Special envoy for drought assistance Barnaby Joyce addresses the crowd at the drought meeting in Murgon on December 18.
Special envoy for drought assistance Barnaby Joyce addresses the crowd at the drought meeting in Murgon on December 18. Jessica McGrath

Burnett producers bringing drought woes to Parliament

IF OUR producers are not supported by the community the Australian nation will go nowhere.

This is according to Barnaby Joyce who addressed South Burnett residents at the drought meeting in Murgon on December 18.

"You are small in numbers, but you are absolutely vital in where this nation goes," he said.

More than 60 producers, business and council representatives from the North and South Burnett shared their concerns about the reality of the drought with Mr Joyce, Special Envoy for Drought Recovery, as well as Wide Bay member Llew O'Brien.

The politicians will then bring these concerns to Canberra.

"The three levels of government need to work together," Mr O'Brien said.

The South Burnett and Cherbourg council areas form part of more than 58 per cent of the land area in Queensland currently drought declared.

The meeting identified a need for more rural financial counsellors in the South Burnett to support those needing assistance.

"When you're facing drought and stress, you do not need more stress," Mr O'Brien said.

Southeast Queensland regional AgForce president Caroline Harris said the major issue for the drought in the South Burnett was its scope.

"The last run off rain we've had was on Australia Day 2013 and our dams are still empty," she said.

With a drought, stretching across NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, it is hard to know where to focus funding and attention.

Mr Joyce said putting together infrastructure for water security such as dams can be difficult for approvals.

"We're always trying to get more dams built in this nation," he said.

Often the process for major infrastructure projects like dams is held up by those who are passionate about the environment.

"You have to convince the people of West End, Brisbane why we need a dam," he said.

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The drought not only affects the producers, but also the businesses in town.

Murgon business owner Leo Geraghty said people were reluctant to spend extra money in the towns.

"In business it has been hard, the drought has impacted everything," he said.

The car dealership owner said people were holding onto their old cars due to financial constraints during the drought.

Mr Joyce agreed the focus should extend to small businesses in drought-affected areas.

"It's not just a drought in the land, but also in the towns because no one is spending money," he said.

BIEDO CEO Kristy Frahm, who hosted the meeting, said the drought was such a challenging issue.

"We're all in it together," she said

"It goes to show how keen people are to be part of the discussion about the drought."