peninsula a ‘major incident’, which gives the state coordinator, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, additional powers to address heavy vehicle movement, food security, and other issues affecting isolated remote communities.
Local residents have expressed their concern over the lack of government assistance since the highway was flooded.
“Next time, or even now, I would like to see a bit more effort to relieve the problem.”
Federal government enacts ‘Disaster Response Plan’
This afternoon, the federal Minister for Emergency Management Bridget McKenzie released a statement addressing the supply chain shortages.
Ms McKenzie said: “Australians can be assured that actions are being taken to maintain critical supplies and groceries to Darwin, Western Australia and Coober Pedy in South Australia after severe flooding caused damage to the road and rail infrastructure”.
“The National Coordination Mechanism has been actively working with the states and territories, supermarkets, rail owners and operators, road freight operators to respond to disruptions in the supply chain situation caused by the severe weather,” she said.
Ms McKenzie said the federal government had activated the government’s ‘Disaster Response Plan’ in anticipation of requests for financial assistance.
“Our first concern is for the safety and needs of those directly affected and we know that through working together we can keep the wheels turning and restore supply chains across the country,” she said.
“The community has a role in this too, by buying what you need and not hoarding. This unnecessarily spikes demand and then directly impacts supply.”
Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey welcomed the announcement.
“It is unclear at this stage when the Stuart Highway will reopen and the concerns expressed by the Coober Pedy community and the people who rely on it as a supply line are understandable,” Mr Ramsey said.
“Simply put, we need to find an immediate way to get goods through.”
According to the government, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has issued a ‘Class 2 Supplementary Access Northern Territory Assistance Notice’, which will allow increased freight capacity on alternative road networks to try and ensure essential supplies are delivered.