'A pimple to a boil': Lack of foresight harms drought response

Lack of foresight highlighted at Longreach drought forum


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Ruth Wade and Charles Burke, the independent members running Queensland's drought review.

Ruth Wade and Charles Burke, the independent members running Queensland's drought review.

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The need for better planning and coordination among government agencies highlighted at Longreach drought meeting.

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The urgent need for better planning and coordination among government agencies was stressed at a drought review meeting in Longreach on Monday morning.

Six workshops have so far been held throughout regional Queensland as the state government seeks feedback on its drought response.

Boulia beef producer Rick Britton told the forum that a lack of preparation and infrastructure investment had transformed the severity of the drought from “a pimple to a boil”.

“One issue is that there is no data. There is a lack of rain forecasting stations across the vast area,” he said.

“To give you an example we are nine kilometres outside of Boulia. Our caravan park gets 50mm of rain and we might get 5mm.”

Mr Britton also emphasised the need for producers to take some drought preparedness into their own hands.

“You’ve got to put an emphasis on having a drought policy yourself. Forget about state or federal, you’ve got to have one yourself.”

Rosemary Champion, from Longway Station northeast of Longreach, said the use of land demarcations to determine individual drought declarations could cause big headaches.

“You might go up the Landsborough Highway and everything on the west is drought declared and everything on the east is not,” she said.

“When you create lines on maps it causes a lot of angst and I think that there’s got to be a fairer way.”  

Ruth Wade, the former chief executive of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, and Charles Burke, the former head of AgForce, fronted the Longreach meeting as the two independent members appointed to run the drought review.

The pair will deliver a report to the state government outlining a series of policy recommendations early next year.

“Our commitment to you is that we will do our best to come up with a really good report,” Mr Burke told the meeting.

“There are no guarantees. The only guarantee is that we will work very, very hard to come up with something that is practical, deliverable, and worthwhile for agriculture.”

Ms Wade said the consistency of feedback across the drought review forums so far would be helpful when formulating these final recommendations.

Although the review had a specific focus on Queensland policies, the work would also feed into the national intergovernmental agreement (IGA) on drought reform, she said.

“There is bound to be a robust discussion in terms of drought policy and responses in the future,” she said.

“While our charter is narrow in terms of Queensland, we have to link that to the IGA and discussions that are going on.”

There were about 20 producers and community members at the Longreach meeting.

The statewide series of drought review forums will wrap-up on Friday with the final meeting in Rockhampton. 

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