FARMING families in more than half of Queensland are still battling drought, while primary producers in some areas are now entering the recovery phase following welcome summer rainfall, state farm organsiation AgForce said today.
State agricultural industry development minister Mark Furner announced that Queensland is now 57 percent drought declared, down from more than 66pc, in March, with the drought-status revoked in eight local government areas and three part-shires, while two shires were added to the list.
Areas that have had their drought status revoked include the western portion of the Banana Shire, Bundaberg Regional Council, Burdekin Shire, the northern part of the Charters Towers Regional Council, Fraser Coast, Gympie, North Burnett, Tablelands, the declared portion of the Mareeba Shire and the Western Downs Regional Council.
The Southern Downs and Lockyer Regional Council areas have been added to the drought declared list.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the changes were based on the recommendations of Local Drought Committees taking into consideration their local conditions.
“The prolonged and severe drought has taken an enormous financial, environmental and emotional toll on farming families right throughout Queensland,” he said.
“Many western Queensland shires were first officially drought declared in early to mid-2013, so producers in those areas have effectively had six years with rainfall deficits.
“The summer rain provided hope and relief to some parts of regional Queensland, which we are seeing with today’s announcement, but many areas still missed out on the rain they desperately need. It’s important though that ongoing support, such as mental health services, are still provided to communities that have had their drought status revoked and are now entering the recovery phase.”
Drought declared primary producers can access fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, as well as transport concessions, relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers if they are eligible.
Primary producers in areas where drought declarations have been revoked can apply for an individual droughted property declaration if they still require assistance.
AgForce recently established the Queensland Emergency Drought Taskforce with 24 western Queensland Mayors and has written to federal and state politicians to outline a series of priorities to provide immediate relief to affected communities.
The priorities include:
- Capital works investment, such as roads, bridges, stock routes and on-farm water investments to help build and revitalise regions;
- Review and extension of the Farm Household Allowance income support, including streamlining the application process and excluding essential farm assets from asset tests;
- Relief from council rates and leasehold land rents for primary producers;
- Education support for children from remote areas, including continuing and lifting the Living Away from Home Allowance Scheme;
- Secure three-year funding for mental health support services, including that provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“The ongoing nature of this drought has overwhelmed even the best efforts of producers to prepare and while current government assistance measures are very welcome, they are really only designed for droughts that last two to three years,” Mr Guerin said.
“AgForce is seeking a commitment to ensure drought affected Queensland producers have both the immediate support they need as well as long term policy certainty to promote better planning and long-term risk management and recovery.”
- Primary producers seeking more information about drought declarations and assistance measures available can visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.