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Summer rain sees drought declarations revoked for parts of Queensland while others wait

By Queensland Country Hour reporters, Saturday May 19, 2018 - 11:25 EST
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Good some rainfall in parts of Queensland has seen some drought declarations revoked. - ABC

Good summer rainfall has seen drought declarations revoked in parts of Queensland while others in the state wait in hope for rain.

Rain earlier in the year has seen the drought declared area drop to 57 per cent after previously sitting above 66 per cent.

At its peak in March last year, that figure was 88 per cent.



Queensland Minister for Agriculture Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner, accepted the recommendations of local drought committees to revoke the drought status of parts of north Queensland, the north Burnett and south east Queensland.

"These are decisions made by the local drought committees … they are the people that are best prepared and in the position of identifying what should be in, what should be out," he said.

Good pasture growth followed rainfall in the western part of the Banana Shire Council, Bundaberg Regional Council, Burdekin Shire Council and the northern part of the Charters Towers Regional Council.

Drought declarations have also been revoked for the Fraser Coast Regional Council, Gympie Regional Council, North Burnett Regional Council, Tablelands Regional Council, Townsville City Council, the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.

Any producer still experiencing difficult conditions in the revoked areas — or in any council area that is not drought declared — can apply for an Individually Droughted Property declaration (IDP).

For those who have seen declarations revoked, they can access returning from agistment and restocking freight subsidies through the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS).



Bittersweet news for south east

News that Gympie's drought status had been revoked was bittersweet for the region's landholders.

President of the Gympie Beef Liason group, Mick Seeney, said pasture growth was the best he had seen in decades, but dieback had taken a terrible toll.

"Gympie has been very lucky, I suppose, in the last six to 12 months — we have received a lot of rain and in most areas there is plenty of grass," he said.

"The dieback has probably killed probably about 30 or 40 per cent of the grass in most areas, if not more."

Mr Seeney said summer rainfall had been welcome, despite the impact of dieback.

"I have never seen a season like this, I have a place at Sexton and it has got feed that is probably a couple of foot high," he said.

"Grasses are growing that I haven't seen for 10 years."



Districts added to drought list

While some areas were coming off the drought list, Southern Downs Regional Council and Lockyer Valley Regional Council have been drought declared.

The Southern Downs Regional Council welcomed the declaration, a status it had been fighting for since March 2017.

"It's terrible that we have to be drought declared, but the reality is that we've had below average rainfall last year and no rain at all this year, and our farmers are really suffering as a result," Mayor Tracy Dobie said.

"What this means now is that our farmers can get some relief from the Federal Government, which is fantastic for us.

"We have farmers spending $60,000 a month on feed for their animals on top of the transport costs that they're having to pay for that."

Cr Dobie said the region's drought declaration should never have been lifted in the first place.

"The reason we have been advocating so strongly over the last twelve months is because we did not agree as a council, with the lifting of that drought declaration last year because it meant that our farmers were still suffering," she said.

"We had only one rain event in the previous year and that was on the back of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, and that did raise the amount of rain we had, but of course it was a one isolated rain event and that wasn't really any good to anyone."

Around the fertile north Queensland cattle country west of Townsville, it had been two very different stories for beef producers on either side of the Flinders Highway.

Country along the coastal ranges and north of the highway received between 300–450 millimetres over late summer, while the southern districts missed out.



Subsidies make a difference

Grazier Stephen Black from Pajingo Station, 80 kilometres south of Charters Towers, was relieved his property remained drought declared.

"It's been a tough few years, to get the rain we did get this year was a great thing but unfortunately it wasn't enough," he said.

"It's basically just bought us time."

Mr Black said it was important for his family's operation to maintain the State Government subsidies available for drought relief.

"It can make a big difference, any sort of help with getting hay delivered for drought-stricken cattle is really important," he said.

Mr Furner added there was still sufficient support available for those dealing with the impacts of drought, with support still available through the DRAS.

Under that scheme, producers can access help regarding land rent rebates, community grants and relief from electricity charges.

Western Country waits

In Western Queensland, the status of all drought declared regions remained unchanged.

Some farmers are facing their sixth year of dry conditions.

Mayor of Blackall Tambo, Andrew Martin, said even if the drought broke, it would be difficult to keep people on the land.

"Businesses are struggling, graziers are struggling, the livestock are struggling [and] the knock-on effect throughout the broader economy is just devastating," he said.



"It is not just us but it goes all the way down through the central west and a big area of central New South Wales into Victoria, parts of South Australia.

"Some people are in for a very nasty, long winter."

He said there needed to be more thought and support for producers when they came out of drought.

"Say the whole of western Queensland gets taken off the drought list sometime soon, there may well be a whole heap of properties come on the market simply because they cannot restock, find agistment [and] they cannot carry on anymore."

With reporting by , Jennifer Nichols, , , and .


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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