Bur­nett pro­duc­ers are heard

BIDEO rep­re­sents re­gion at State Govern­ment drought re­view panel

South Burnett Times - - LIFE - Macken­zie Co­la­han Macken­zie.Co­la­han@cnbtimes.com.au

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.

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