Qld still 65pc in drought despite revocations

Bundaberg added to drought list plus rest of Central Highlands, Woorabinda


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Making the whole of the Central Highlands Regional Council and Woorabinda Aboriginal Council drought-declared is one of five adjustments made this week to Queensland's drought status.

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Queensland's drought situation at the beginning of June 2019.

Queensland's drought situation at the beginning of June 2019.

Making the whole of the Central Highlands Regional Council and Woorabinda Aboriginal Council drought-declared is one of five adjustments made this week to Queensland's drought status.

Despite moving the rest of the two shires plus the whole of the Bundaberg Regional Council onto the list of droughted shires, the area of Queensland officially affected by drought remains virtually unchanged.

That's because the section of the Flinders Shire north of the Flinders Highway and the part of the Charters Towers Regional Council south of the Flinders Highway and east of the Gregory Development Road have been removed from the list.

Related: Two-thirds of Queensland still in drought

It means 65 per cent of the state is now in drought, compared to 65.2pc in May.

Earlier this year Gregory MP Lachlan Millar was critical of the partial declaration of Central Highlands and Woorabinda south of the Capricorn Highway, saying it was discouraging for shire landholders north of that line.

The latest changes, based on recommendations from Local Drought Committees, come after some committees decided to wait to assess seasonal conditions and pasture response after the monsoonal floods and subsequent local rainfall events earlier in the year.

"LDCs usually meet at the end of the wet season in April however, given the significant rainfall events earlier this year, some LDCs advised they were waiting to see how the areas responded," Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said.

"These LDCs have now made their recommendations and based on their reports, I have accepted the following drought-declaration recommendations."

While there was beneficial late summer rain in the Bundaberg region, the committee believed it hadn't been enough generate sufficient pasture growth.

It also took into account the failed winter and summer crops in many areas and significant concerns about stock, irrigation and rural water supplies.

It means there are now 32 drought-declared local government areas and four partially-declared, along with 40 individually droughted properties in a further nine local government areas.

Mr Furner said the impact of the 2019 rainfall events across the north and west had been mixed, some with extreme rain and flooding, others with useful rain and limited damage, and others not receiving useful rain at all.

"While there has been a general grass response, in many areas it does not have the volume that would be expected to carry normal stocking rates through to the next wet season, compounded by silting that has covered pasture land and will take considerable time to re-establish.

"Where drought conditions eased and where good pasture response was observed, the LDCs have made a recommendation to revoke, which will help producers to proceed with restocking."

Mr Furner said any producer experiencing difficult conditions in any council area that wasn't drought declared could apply for an Individually Droughted Property declaration.

"This gives them the same access to our drought assistance as an area declaration," he said.

Read more: Kerry Hayes calls for drought declaration review

Mr Furner advised producers in any drought-declared area who believed their property conditions were improved enough to allow restocking could have their property individually revoked.

"If their drought declaration is revoked, producers can access returning from agistment and restocking freight subsidies through the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme for up to two years after the end of the drought declaration," he said. "However, to be eligible for these subsidies producers must ensure their property's drought declaration is first revoked before introducing any livestock."

This week's state budget committed $74.6M over four years for continuation of the multi-agency Drought Assistance package.

Drought review report

There was no mention of the independent Drought Program Review report that was handed to the government in January and which the opposition has been demanding be released.

Adding to that call was federal Minister for Drought David Littleproud, who said "there wasn't a single new measure to help farmers during the worst drought in a generation".

"Worse still, the Palaszczuk government is still sitting on its drought report with no sign it will take action any time soon.

"It is obvious Queensland Labor is just buying votes in the south east corner and doesn't care about people west of the divide."

Government sources said the report was "imminent".

For further information on drought assistance visit daf.qld.gov.au or call the Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.

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