FARMING families in more than half of Queensland are still battling the devastating impacts of drought.
Many primary producers in the state’s west are now in their sixth year of severe drought.
While some areas are now entering the recovery phase following welcome summer rainfall, it was today revealed 57 per cent of the sunshine state is still waiting for the wet stuff to fall.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
Today’s announcement seen the Southern Downs and Lockyer Regional Council areas added to the list of drought-declared areas, while eight local government areas and three part-shires were removed.
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Primary producers in areas where drought declarations have been revoked can apply for an individual droughted property declaration if they still require assistance.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.”
Primary producers seeking more information about drought declarations and assistance measures available can visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.