Drought review pending

Queensland Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner.

By Jeremy Sollars

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has confirmed that the heavy rainfall across the Warwick and Stanthorpe regions in March will be factored into an impending review of our local drought declaration.

Locals expressed the view in the last fortnight to Warwick and Stanthorpe Today that the rainfall should not be considered as part of the drought declaration review – due in either late April or early May – as it might ‘skew’ the result towards lifting the declaration.

Many locals remain of the view that despite ‘official’ falls of nearly 280mm for March for Warwick and just under 190mm for Stanthorpe our region should remain drought-declared and primary producers continue to have access to drought assistance.

Historically, rainfall between ‘summer and summer’ is what is factored into a drought declaration review – last month’s rain was in autumn – but Mr Furner this week said the definition of the beginning and end of the ‘wet season’ for Queensland’s regions is these days somewhat less certain and attributable to climate change.

A formal decision on the continuation or otherwise of the Southern Downs Regional Council area’s drought declaration will be made by Mr Furner as minister, but again historically ministers have followed the advice of Local Drought Committees (LDC’s), which are made up of primary producer and other local representatives whose identities are kept confidential.

Mr Furner did say this week that during his tenure as Agriculture Minister he had ruled against an LDC recommendation “a few times, based on further consideration of local issues”, in those cases determining that declarations remain in place despite an LDC recommendation to the contrary.

Just over 67 per cent of Queensland remains under a current drought declaration.

In areas without a declaration primary producers can apply for an individually droughted property declaration, or ‘IDP’.

“The rainfall received during March will be taken into account by the Local Drought Committee and by myself as the minister,” Mr Furner said.

“I think it’s likely that some of the areas east of the Great Dividing Range will have their declarations lifted, largely as a result of the March rain.

“The LDC in this region is due to meet either by the end of April or in early May and I’ll be awaiting their recommendation.

“I think the period we refer to as a ‘wet season’ has really altered quite significantly in recent years – we’re seeing it extend beyond the accepted summer period and the government sees that as the result of climate change.”