Central Highlands Regional Council mayor, Kerry Hayes, is continuing his shire’s push for a full drought declaration rather than expecting people to apply for financial relief via an Individually Droughted Property declaration.
He said that as a mechanism, they were not working as well as they could.
Queensland’s Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner, has asserted for some months that Individually Droughted Property declarations were sufficient to meet the needs of producers outside drought declared shires, that were feeling the pinch.
He defended the process in Parliament at the end of August, responding to opposition agriculture spokesman, Tony Perrett’s call for local drought committees to be reconvened, and again this week, when the Member for Gregory, Lachlan Millar, called for the Central Highlands Drought Committee to be recalled urgently.
In both instances, Mr Furner responded that producers outside a drought declared area who believed they were in the midst of drought were encouraged to apply for an Individually Droughted Property declaration, which would give them the same access to relief as if their property were in a drought declared shire.
“It is an easy process, as simple as filling out a four page form,” he said.
However, Cr Hayes said the process was viewed in some cases as putting a stigma on applicants.
“Some take a dispassionate view but people are generally reluctant to ask the government for assistance – it feels like admitting failure,” he said. “As a society, we’ve got to say we’re happy to help people, it’s just a matter of deciding what the trigger point is.”
Individual reluctance could mean the mechanism of deciding when a whole shire declaration should be called, was flawed, if it relied on a certain percentage of IDPs to be listed.
There are currently 32 individually droughted properties in the Central Highlands region.
The shire’s drought status was revoked in May 2017 following Tropical Cyclone Debbie but by September 2017, the Central Highlands had received only 52 per cent of its average annual rainfall and concerns began mounting among local landholders about prevailing dry conditions.
The Central Highlands Regional Council resolved to request its Local Drought Committee recommend a drought declaration status be applied to the local government area that month, a year ago, to no avail.