Cyclone Debbie – Overall Damage Bill and Economic Impact

Friday 31 March, 2017

Overall Economic Impact – Still being calculated, Insurance agencies are predicting over a billion dollars in claims.

The damage bill was expected to top $1 billion as the widespread impact of the cyclone and its 260km/hr winds only became apparent today. Heavy rain and flooding was forecast for southern parts of the state over the next few days.

Due to the slow moving nature of the Cyclone despite it being a category four it is clear that areas affected were more severely damaged and more populated regions were hit compared to Yasi.

With Yasi, 55 per cent of small businesses lost power and 24 per cent were inundated. The average material damage cost to businesses from Yasi was $90,000.

Insurance claims topped 50,000, with insured losses estimated at $655 million. With Yasi, three out of five businesses had to wait over six months for insurance claims to be settled, which was far too long.

Keeping the focus on North Queensland

Isolated north Queensland communities recovering from the wrath of Cyclone Debbie haven't been forgotten, and help is on the way. The military has mobilised 1,300 soldiers to help assess the full extent of damage and aid the clean-up, with helicopters and planes deploying to restore infrastructure and supply emergency food, water and fuel.

Towns of Airlie Beach and Proserpine are still without water and power and fuel is at a premium. 

In the areas hit by Debbie, including Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsundays, some 50,000 people were still without power a more than 600 power lines were damaged. Acknowledged that people are working quickly with 15,000 homes and businesses already having their power restored.

Not over yet

Remnants of Cyclone Debbie still battering Queensland with residents of low-lying parts of Logan, the Gold Coast and Beaudesert told to evacuate.

Wind gusts up to 100km/h are expected to lash the Gold and Tweed coasts from about 2-6pm this afternoon prompting BOM to issue a severe weather warning for damaging winds, abnormally high tides and dangerous surf.

The Albert River in Beenleigh may possibly rise to the 8.1m record level set in 1887 (130 years ago).

The BoM has also warned of possible minor flooding along the Brisbane River at the Brisbane CBD overnight on Friday and on Saturday.

There are also concerns about possible flooding in Rockhampton next week as water makes its way down from rivers upstream.

Brisbane Flooding

The cost to Brisbane of the city closures yesterday was estimated in the region of approx $500 million in lost economic output.

Data from 2011 floods (estimated to not be as extensive but yet to know full extent of damage):

  • One in five businesses in Queensland has had to close as a result of the floods due to full or partial water inundation, loss of power or cut off from their business.
  • The average number of days business were forced to close was eight.
  • The average number of days before their business returns to normal operations is 31 days (median of 10 days).
  • The loss to property including plant and equipment, stock, buildings and motor vehicles to those businesses directly affected by the floods was on average $589,000 (median of $40,000).
  • Business directly affected by the floods on average expect to lose in total $908,000 or approximately 11% of their annual turnover (median was $50,000 or 7% of annual turnover).
  • Many businesses have also been indirectly impacted by the floods through affected customers, affected suppliers, through employee inability to attend work or through loss of appeal of Queensland as a tourism destination.
  • Unsurprisingly 22% of all businesses within Queensland have indicated that the floods have had a major to critical impact on their businesses’ viability with the very real threat of job losses.

Key industry sectors

Mining Exports

Mines will be able to work through port stockpiles initially while mines and rail services re-start operations


  • The Port of Townsville re-opened yesterday and handles approximately $30 million in trade per day.
  • Rail services to Mt Isa have also resumed so operations are quickly returning back to normal.
  • Abbot point has been cleared for opening again.
  • The Bowen Basin rail lines are still closed. Aurizon has yet to inspect the condition of track infrastructure. No timetable on when services could restart should there be a fault with the track
  • Road and rail freight is still suspended between Brisbane and Bowen


Glencore operated coal mines could open as soon as within 48 hours. BHP Billiton will announce next month the TC impact on total mine output.

Agriculture (NQ)

National Farmers Federation is predicting over 1 Billion in damage to Crops alone.

Tree crops will take much longer to recover as harvesting usually occurs when the trees are mature.

  • Horticulture contributes about $450 million annually to the Bowen economy and employs 3200 people.
  • Tomatoes alone account for $160 million, with the Bowen region producing 90 per cent of Australia’s fresh tomatoes. Capsicums chip in $104 million to the industry, with the region again producing 95 per cent of the country’s intake.
  • Beans, corn and pumpkins make up $100 million of the industry, while the rest of the Whitsunday region produces a wide range of fruits including mangoes, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, pineapples, bananas and passionfruit.
Tourism (NQ)

Yasi costtourism 400 million – Debbie has been confirmed as causing ‘catastrophic damage and is expected to be worse with businesses on Hamilton Island questioning whether rebuilding is the best option.

Overall advice to small business during recovery

Clean up alone is predicted to take weeks not including how long it will take to get repairs underway.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the SES had dealt with about 5600 calls for help since the cyclone disaster began earlier this week.

Please be patient as Energex crews are still out in force to restore power to tens of thousands in SEQ. More than 105,000 homes and businesses lost power during the height of the severe weather on Thursday night.

We are urging insurance companies to work cooperatively with their customers. We know that most consumers and businesses may not be aware of what their insurance covers them for, with many businesses reporting difficulty in getting clear positions on where they stand.

Businesses should seek out whatever government assistance was being offered. Previously, governments had provided emergency hardship or stress payments and it was likely a similar arrangement would be in place.

Other types of assistance, such as emotional support, food packages and general relief is also available through organisations such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross.


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