Central Highlands seeks drought committee meeting

Central Highlands Local Drought Committee to consider region's dry conditions

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The receding water's edge at Fairbairn Dam, Emerald. Picture: Sally Cripps.

The receding water's edge at Fairbairn Dam, Emerald. Picture: Sally Cripps.

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Fairbairn Dam has dropped to a record-low level.

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The Central Highlands Regional Council has asked the local drought committee to meet as soon as possible as Emerald's Fairbairn Dam falls to record lows.

It has been a dry summer for much of the Central Highlands and the local drought committee has been asked to consider the drought declaration status of the region.

The resolution was unanimously passed by the council at a general meeting in February.

Drought declarations in the Central Highlands came under the spotlight in September last year, during a stoush between Agriculture Minister Mark Furner and Gregory MP Lachlan Millar.

At the time, with Fairbairn Dam under 20 per cent capacity, Mr Millar urged the state government to make a drought declaration in the Central Highlands as a matter of urgency.

Mr Furner responded that local drought committees were free to meet whenever they wished.

Fairbairn Dam near Emerald has recently fallen to a capacity of just 11.6 per cent, the lowest recorded capacity since the dam was constructed 47 years ago in 1972.

Emerald's monthly rainfall totals for January and February are well below monthly averages.

Mr Furner has also said that he has no immediate plans to reinstate the local drought committee for the Western Downs Regional Council.

The Western Downs Local Drought Committee was spectacularly sacked in September last year, with Mr Furner telling parliament the process had been manipulated for political gain.

At the time Mr Furner said he was going to "refresh" the membership of the Western Downs drought committee, although this is still yet to happen.

"The Western Downs LDC has not been replaced," Mr Furner said.

"The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will provide a recommendation regarding the drought status of the Western Downs Regional Council area at the usual time local drought committees report, namely the end of the wet season."

LNP agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said it was "simply not good enough" the Western Downs drought committee had not been reappointed.

"It creates an extremely difficult situation for these farmers as they are still experiencing all the associated drought-related hardships," he said.

"It's simply not good enough that the Western Downs region is still without a LDC after it was controversially dismissed by Minster Furner in September last year."

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