DROUGHT has caused the cancellation of one of western Queensland’s great tourism products, the Harry Redford cattle drive, due to take place from May 2 to 21.
Barcaldine Regional Council mayor Rob Chandler this week announced the difficult decision had been made to call off the annual event, primarily with the welfare of the stock and horses in mind.
“It’s as dry as chips,” Cr Chandler said. “There’s just not enough available feed enroute.”
He added carting hay to feed stock along the way wasn’t an option.
“It’s such a natural experience for people – hay wouldn’t be an option.”
Its popularity can be gauged by the speed with which the 400 spots on the 2015 ride were booked out, in 16 minutes.
The 2014 ride sold out in three weeks so the huge response for this year’s ride took everyone by surprise.
Cr Chandler said the event, which has been operating for 13 years, usually counted on a profit margin of between $30,000 and $50,000, money that goes back into the community.
He said the committee had left the decision to cancel to the last possible moment, hoping for late rain.
“In the end we had to bite the bullet. It’s extremely disappointing but similar things are happening in other communities.
“Ilfracombe can’t play football in front of a home crowd for example.
“The drought is now hurting entire communities, not just graziers.”
More than 40 shires still remain drought-declared in Queensland, including Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo, Murweh, Winton and Barcoo shires.
The Harry Redford Cattle Drive committee will arrange full refunds of ride packages to all currently booked participants and offer them priority placement on the 2016 ride.