Scenic Rim MP demands drought declaration and assistance

BONE DRY: Gympie MP Tony Perrett, Anthony Sellars and Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause.
BONE DRY: Gympie MP Tony Perrett, Anthony Sellars and Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause.

Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause has called on the state government to have the Scenic Rim drought declared.

Queensland drought situation as reviewed on January 1. Map courtesy of the state government's Long Paddock website: longpaddock.qld.gov.au/drought/drought-declarations/

Queensland drought situation as reviewed on January 1. Map courtesy of the state government's Long Paddock website: longpaddock.qld.gov.au/drought/drought-declarations/

Mr Krause has written to Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, asking that his electorate be drought declared in order to make government aid available to farmers.

“The past couple of months has laid bare the drought facing our region,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a Christmas-New Year period with so little rain.

“Lack of rain has seen bushfires affect so much of the country around us, while farmers feel the pain of low rainfall – or in some parts no rain at all – and huge irrigation and feed costs.

“Despite this, last year a Labor minister responded to me with a letter late in 2018 which said the Scenic Rim electorate was considered not to be in a season of drought after an April 2018 meeting of the Local Drought Committees to discuss the matter.”

Mr Furner said it was up to local drought committees, which comprised producers and representatives of peak industry bodies and were chaired by extension staff from the Agriculture Department, to make drought listing recommendations.

Mr Krause said a lot could change in nine months and it was an insult to use the April meeting to justify knocking back the drought declaration request.

“I’m calling on the government to get real and recognise that what we are seeing here is a drought and to take the action they need to so farmers get some relief,” he said.

“People in the Scenic Rim electorate have not seen conditions like this in 50 years. There is no wonder why the grass is crunching underneath our feet." 

Mr Furner said drought listings were made by drought committees, which could meet at any time and then make evidence-based recommendations.

“They meet in April each year at the end of the wet season to assess seasonal conditions,” he said.

“They consider the evidence and make a recommendation to the government.”

A drought committee will recommend an area for drought declaration when that region meets the Queensland Government’s criteria.

The main criterion for declaring drought is a rainfall deficiency in the last 12 months that is likely to occur no more than once every 10 years.

Other factors also considered include pasture and water availability, frequency of supplementary feeding and the condition of stock.

Drought assistance is only available to properties that fall within a drought declared area.

Primary producers who do not fall within such an area but believe they are experiencing drought conditions can apply to have their land considered an Individually Droughted Property.

They will then be eligible for the same range of assistance as those in drought declared areas, including subsidies, rebates, loans, allowances and free counselling services.

The Queensland Government Drought Relief Assistance Program offers three types of assistance, including freight subsidies for transporting water and fodder, as well the Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate, which provides a rebate on the purchase and installation of water infrastructure for emergency animal welfare needs.

Mr Krause has also called on the government to cut electricity costs for farmers, especially irrigators.

“Most of the electricity charges come from Queensland government-owned companies and the government could – if they chose to do so – provide relief on the network and demand charges for electricity,” he said.

Mr Krause said the government would need to forgo some revenue but it should have plenty of funds after collecting $1 billion from Queenslanders through electricity.

“So many towns up and down Queensland like Beaudesert and Boonah depend on a strong agriculture sector, and in times of drought especially the government needs to make sure things keep on track,” he said.

Mr Furner said the government reinvested dividends from its publicly-owned electricity businesses back into putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

“If the LNP (Newman government) had sold our assets, those profits would be offshore or interstate instead of putting downward pressure on power prices through our affordable energy plan,” he said.

“I advise all electricity customers in the south-east corner, whether they are householders or rural businesses, to shop around for the best available deal.”

He said the government had allocated more than $670 million in assistance since the drought began.

Information on specific assistance available can be found here: daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/agriculture/disaster-recovery/drought/assistance-programs