Slapstick Central Highlands drought routine renewed

Central Highlands drought stoush over partial declaration


The Big Dry
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State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner's ridiculing of the Gregory MP's call for the whole of the Central Highlands Regional Council to be drought declared has brought a stinging response.

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State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner's ridiculing of the Gregory MP's call for the whole of the Central Highlands Regional Council to be drought declared has brought a stinging response.

While thanking the government for partially drought declaring the Central Highlands council area, Mr Millar said he was disappointed it was only a partial declaration as the recent rain was nowhere near drought-breaking and the Fairbairn Dam remained at a very low level.

Mr Millar said the partial declaration's drawing of lines on a map was discouraging for shire landholders north of that line.

The declaration is for the portion of the Central Highlands Regional Council area south of the Capricorn Highway, and for a portion of the Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council.

"There's 70 metres between the fencelines on either side of the Capricorn Highway but now the people on one side still have paperwork to fill out to access fodder transport and water subsidies," Mr Millar said. "Regardless of what he says, the minister has the opportunity to say he'll declare the whole shire."

His comments were ridiculed by Mr Furner.

"You would think a former staffer to an Agriculture Minister would understand the drought declaration process better than this," he said.

"I thought Tony Perrett was the Sergeant Schultz of the LNP, but it seems Mr Millar also sees nothing and knows nothing.

"The drought declaration process is flexible enough to allow drought assistance from a shire-wide level all the way down to individual properties."

Mr Millar described this as an immature reaction to a desire to get the best for primary producers in his shire.

"It's arrogant and not funny - his comments serve no-one.

"Mr Furner should come out and talk to the people affected by this.

"They've been in drought for years - this is no laughing matter."

Last September Mr Millar called on the minister to put the Central Highlands Regional Council back on the drought-declared list as a matter of urgency, prompting a similar response from Mr Furner that Mr Millar had no idea how the drought declaration process worked.

He said then that decisions were made by local drought committees and that he wasn't in a position to challenge their positions in respect of the recommendations they'd made.

Related: Mayor cautions, no drought lines on maps

Mr Millar was also critical of the use of amalgamated local government areas as the mapping tool for drought declarations, saying it didn't work now that some shires were the size of small countries,

"This was useful when shires were based on smaller areas that reflected local ecosystems.

"The Central Highlands Regional Council area is around 60,000 square kilometres. The state of Tasmania is about 68,000 square kilometres.

"It is too large an area for the system of drought declarations to be properly responsive to the needs of landholders."

Mr Millar said he was hoping the Minister's Drought Review Panel would say something about the issue but the Minister has not released the report since receiving it on January 31.

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