THE WESTERN Australian government has introduced a freight subsidy scheme for businesses impacted by recent floods in the Kimberley region.

Floods in December and January damaged road infrastructure and disrupted freight in the region.

Early assessments indicate demand for the program could potentially be close to $42 million.

The new freight subsidy scheme will be jointly funded through Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and will be backdated to 1 January.

It is to remain in place until a reliable freight pathway is established at Fitzroy Crossing, where a bridge collapsed in the floods.

The state government said the new scheme will apply to the freight of essential supplies for businesses, not-for-profits and Aboriginal corporations in and out of the Kimberley region, including transport of agricultural products out of the region.

The aim is to reduce costs for Kimberley businesses to support the region’s ability to recover.

WA premier Mark McGowan said while road network is disrupted it is important there is support for impacted businesses to ensure the viability of industries across the Kimberley region.

“Following consultation with various parts of industry and local governments and businesses we’ve developed this subsidies package that provides support and ensures that we can maintain logistics routes and help the region’s ability to recover from the event,” he said.

Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt said businesses need to be able to secure their supply chains and return to normal operations.

“It is vitally important for the recovery effort and the local economy that impacted businesses get back on their feet as soon as possible,” he said.

And WA emergency services minister Stephen Dawson said the viability of local businesses and industries is critical to the region’s ability to recover quickly from the floods.

“That’s why we’re working with the Commonwealth government through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements to help reduce freight costs as a result of the disaster and ensure that communities can recover from these devastating floods.”

The subsidy is to be calculated as the difference between pre-flood and post-flood freight costs and paid directly to freight operators.

The WA government said there is also a subsidy available for businesses and infrequent freight receivers established on a per-pallet rate.

The scheme is managed by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.