by Louise Shannon
AS PRODUCERS, farmers and graziers in Central Queensland maintain a staunch resolve in the face of mounting drought conditions, Central Highlands Regional Council is seeking that the area be drought-declared while urging landholders to pursue individual drought declarations.
Mayor Kerry Hayes said the region had only received 52% of the average annual rainfall so far this year, and council had unanimously agreed to ask the Local Drought Committee to recommend a drought declaration status be applied to the local government area.
Local drought committees are due to meet in April, however it is possible that talks could be held outside this time frame if necessary.
Sid and Tricia Godwin, whose property Tanderra is about 100km south-west of Springsure, are hoping for rain in October, and believe that, after the dry winter, a drought declaration would "not be a bad thing”.
Mr Godwin, who produces cattle and some wheat, sorghum and mung bean crops, said while his property was not as stricken as some, he would not be making decisions based on current weather forecasts.
"Up until September last year, it wouldn't stop raining. It was the land of milk and honey... but that was last year,” he said.
"I certainly feel that we've been drought declared a number of times in 15 years.
"I would say though this is the driest run we've had in 15 years. People around me are saying it's the worst it's ever been.”
Mr Godwin said he had sold a lot of cattle late last year as his property at Moura was very dry, and prices were high.
He received about an inch of rain from Cyclone Debbie at the end of March and was able to restock the property, but he has kept a reduced number of cattle at Tanderra.
"We haven't got the numbers here that we normally would have which has helped us out. We had a spring and summer crop in and we had enough moisture to plant in, but we had no chance at all of a winter crop,” Mr Godwin said.
He said his cattle and calves were suffering as they were losing "body condition”, especially over the past three weeks.
"Even though we've got feed here, because it's been dead for so long, it's got no nutritional value.
"I can never in my life remember rain being so patchy. We've had little bits here which have helped us out, while people 10km from here have missed out.
"The whole of the Central Highlands has been on the light end for rain. It's pretty ordinary. It's the difference between making money and losing money. And it doesn't involve management... it's a lot of luck.”
Cr Hayes said while Cyclone Debbie brought rain to the eastern part the region, the rest of the area didn't receive any season-changing rain.
He said council had been approached by landholders concerned about the condition of the region, with only 343mm of the average 650mm recorded this year.
New figures this week show there are 31 councils and three part council areas drought-declared, with 67 'Individually Droughted Properties' officially in drought in a further 11 council areas in Queensland.
Currently, 66% of the state is drought-declared, including the surrounding regions of Barcaldine, Blackall Tambo, Murweh, Maranoa and Banana. Nearby, the Isaac region has been partly drought-declared.
Cr Hayes said a normal trigger to changing the drought declaration of any area was largely based on individually declared properties.
"As such, we strongly encourage rural landholders to pursue individual property drought declarations to strengthen the case for the entire Central Highlands region.”
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Senior Industry Development Officer, Ken Murphy, said the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Economic Development made area drought declarations and revocations on the advice of Local Drought Committees (LDCs).
The committees are made up of primary producers and representatives from industry organisations of the various industries in that area and local Department of Agriculture and Fisheries officers.
Mr Murphy said the committees routinely met at the end of the summer rainfall period in April to make recommendations to the minister about drought status of an area, but they could also meet throughout the year if needed.
He said the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) provided for producers in areas that have had their drought declaration revoked to apply for subsidies for returning stock from agistment and restocking for up to two years after the end of the drought declaration.
"Primary producers in those areas still experiencing dry conditions can apply for an Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declaration which gives them the same access to Queensland Government drought assistance as an area declaration,” he said.
Producers who hold an IDP or are in a drought-declared area are able to access DRAS fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates as well as access to other programs including relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers.
To apply for an Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declaration, landholders should visit: www.daf.qld.gov.au/environment/drought