Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner has partially drought declared the Western Downs Regional Council area.
“Local Drought Committees (LDCs) always meet at the end of the wet season, around April, to assess seasonal conditions and make recommendations to me about the drought status of their areas,” Mr Furner said.
“The Western Downs LDC met in April, and based on the improved conditions at the time, recommended that the drought status be revoked based on a number of useful rainfall events between October 2017 and March 2018 for the majority of the shire, which had led to improved pasture growth, cropping outlooks and property water supplies.
“Unfortunately since then, there has been a significant and rapid deterioration in seasonal conditions in the eastern part of the council region, which prompted the Western Downs LDC to meet again to review current conditions.
“The area around Dalby has received well below, or no rainfall since April, warmer than average daytime temperatures and some quite severe frost events.
“These conditions have combined to cause a serious and rapid deterioration in the seasonal conditions across the shire.
“Drought declared producers are able to access Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, as well as access other programs in the Queensland Drought Assistance Package.
“This includes relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers as well as access to a number of community and mental health programs.
“However I’d like to stress that even if a producer lives in a shire that is not drought declared, they can apply for an Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declaration which gives them access to the same relief assistance.
Mr Furner said he had also decided to refresh the membership of the Western Downs LDC.
"It is my view that the committee process has been manipulated for political gain," he said.
"The LDC’s are meant to be free from political influence, to avoid lobbying, and ensure members are free to make unencumbered decisions based on science that will serve the community for the coming 12 months.
"Given that I believe the committee has been compromised, I have instructed the department to relieve the LDC of their duties."
Mr Furner said the Western Downs Regional Council partial drought-declaration brings the total area of Queensland drought declared to 58.13 per cent.
“Some parts of Queensland have been affected by this current drought since 2013. We have been there providing support assistance to our producers for the past six years and will continue to do so,” Mr Furner said.
“Over the length of this drought overall assistance has totalled more than $670 million.
“We recently announced an additional $9 million to help our producers and communities including increased freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, increased funding for mental health in rural and remote communities, as well as small business financial counselling services for drought-stricken communities.
“We are also undertaking a drought program review to build on the lessons learned from this drought, recommend how future drought programs could be designed for those future droughts and to see how our producers and communities can be better prepared for, and resilient, to future droughts.
“I’d also like to reiterate that primary producers wishing to access the federal government’s Farm Household Allowance do not require a drought declaration.
“Access to the federal government’s Farm Household Allowance, including the recently announced $12,000 farm household assistance grants, is not dependent on area drought declarations made by the Queensland government.
“Recent claims by some politicians that a drought declaration is required to access to the Farm Household Allowance is not true.
“The Farm Household Allowance is based on need, not seasonal conditions.”
For more information visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.