DROUGHT TAKES TOLL ON GRAZIERS

‘Clus­ter fence projects help to curb its ef­fects’:

Western Times - - FRONT PAGE - Mar­guerite Cud­dihy Mar­guerite.Cud­dihy@west­ern­starnews.com

IT HAS been four long, dry years.

The drought rages on and nowhere is it more ev­i­dent than in western Queens­land.

Mur­weh and Pa­roo shires have been drought-de­clared since April 2013.

A cou­ple of months later Quilpie joined the list along­side parts of Black­all-Tambo, the Balonne shire and Mara­noa re­gional coun­cils.

The storms that have fallen across other parts of the state and the east­ern se­aboard flood­ing that fol­lowed Cy­clone Deb­bie steered well clear of the south-west.

South West Nat­u­ral Re­sources Man­age­ment board chair Mark O’Brien said the shires of Mur­weh and Pa­roo were part of the Mulga Lands.

“It’s mulga specif­i­cally, that the veg man­age­ment laws pro­posed by the La­bor gov­ern­ment, po­ten­tially do the most dam­age,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Every­body who lives in those shires knows that mulga is our best drought de­fence.

“For leg­is­la­tion to in­ter­fere with peo­ple’s rea­son­able ac­cess to mulga to main­tain their stock shows a se­vere lack of un­der­stand­ing.”

Mr O’Brien said part of the rea­son South West NRM started the clus­ter fenc­ing model and pro­moted it to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was be­cause of its ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits.

“Graziers who have used the clus­ter fenc­ing model have said that the fenc­ing de­fers their prop­er­ties from go­ing into drought by two years,” he said.

“So a four-year drought now means that if we had th­ese fences six years ago, we would have been in drought for max two years,” he said.

“South West NRM’s role is about sup­port­ing prof­itable and sus­tain­able pri­mary pro­duc­tion in a sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment and that’s why we’ve been so ac­tive about clus­ter fenc­ing, and vo­cal about thought­ful veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment.”

Mur­weh mayor An­nie Lis­ton said the four-year drought was im­pact­ing the re­gion in many ways.

“It’s im­pact­ing on our lo­cal busi­nesses and be­cause of the drought peo­ple aren’t em­ploy­ing oth­ers,” Cr Lis­ton said.

“It’s creat­ing a domino ef­fect that is not good for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“By sup­port­ing clus­ter fences we’re hop­ing that graziers will go back into car­ry­ing sheep and goats to pro­vide an­other in­dus­try for our shire.”

Drought-de­clared pro­duc­ers are able to ac­cess DRAS fod­der and water freight sub­si­dies and emer­gency water in­fra­struc­ture re­bates as well as ac­cess to other pro­grams in the Queens­land Drought As­sis­tance Pack­age, if they are el­i­gi­ble.

This in­cludes re­lief from elec­tric­ity charges, land rent re­bates and water li­cence waivers as well as ac­cess to a num­ber of com­mu­nity and men­tal health pro­grams.

If you or some­one you know re­quires sup­port, call the drought and farmer as­sis­tance hot­line on

13 23 16.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

DRY TIMES: Mark O’Brien (cen­tre) dis­cusses clus­ter fenc­ing with Pa­roo graziers Richard Sch­midt and Michael Moody.

This clus­ter project shows green grass on the in­side of the fence at the Coban fenc­ing project.

Queens­land drought sit­u­a­tion as at May 25, 2017.

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