The ‘long paddock’ is closed
Queensland’s historic stock routes have been closed to graziers for the first time in living memory as severe drought conditions continue.
The state government estimates 58.1 per cent of Queensland remains drought declared, up from 57 per cent in July.
There is no relief in sight, with rainfall from Cyclone Owen to bypass the south-west.
Conditions are so dire, the century-old travelling stock routes known as the ‘long paddock’ will be closed because there just isn’t enough feed there.
They are mainly used for moving stock, pasture for emergency agistment and long-term grazing when farmers run out of food for the animals.
The historic network of reserves for travelling sheep and cattle is also a refuge for endangered flora and fauna, and are rich in indigenous heritage.
There are more than 76 000 km of tracks in Queensland alone.
Last week, Murweh Shire Council, 800 km west of Brisbane and spanning 40 774 sq km, has stopped issuing travelling permits and will only allow grazing permits on a case-by-case basis.
Murweh Shire is named after a pastoral run in the area in the 1860s, which ironically was thought to be an Aboriginal word for waterhole.
The council’s environmental and health services director Richard Ranson said the shire had been in drought for more than seven years.
‘‘We have had to stop issuing travelling permits because basically there’s hardly any feed there,’’ Mr Ranson said.
‘‘If we kept issuing permits, the stock would end up causing damage and if we do get rain, it will take the routes longer to recover.’’
Mr Ranson said there had been the odd thunderstorm, but it was not enough.
While drought relief funds were available for struggling farmers, the farmers desperately needed rain, he said.
The council is unsure when the routes will reopen.
Kevin ‘Blue’ Bredhauer, a grazier who lives 100 km south of Charleville, has been on the land all his life and has never seen a more severe drought.
‘‘Nothing as widespread as this. It’s stuffed,’’ Mr Bredhauer said.
But the third generation grazier is convinced rain is on its way.
‘‘It’s coming. I reckon in the next month. You can tell by what’s happening in the bush — never mind the forecasters.
‘‘We need at least five or six inches to bring back the black.’’