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Queensland drought-ravaged community needs request in writing for government help

By Jessica van Vonderen and staff, Friday September 6, 2019 - 21:53 EST
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Sign showing water restrictions at critical in Stanthorpe in southern Queensland and dam levels low, in August 2019. - ABC

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has vowed she will not allow families to run out of drinking water during a visit to the drought-ravaged Granite Belt, but the Opposition says she should have acted sooner.

Dam water levels are so low in the town of Stanthorpe, that water could run out by December if it does not rain.

The Southern Downs Regional Council has asked for State Government assistance to truck in emergency supplies, but Ms Palaszczuk said it had to put the request in writing.

"Of course we will look at their request and of course I will be sympathetic to their request," she said standing on the banks of the diminishing Storm King dam.

"I'm not saying 100 per cent, but we will help.

"I am not going to allow families to run out of drinking water, OK. Let me make that pledge today."

The State Government would also consider extending rebates to the horticulture industry.

But Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has blamed the State Government for Stanthorpe's water woes.

"This didn't dry up overnight," Ms Frecklington said.

"This is the result of a failure to plan. Annastacia Palaszczuk has been the Premier for five years. It's a little bit late to do a rain dance in Stanthorpe."

'We feel like we've failed'

Third generation apple grower Daniel Nicolleti said the lack of rain, combined with warmer than usual temperatures was affecting his crops.

"We feel like we've failed, but we're doing the best we can do," he said.

"It's a real sad situation we're in. We'll keep persisting. We won't give up. We'll hang in there and wait for the rain."

In the meantime, Mr Nicoletti said he was pruning his trees and would remove the less productive ones from his orchard, but more dams were needed in the longer term.

"We want to build dams. We want to catch more water for times of drought. We want to construct evaporation covers over the water we do have," he said.

'Please come and enjoy our region'

Southern Downs Councillor Vic Pennisi urged people to come and visit, to help the region's economy.

"This is God's country. This is where we can turn water into wine. There's plenty of wine here," he said.

"There are people out there, outside of the urban footprint that do have independent water supplies. You will get to have a shower.

"Please come and enjoy our region."

Mayor Tracy Dobie said the council was working towards residents restricting their water use to 100 litres per person, per day.

The council was also building two water tanks to store any water that was carted in.

"We're affected by the worst drought ever recorded and it's about being prepared for any eventuality," she said.

Outside of town, growers were facing some devastating decisions.

"Some are looking now at having to either dig up grape vines or dig up apple trees, which is very, very difficult for them," Cr Dobie said.

"And of course the only solution for them right now is rain."


© ABC 2019

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