INFORMING: Drought Program review panellist Charles Burke speaks at a Queensland Government Drought Forum in Rockhampton.
INFORMING: Drought Program review panellist Charles Burke speaks at a Queensland Government Drought Forum in Rockhampton. Vanessa Jarrett

Farming future negotiated as drought conditions continue

THE future of farmers and businesses on the land is being negotiated by the government as drought conditions continue.

The Queensland Government has responded to the independent expert panel for the drought program review, made up by Ruth Wade and Charles Burke.

They held regional forums and sought written submissions at the end of last year to provide informed recommendations for drought preparation to the minster for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries.

The Queensland Government supported the majority of the 20 recommendations.

The panel suggested future drought electricity tariffs to be put in place to reward energy efficiency and coordinated investments in solar and other renewables.

This recommendation was not supported as there are no existing or planned drought-specific electricity tariffs.

The government is already investing in a $10 million Energy Savers Plus Program Extension to assist agricultural businesses to identify and realise energy savings.

The state government will request the Federal Government provides additional assistance for isolated children in drought impacted areas after recommendations from the panel.

They will consider how to implement the panel's suggestion of proving loans of up to $250,000 for drought preparedness activities and replanting and restocking costs.

These drought preparedness measures may include storage and infrastructure for fodder, water infrastructure or alternative power infrastructure.

Investigations will be made into waiving application fees for development applications for mulga management, under the provision of an individual business risk management plan.

The Palaszczuk government also supported the following recommendations:

To maintain the existing local drought committee framework and drought declaration process, including individually droughted properties.

Processes have started so a project can be implemented by July 1, 2021.

The current drought relief assistance scheme fodder and water freight subsidies to cease on the cancellation of current drought declarations.

The livestock freight subsidy will stop when a drought declaration is cancelled, whereas restocking and returning from agistment subsidies to be available for two years after current declarations are revoked.

The existing Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy land rent subsidies and the existing water licence waivers will also be continued.

The panel suggested the EWIR scheme continue over the course of the current drought and to be maintained as part of any future drought responses, of which the government expressed support in principle.

They also suggested the scheme guidelines should include all extensive livestock production systems, not just breeding stock.

The Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors community drought support program be continued in 2019-20 for drought affected communities.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads transport-related drought assistance measures will continue.

Further developments of potential waivers and exemptions will be subject to budget constraints.

The Queensland Health Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care program and the drought wellbeing service for the Royal Flying Doctors will be continued.

Government funding for the rural financial counselling service and small business financial counselling service will continue.

Funding and resources for the current drought and climate adaptation program projects will be strengthened.

The government will consider whether further funding will be needed from 2021.

The Department of Natural Resources and Mining will simplify the messaging and extension around the accepted development vegetation clearing code to clarify the management of vegetation.