Drought review calls for adaptation and overhaul

Published Friday, 28 June, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
The Honourable Mark Furner

Two of Queensland’s pre-eminent agriculture industry voices have recommended changes to how droughts are prepared for and managed in Queensland, including putting science at the forefront of drought declarations.

Former Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Ruth Wade and former AgForce CEO Charles Burke made 20 recommendations following a far-reaching independent drought program review that included close consultation with industry stakeholders.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the State Government had accepted 13 of the recommendations and accepted in principle a further six.

“To properly support communities and industry, we need science and more transparent indicators to contribute more to decisions about drought declarations, while maintaining a role for vital on-the-ground intelligence,” Mr Furner said.

“We will develop a new process that lets us keep all the best aspects of our local drought committee process but incorporates clear and publicly available scientific benchmarks to inform decisions on drought declarations.

“We expect this improved process to be in place by 2021.”

Releasing the report of the independent review and the government’s response, Mr Furner said the reforms would bring Queensland’s drought management processes in to line with the National Drought Agreement signed by all states and the Federal Government earlier year.

“I have personally met with farmers who are badly affected by more than six years of drought right around this state, and the Palaszczuk Government continues to stand right beside them,” Mr Furner said.

“We know the climate is changing, and our approach to supporting farmers and building their resilience needs to change as well.

“Change is tough, but we are 100 per cent committed to our agricultural industries and the families and businesses that have been doing it tough in this drought.

“That is why we have committed a further $74.6M in this year’s State Budget to continue the multi-agency Drought Assistance Package over the next four years.

“We will continue to fund financial counselling support with $1.5m over four years as part of that Budget commitment.

“The Rural Financial Counselling Service provides free financial advice to producers who are suffering financial hardship and have no alternative sources of impartial financial information.”

Key review recommendations accepted by the Palaszczuk Government include:

  • A new system for Queensland drought declarations that will transition to a more objective, science-based framework by 2021;
  • Continue land rent rebates, water licence waivers, drought communities program, Drought Relief from Electricity Charges, Rural Financial Counselling Service drought supplement, Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care, and Rural Flying Doctor Drought Wellbeing Service;
  • Future-focused drought preparedness and recovery programs;
  • Support Queensland Drought and Climate Adaptation Program; and
  • Explore support for Individual Business Risk Management Planning for farm businesses.

More than 60 written submissions were received and seven forums were held across regional Queensland as part of the review process.

Mr Furner said more than $670 million in assistance had been provided to producers and communities since the current drought began in 2013.

“The Palaszczuk Government has always supported our primary producers and we are committed to continuing our current Drought Assistance Package while this drought lasts.

“However, in the future Queensland is looking at how the Government and industry can better manage climate risks such as drought.”

Mr Furner said the review identified issues with aspects of the current program, such as accessibility and the unwanted outcome of potentially encouraging sub optimal management practices on some droughted properties.

“One recommendation is that we cease fodder and water freight subsidies and livestock freight subsidies in future droughts,” he said.

“That will be a major transition for the livestock sector, however we will work closely with industry to reshape future programs and improve existing ones.

“We’ll do this while consulting closely with industry through the Agriculture Ministerial Advisory Committee to implement reforms.

“With about two thirds of Queensland still drought-declared, the issue is at the forefront of people’s minds.

“Now is the time to work with industry and the community to review government, industry and community actions and make improvements for future droughts.”

Changes to freight subsidies will not apply in areas that are currently drought-declared during the current drought.

For further information visit qld.gov.au/droughtreview or for information on current drought assistance visit daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.


Media contact:           Ron Goodman            0427 781 920