Northern Territory food shortages continue as parts of the Stuart Highway remain submerged in floodwater

Key points:

  • The Stuart Highway connecting Adelaide to Darwin remains flooded in some areas after heavy rainfall
  • Freight companies are taking a lengthy detour to help fill supermarket shelves
  • Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles say fresh food and many essential items will be restocked in coming days

The food shortage in the Northern Territory has become so dire that McDonald’s restaurant in Katherine “didn’t have any fries” on Saturday, according to Katherine’s Chamber of Commerce manager, Colin Abbott.

Supermarket shelves across the NT remain bare as repair works on the flooded Stuart Highway continue with no end in sight.

Mr Abbott questioned how the Territory could grow with such a vulnerable supply chain.

“It seems to be a significant issue that if one railway or road is flooded, the whole Territory is basically isolated. How can we continue to grow if this keeps happening?” Mr Abbott said.

“I would like to see a continuation of a railway from Mt Isa to Alice so we have extra points of entry, and if we can’t do that then we need to look at flood-proofing.

“We need to look to avoid being in this position.”

NT Road Transport Association (NTRTA) executive officer Louise Bilato said that at this stage there was no start date for when trucks could resume carrying groceries all the way along the highway.

She said there was still a 1 kilometre stretch of road that was submerged in about 470mm of water.

“That kilometre stretch includes five culverts, and the concern is what the state of those culverts are and whether they could withstand heavy vehicles until the water goes down,” Ms Bilato told the ABC’s Country Hour.

She said the South Australian government was looking at drainage solutions.

“It’s a swamp and there’s nowhere for that water to drain by itself,” she said.

Ms Bilato also flagged two potential issues that could delay reopening: extensive floodwater damage to the road, and future wet weather in coming days.

If wet weather events continue to disrupt supply, NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said he would consider launching an emergency response, including a potential appeal to the federal government for help.

In the meantime, South Australian freight companies serving the Northern Territory have been forced to take a costly 3,000-kilometre detour through New South Wales and Queensland in a desperate bid to help supermarkets restock.

During the weekend, the Stuart Highway remained submerged between Glendambo, about 600km north-west of Adelaide, and Coober Pedy, another 250km deeper into the SA Outback.

The temporary food shortage has prompted big crowds at markets in Darwin.

The Rapid Creek Markets were packed over the weekend as locals flocked there in a bid to track down fresh fruit and vegetables.

Stallholder Muy Keav said the market crowds had been noticeably bigger than usual.

“[The markets were] more busy than usual. We saw a lot more people,” she said.

She said most of her stock had sold out early on in the weekend.

Supermarkets say fresh deliveries are coming

As the crisis continues, purchase limits remain in place on some items at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets to help meet customer demand.

In a statement on Monday, a Coles spokesperson said deliveries of meat, fresh produce and groceries had arrived in NT stores, and urged shoppers to only buy what they need.

“We will continue to have stock arriving daily,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve focused on delivering the core items that customers want and need, such as mince, poultry, fruit, vegetables, dairy and chilled products.

“We are using a variety of alternate routes through SA, NSW and QLD to get these items through to our NT stores.”

Woolworths assistant Territory manager Elisha Moore said staff had been working hard to deliver stock to all of its NT stores, “most notably in Alice Springs”.

“To increase our chances of getting stock into the NT amid all the road closures, we’ve sent additional trucks from our Townsville and Brisbane Distribution Centres, as well as Adelaide,” Ms Moore said.

She said essentials like milk, bread and toilet paper would be coming back in stock, with more deliveries scheduled later this week.


Extracted from ABC

Scroll to Top