Burnett producers are heard
BIDEO represents region at State Government drought review panel
AN INDEPENDENT, State Government-appointed panel has begun its review into drought relief efforts.
Six regional forums were held with agricultural stakeholders to seek feedback on what needed to be done to limit the impact of prolonged dry spells on rural communities.
Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation representatives travelled to the Bundaberg forum last month to lobby on the Burnett’s behalf.
After consultation with the region’s landholders, BIEDO tendered a formal submission that raised the concerns of Burnett farmers.
Chief among these concerns were the eligibility criteria for drought relief funding, and lack of state-sponsored financial management training for primary producers.
Frustrated farmers bemoaned the lack of clarity around Queensland’s drought declaration process.
Many said they had a limited understanding of the process and called for increased transparency in the guidelines that governed Local Drought Committees.
There were calls for regular reviews of the declaration process to ensure it used the latest technology to aid decision-making.
BIEDO chief executive Kristy Frahm drew attention to the Boondooma Dam fiasco where, in September, Mundubbera irrigators had their supply cut off for six weeks in an attempt to combat falling dam levels.
“This has happened a number of times in the past, resulting in financial pressure for growers and producers along the river system and in some cases permanent damage and loss of tree crops,” she said.
“It is not about a shortage of rainfall as much as it is a shortage of water supply.
“Losing permanent horticulture crops and critical rootstock, regardless of the status of drought declaration, can have a devastating impact on a region’s economy.”
Burnett landholders suggested future drought programs include incentives for preparedness rather than relief measures; rebates for installing sustainable water infrastructure; rebates for fixed-cost water allocations that farmers are unable to use during shortages; and a preference for grants over loans to reduce the burden of debt.