Graziers hope storm will bring relief to drought-declared parts of QueenslandBy rural and regional reporter Peter Lewis, Thursday January 30, 2014 - 14:40 EDT
Western Queensland graziers are closely tracking the progress of the potential cyclone in the Coral Sea, hoping it could bring rain to their parched land.
Twenty-three shires covering 70 per cent of Queensland are now drought-declared, triggering a range of emergency relief assistance funding which has just been topped up with another $20 million.
Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has been touring some of the worst affected graziers in the state's south-west.
"While there have been isolated storms over the spring and the summer, high temperatures have burnt-off pastures, resulting in critically low levels of feed across much of the state," he said.
"Many producers are having to feed stock and cart water in areas where surface water is no longer available due to the worsening conditions.
"To support our producers doing it tough, last week the Premier and I announced an extra $20 million in drought support.
"Our additional assistance includes an extra $13 million for the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates, a further $5 million for land rent rebates and water licence fee relief, as well as a new $2 million package of community support measures."
Mr McVeigh has made a flying visit to Charleville in the state's south-west to assess first-hand how graziers are managing the big dry.
"[We're] just gathering information, gathering data to review the assistance we've already put out there and particularly to report back to my cabinet colleagues about what might need to be done," he said.
Thought of drought-breaking rain brings smile to grazier's face
At Arabella, near Charleville, Mr McVeigh spoke to grazier Greg Ballinger who has steadily reduced his herd by two-thirds as feed and then water dried up on the property.
Until it really pours out here, the remaining cattle will rely on mulga they can knock over and nutrient supplements.
They are sharing what little fresh pick is available with big mobs of kangaroos, who have been drawn to the same limited surface water available in troughs and farm dams.
As tantalisingly close as a break in the season may be from the , Mr Ballinger appreciates it is a long shot.
However, just the thought of drought-breaking rain reaching fellow western graziers this weekend brought a smile to his face.
"Even if we can smell it, we'll go all right," he said.
"We'll feel fairly good. It's more than we've had. We haven't had a sniff for a couple of years now so as long as we can smell it we'll be right."
He has the gumboots ready just in case.
© ABC 2014
More breaking news
Severe weather predicted for Tasmania's north and east on Friday has prompted a public warning from emergency services.
Rain and storms could bring flooding to parts of southern and southeast Australia during the next 24 hours.
People in Darwin and other parts of the Top End may be about to get relief from recent hot weather, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting a monsoon trough will start to affect the area within days.