Drought still biting in more than half of Queensland

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Drought still biting in more than half of Queensland
Thursday, 17 May 2018

Farming families in more than half of Queensland are still battling the devastating impact of drought while primary producers in some areas are now entering the recovery phase following welcome summer rainfall, AgForce said today.

Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner announced today Queensland is now 57 per cent drought declared, down from more than 66 per cent with the drought-status revoked in eight local government areas and three part-shires, while two shires were added to the list.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the changes announced today were based on the recommendations of Local Drought Committees taking into consideration their local conditions.

"The prolonged and severe drought has taken an enormous financial, environmental and emotional toll on farming families right throughout Queensland," he said.

"Many western Queensland shires were first officially drought declared in early to mid-2013, so producers in those areas have effectively had six years with rainfall deficits.

"The summer rain provided hope and relief to some parts of regional Queensland, which we are seeing with today's announcement, but many areas still missed out on the rain they desperately need.

"It's important though that ongoing support, such as mental health services, are still provided to communities that have had their drought status revoked and are now entering the recovery phase."

Drought declared primary producers can access fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, as well as transport concessions, relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers if they are eligible.

Primary producers in areas where drought declarations have been revoked can apply for an individual droughted property declaration if they still require assistance.

Mr Guerin said AgForce had recently established the Queensland Emergency Drought Taskforce with 24 western Queensland Mayors and had written to federal and state politicians to outline a series of priorities to provide immediate relief to affected communities.

The priorities include:

•    Capital works investment, such as roads, bridges, stock routes and on-farm water investments to help build and revitalise regions;
•    Review and extension of the Farm Household Allowance income support, including streamlining the application process and excluding essential farm assets from asset tests;
•    Relief from council rates and leasehold land rents for primary producers;
•    Education support for children from remote areas, including continuing and lifting the Living Away from Home Allowance Scheme;
•    Secure three-year funding for mental health support services, including that provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

"The ongoing nature of this drought has overwhelmed even the best efforts of producers to prepare and while current government assistance measures are very welcome, they are really only designed for droughts that last two to three years," Mr Guerin said.

"AgForce is seeking a commitment to ensure drought affected Queensland producers have both the immediate support they need as well as long term policy certainty to promote better planning and long-term risk management and recovery."

The areas that have had their drought status revoked include: the western portion of the Banana Shire Council, Bundaberg Regional Council, Burdekin Shire Council, the northern part of the Charters Towers Regional Council, Fraser Coast Council, Gympie Regional Council, North Burnett Regional Council, Tablelands Regional Council, Townsville City Council, the declared portion of the Mareeba Shire Council and the Western Downs Regional Council.

The Southern Downs and Lockyer Regional Council areas have been added to the drought declared list.

Primary producers seeking more information about drought declarations and assistance measures available can visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.

Media Contacts: Scott Whitby 0418 733 102, Sarah Henderson 0427 626 853

Drought still biting in more than half of Queensland

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