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Drought and flooding rains: SEQ wants drought tag

Eliza Rogers, Monday September 30, 2013 - 13:23 EST
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Conditions are tinder dry, even outside Dallarnil, near the normally-lush Childers region. - ABC

Producers in south-east Queensland are calling for the region to be drought-declared, just eight months on from January's record floods.

More than 60 per cent of Queensland is officially in drought - that's about one million square kilometres spanning 26 council areas - and several cattle producers south and west of Bundaberg want to be included.

There was some rainfall in the dusty North Burnett over the weekend, including 22mm in Eidsvold, but feed and water stocks are drying up.

Brad McInally from Monto Cattle and Country says creeks are falling, some dams are down to 20 per cent capacity, and grass isn't growing well through caked dirt that was thickened by floodwaters earlier this year.

Lance Whitaker from Burnett Livestock and Realty in Biggenden says things have gone bad to worse and something needs to be done.

"I would like to think it should be drought-declared ... because it's gone very bad, very quick," he said.

"We had a lot of rain at the start of the year but that unfortunately was in one big hit and did a lot of damage and then since then, we've had very little rain.

"The feed's just disappearing faster than people can sell cattle."

Councils say they recognise the problems landholders are facing, but producers need to go through higher channels to get drought declaration.

To be drought-declared, producers need to prove their rainfall meets a one in a 15-year low, and they have evidence of destocking and drought feeding.

CEO of North Burnett Regional Council Mark Pitt says people need to appeal for assistance individually.

"The weather conditions have been quite severe just recently and it's something that we're monitoring and keeping watch on.

"The advice we've got back so far is that it would be best if individual producers contact the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries direct."

Mayor of the Bundaberg Regional Council Mal Forman says he's willing to help bridge the gap between struggling producers and the State Government.

He acknowledged the irony of the previously-flooded region now in drought conditions, but urged the government to take the situation seriously.

"We could support the farmers in putting some formal request into the government.

"It's ironic that a few months ago we were in flood, and now it's so dry. We do need rain to keep the crops and cattle going forward into this next hot period, and dry period.

"The declaration could be something that could be put in to assist the farmers with their needs to meet funding and other income requirements, so they need to get water."

According to the regulatory framework, a Local Drought Committee can recommend an area, or shire, declaration if drought conditions are proven to be widespread.

Things don't appear as desperate for cane as they are for cattle.

Wayne Stanley from Childers Canegrowers says two months of bone-dry weather have slashed cane crop estimates, but farmers have access to lots of water, at a price.

"We had a record crop of 1.5 million tonnes last year and this year, the estimate is for 1.175 tonnes (down from 1.2 million).

"We do have an irrigation scheme and we have 100 per cent water allocation so it's not as serious for the sugar industry as it may be for graziers."

Struggling producers can contact DAFF on 13 25 23.


© ABC 2013

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